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The Progress of the Nation page 12

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But it is even a question whether the Gothic style had not reached its full development at the period of the Reformations; for we find in most European countries that the noblest buildings of this kind are for the most part anterior to this period. It is at the same time true that the same causes which brought our ecclesiastical architecture to a sudden stand in the sixteenth century strongly affected all Europe, even where Roman Catholicism managed to maintain its ground. Everywhere the conflict was raging - everywhere the rending influence was felt; and the ancient power and wealth of the Church were broken and diminished. In England a few churches might be pointed to of this period, but they exhibit the influence of the age in marks of decline, and to none can we turn as examples to be named with our Westminsters, Yorks, and Winchesters. Bath Abbey was in progress of erection when the Reformation burst forth and arrested its progress. It was not completed till 1616 - more than ten years after the death of Elizabeth - and cannot be named as one of our finest erections.

The wealth which was diverted from the Church into the hands of the Crown and the aristocracy, reappeared in palaces and country halls; and a totally new genius displayed itself in these. The old Tudor, so called, which marked the baronial residences even before the Tudors reached the throne, the mixture of castle and manor-house, with its small windows, battlemented roofs, and flanking turrets, began to enlarge and exaggerate most of these features, and to mix with them new elements clearly brought into the country by foreign architects, and in a great measure from Italy. The windows rapidly augmented themselves, till they soon occupied a predominant portion of the towers and fronts; the turrets became surmounted by domes, and by those bulbous domes which were often piled one above another. There were soon seen one tier of pillared or pilastered storey above another, in the Palladian or Paduan fashion. Turrets often gave way to scroll-work parapets; and instead of the house standing as heretofore on a level plain, it was elevated on a terrace, with broad and balustraded flights of steps, and all the adjuncts of fountains, statues, and balustraded esplanades, essential to the Italian garden.

The houses were still built round a court or quadrangle, and adorned with outer and inner gateways, while groined roofs and rich oriels still demonstrated the connecting link of descent from the Gothic. In fact, the architecture of the Tudor period is a singular yet often superb mixture of the Gothic and the Italian, with profusion of ornaments and ingraftment of parts which tell strongly of a more eastern origin. Nor does it appear that these foreign elements were introduced at the latter portion of this period only - they stand forth conspicuously in the very commencement of it. In the later years of the reign of Elizabeth we can point to noble houses which are more allied to the ancient Tudor, with its small windows and simple towers and roofs, than those of the Henrys VII. and VIII., who in their earlier days had a gorgeous and even fantastic taste for palatial architecture. For example, Hampton Court is far more simple and chaste than Richmond Palace, built by Henry VII., or Nonsuch, built by Henry VIII. Again, in family mansions, Wimbledon House, built in 1588, with its open court, its two:, descents of terraces, clearly Italian in character, is yet so chaste and simple, with its flat roof, its square slated towers, and mixture of small and large windows, that, compared to Nonsuch, as it has been, you at once see the violent contrast of the fanciful and the grave. Again, in Charlton House, in Kent, with its central entrance of Italian character, with two tiers of engaged columns, its ornamented parapets just verging into scroll-work, its turret windows of medium size, and its turret domes simple, and still plainer chimneys; or Holland House, built in 1607, without domes, but with ogee-gables; or Campden House, as it was built in 1612, with roof of plainest character, and pilastered entrance, we mark a far less ornate style than in the days of the Henrys. The whole of this period was one of a mixed style, in which different architects indulged themselves in employing more or less of one or other of the prevailing elements, according to their tastes; what is more strictly called Elizabethan being such houses as Wollaton or Hardwicke, in which the ample square windows, the square towers superseding the octagon ones of Nonsuch, the absence of the eastern-looking domes, and the presence of superb scroll-work give a fine and distinctive style.

The Palace of Richmond, as built by Henry VII., with its projecting towers occupied almost entirely with windows, and its roof presenting an immense number of double domes, a smaller one surmounting a lantern placed on the larger domes, had an air more Saracenic than English; but the Palace of Nonsuch, built by Henry VIII., outdid that in the singularity of its style, and was the wonder of its age. It was built round a quadrangle, and the front flanked by octagonal towers, which, at the height of the ordinary roof, rose, by a demi-arch expanding over the lower one, into three more storeys, and upon these, lesser towers of two storeys, surmounted by domes and fanes. All the lower storeys were divided into compartments by pilasters and bands, these compartments embellished by figures and groups in bas-relief. The lower part of this palace was of stone, the upper of wood. Hentzner, the German traveller, became quite enthusiastic in describing it as a palace in which everything that architecture could perform seemed to have been accomplished; and says that it was "so encompassed with parks full of deer, delicious gardens, groves ornamented with trellis-work, cabinet of verdure, and walks so embowered by trees, that it seemed to be a place pitched upon by Pleasure herself to dwell in along with Health."

But there were two men in the reign of Henry VIII. who drew him off from this more florid and fanciful style to others of a very different, but equally imposing character, and full of rich detail. These were Wolsey and John of Padua. Wolsey appeared to have an especial penchant for brick - work, and Hampton and the gatehouse of his mansion at Esher remain as proofs of the admirable masonry which he used. In Hampton Court we actually go back from the barbaric pomp of Nonsuch to the castellated style; to small windows, pointed archways, castellated turrets and battlements, mingled with rich oriel windows over the entrances, rich groined roofs in the archways, but a very sparing use of the ordinary aid of the bulbous dome. In this and the other buildings of this class, as Hengrave in Suffolk, the richly cross-banded chimneys are a conspicuous ornament.

John of Padua, who became chief architect to Henry VIII., and afterwards built Somerset House for the Protector, seems to have been unknown in his own country, but originated a modified Italian style here which bears his name, possessing great grace and dignity, and of which Stoneyhurst College, Lancashire, and Longleat, in Wiltshire, are fine examples. To the many mansions of this style, as well as those of the more purely Elizabethan, and drawings of them, as Wollaton, Hardwicke, and the Duke's House, Bradford, we would recommend the architects of our own day to turn their attention, instead of burdening the finest parks and scenes of England with the square, unmeaning masses of brick and stone, which offend our eyes in so many directions, and cause foreigners to ridicule the want ox architectural genius in England. In the smaller houses of town and country there continued to be little change. They were chiefly of timber, and displayed much more picturesqueness than they afforded comfort. In towns the different storeys, one overhanging another till the inhabitants could almost shake hands out of the attic windows across the narrow streets, and their want of internal cleanliness and ventilation, occasioned the plague periodically to visit them. The Spaniards who accompanied Philip, in Mary's reign, were equally amazed at the good living of the English people and the dirt about their houses. One great improvement about this time was the introduction of chimneys; and in good country-houses the ample space of their staircases, which were often finely ornamented with balustrade work, diffused a pure atmosphere through them. Specimens of architecture of this period are given above, and below.


In these arts the sixteenth century in England was almost totally destitute of native talent. In statuary and carving the former age had made great progress, but the destruction of the churches, and the outcry raised against images, and even carving on tombs, as idolatry and vainglory, gave a decided check to their development. As for painting, for some cause or other, it had never, except in illumination, flourished much amongst the English, and now that the Italian and Flemish schools had taken so high a position, it became the fashion in the princes and nobility, not to call forth the skill of natives, but to import foreign art and artists. In the reign of Henry VII. a Holbein, supposed to be the uncle of the great Hans Holbein, visited England, but we know little of his performance here. There is a picture at Hampton Court, called a Mabuse, of the Children of Henry VII. - Prince Arthur, Prince Henry, and the Princess Margaret. As Prince Henry appears to be about seven years old, that would fix the painting of the picture about 1499, and as this is the very year of Mabuse's birth, the picture is clearly not his. In Castle Howard there is a painting by him of undoubted authority, "The Offering of the Magi," containing thirty principal figures. It is in the highest state of preservation, and Dr. Waagen, who is well acquainted with the productions of this artist in the great galleries of the Continent, pronounced it of the highest excellence. He is said to have painted the children of Henry VIII., which is another proof that he did not paint those of his father. Probably, most that he painted for Henry perished in the fire at Whitehall. Mabuse was a very dissipated man, and had fled from Flanders on account of his debts or delinquencies, yet the character of his performances is that of the most patient industry and pains-taking. His works done in England could not have been many, as his abode here is supposed to have been only a year.

Besides Mabuse, the names of several other foreign artists are known as having visited England; but little or nothing is known of the works of Toto del Nunziata, an Italian, or of Corvus, Fleccius, Horrebout or Homeband, or of Cornelii, Flemish artists; but another Fleming was employed, in the early part of the reign of Henry VIII,, by Bishop Sherbourne, in painting a series of English kings and bishops in Chichester Cathedral.

Of the celebrated Hans Holbein, the case is clear and determinate. He resided in this country nearly thirty years, and died in London of the plague. There is an obscurity about both the time and place of his birth, but the latter appears now to be settled to be Grunstadt, formerly the residence of the Counts of Leiningen-Westerburg. He accompanied his father to Basle, receiving from him his instructions in his art; and becoming acquainted with Erasmus, he received from him letters to Sir Thomas More. He arrived in England in 1526, and lived and worked in the house of his noble patron, Sir Thomas, for three years. The learned chancellor invited Henry VIII. to see his pictures, who was so much delighted with them, as to take him instantly into his service. It is related of him that whilst busily engaged with his works for the king, he was so much annoyed and interrupted by a nobleman of the court, that he ordered him to quit his atelier, and on his refusing, pushed him down-stairs. When the nobleman complained to Henry of this rudeness, Henry bluntly told him that the painter had served him right, and warned him to beware of seeking any revenge. "For," added he, "remember you now have not Holbein to deal with, but me: and I tell you, that of seven peasants I can make as many lords, but I cannot make one Holbein."

The demand of portraits from Holbein by the Court and nobility was so constant and extensive, that he completed comparatively few historical compositions. He has left us various portraits of Henry, and adorned the walls of a saloon at Whitehall with two large paintings representing the triumphs of riches and poverty. He also painted Henry as delivering the charter of the barber-surgeons, and Edward VI. delivering that for the foundation of Bridewell Hospital. The former piece is still at the hall of that guild. Amongst the finest of Holbein's paintings on the Continent is that of "The Burgomaster and his Family" in the gallery at Dresden. There is less of the stiffness of his manner in that than in most of his pieces; but in spirited design, clearness and brilliancy of tone, and! perfection of finish, few painters excel Holbein; he I wanted only a course of study in the Italian school to have placed him amongst the greatest masters of any age. His defect is a want of full attainment of "chiar'oscuro," which Italy could have given him; at the same time we are not to form our idea of him by the host of indifferent copies of his portraits which have been made, and puffed by interested dealers as originals.

Henry VIII. not only employed artists at home, but he gave orders to artists abroad, and Raffael painted for him a St. George. His collection furnished some of the earliest specimens to the gallery of Charles I.; but if what Walpole says of his collection be true, it is probable that Hampton Court has preserved a number of the worthless subjects which he got together. "If," says Walpole, "it be allowed that the mind and taste of Henry VIII. were demonstrated by the subjects upon which he employed the painters whom he patronised, and to whom he dictated them, an opinion exactly corresponding with his character will be the result. We find in his collections numerous portraits of himself; repetitions of those of contemporary princes, particularly those of the emperor and Francis I.; of his predecessors; two of the Duchess of Milan, who refused to marry him, but not one of his six wives! The historical and Scriptural subjects were the violation and death of Lucrece; the decollation of John the Baptist, with his head in a charger; a similar exhibition of Judith and Holofernes; St. George, his patron saint; the Virgin and Child, with the Dead Christ; sundry Flemish moralities in which death is personified; and drolls of the imbecility of old men, with caricatures of the Pope."

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