The Progress of the Nation page 13
In the reign of Mary, Sir Antonio More, a Flemish artist, was the great portrait-painter. In that of Elizabeth, though she was not more liberal to the arts than to literature, yet her personal vanity led her to have her own portrait repeatedly painted, and the artists, chiefly Flemings, were much employed by the nobility in the same department. Some of the foreign artists also executed historical and other pieces. Amongst these artists may be named Frederic Zuccaro, an Italian portrait-painter; Lucas do Heere, who executed a considerable number of orders here, amongst them a series of representations of national costume for the Earl of Lincoln; and Cornelius Vroom, who designed the defeat of the Spanish Armada, for the tapestry which adorned the walls of the House of Lords, and which was destroyed by the fire in 1834. In this reign also, two native artists distinguished themselves: Nicolas Hilliard, a miniature-painter; and Isaac Oliver, his pupil, who surpassed his master in portraits, and also produced historical works of merit.
Amongst the sculptors were Pietro Torregiano, from Florence, who, assisted by a number of Englishmen, executed the bronze monument of Henry VII., and is supposed also to be the author of the tomb of Henry's mother in his chapel. John Hales, who executed the tomb of the Earl of Derby at Ormskirk, was one of Torregiano's English assistants. Benedetto Rovezzano designed the splendid bronze tomb of Henry VIII., which was to have exhibited himself and Jane Seymour, as large as life, in effigy, an equestrian statue, figures of the saints and prophets, the history of St. George, amounting to 133 statues and forty bas-reliefs. This monument of Henry's egotism none of his children or successors respected him enough to complete; and the Parliament, in 1646, ordered the portion already completed to be melted down.
In Scotland during this period the arts were still less cultivated. The only monarch who had evinced a taste for their patronage was James V., who improved and adorned the royal palaces, by the aid of French architects, painters, and sculptors whom he procured from France, with which he was connected by marriage and alliance. His chief interest and expenditure were, however, devoted to the palace at Linlithgow, which he left by far the noblest palace of Scotland, and worthy of any country in Europe.
FURNITURE AND DECORATIONS
The furniture of noble houses in the sixteenth century was still quaint; but in many instances rich and picturesque. The walls retained their hangings of tapestry, on which glowed hunting-scenes, with their woodlands, dogs, horsemen, and flying stags, or resisting boars or lions; scenes mythological or historical. In one of the finest preserved houses of that age, Hardwick, in Derbyshire, the state-room is hung with tapestry representing the story of Ulysses; and above this are figures, rudely executed in plaster, of Diana and her nymphs. The hall is hung with very curious tapestry, of the fifteenth century, representing a boar-hunt and an otter-hunt. The chapel in this house gives a very vivid idea of the furniture of domestic chapels of that age; with its brocaded seats and cushions, and its very curious altar-cloth, thirty feet long, hung round the rails of the altar, with figures of saints, under canopies, wrought in needlework. You are greatly struck as you pass along this noble old hall, which has had its internal decorations and furniture carefully retained as they were, with the air of rude abundance, and what looks now to us nakedness and incompleteness, mingled with old baronial state, and rich and precious articles of use and show. There are vast and long passages, simply matted; with huge chests filled with coals, which formerly were filled with wood, and having ample crypts in the walls for chips and firewood. There are none of the modern contrivances to conceal these things; yet the rooms, which were then probably uncarpeted, or only embellished in the centre with a small Turkey carpet bearing the family arms, or perhaps merely with rushes, are still abounding with antique cabinets, massy tables, and high chairs covered with crimson velvet, or ornamental satin. You behold the very furniture used by the Queen of Scots; the very bed, the brocade of which she and her maidens worked with their own fingers. In the entrance hall the old feudal mansion still seems to survive with its huge antlers, its huge escutcheons, and carved arms thrust out of the wall, intended to hold lights. But still more does its picture gallery, extending along the whole front of the house, give you a feeling of the rude and stately grandeur of those times. This gallery is nearly 200 feet long, of remarkable loftiness, and its windows are stupendous, comprising nearly the whole front, rattling and wailing as the wind sweeps along them, whilst the walls are covered with the portraits of the most remarkable personages of that and prior times. You have Henry VIII., Elizabeth, the Queen of Scots, with many of the statesmen and ladies of the age.
In such old houses we find abundance of furniture of the period. The chairs are generally high-backed, richly carved, and stuffed and covered with superb velvet or satin. At Charlotte House, near Stratford-on-Avon, the seat of the Lycys, there are eight fine ebony chairs, inlaid with ivory, two cabinets, and a couch of the same, which were given by Queen Elizabeth to Leicester, and made part of the furniture of Kenilworth. At Penshurst, Kent, the seat of the Sidneys, in the room called Elizabeth's room, remain the chairs which it is said she herself presented, with the rest of the furniture. They are fine, tall, and capacious ones, the frames gilt, and the drapery yellow and crimson satin, richly embroidered; the walls of each end of the room being covered with the same embroidered satin. In the Elizabethan room at Greenwich Court are chairs as well as other articles of that age. In Winchester Cathedral is yet preserved the chair, a present from the Pope, in which Queen Mary was crowned and married.
At Penshurst we have, in the old banqueting hall, the furniture and style which still prevailed in many old houses in Sir Philip Sidney's time: the dogs for the fire in the centre of the room, from which the smoke ascended through a hole in the roof, the rude tables, the raised dais, and the music gallery, such as Sir Philip Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Bacon, as well as the Eoyal Elizabeth, witnessed them. In this house is also preserved a manuscript catalogue of all the furniture of Kenilworth in Leicester's time, a document which would enlighten us on the whole paraphernalia of a great house and household of that day.
Looking-glasses were now superseding mirrors of polished steel. My late friend, Sir Samuel Meyrick, had a fine specimen of the looking-glass of this age at Goodrich, as well as a German clock, fire-dogs, a napkin-press, arid an "arriere-dos" or "rere-dosse," and a small brass fender of that age, I have already mentioned that he possessed the box containing the original portraits of Henry VIII. and Anne of Cleves. The clock, like the large one over the entrance at Hampton Court, has the Italian face, with two sets of figures, twelve each, thus running the round of the twenty-four hours, such as Shakespeare alludes to in Othello: -
"He'll watch the horologe a double set,"
If drink rock not his cradle."
Richly carved wardrobes and buffets adorned the rooms of this age: some of these buffets were of silver and of silver gilt. Engravings of these, as well as of tables with folding tops, round tables with pillar and claw, and many beds of this age may still be seen in old houses, and are represented in engravings in Montfaucon, Shaw, and Willemin. The beds we have alluded to at Hardwicke, the great bed at Ware, a bedstead of the time of Henry VIII. at Lovely Hall, near Blackburn, are specimens. Forks, though known, were not generally used yet at table, and spoons of silver and gold were made to fold up, and were carried by great people in their pockets for their own use. Spoons of silver — apostle- spoons, having the heads of the twelve apostles on the handles - were not unfrequent, but spoons of horn or wood were more common.
ARMS AND ARMOUR
The armour of every period bears a coincident resemblance to the civil costume of the time, and is in this period rather noticeable by its fashion than by any material change of another kind. The breastplate was still globose, as in the reign of Edward IV. , but was beautifully fluted in that of Henry VII. In the reign of Henry VIII., the breastplate being still globose, the old fashion revived of an edge down the centre, called a tapul; and in this reign puffed and ribbed armour, in imitation of the slashed dresses of the day, was introduced, as may be seen in the Meyrick collection. In the reign of Elizabeth the breastplate was thickened to resist musket-balls. The helmet in all these reigns assumed the form, of the head, having movable plates at the back to guard the neck, and yet allow free motion to the head. In the reign of Elizabeth the morions were much ornamented by engraving. In the time of Henry VII. the panache which had appeared on the apex of the bassinets of Henry V. was changed for plumes, descending from the back of the helmet almost to the rider's saddle. A new feature in armour also came in with Henry VII. , called "lamboys," from the French "lambeaux," being a sort of skirt or petticoat of steel, in imitation of the puckered skirts of cloth or velvet worn at this time, and this fashion, with variations in form, continued through the whole period. In the reign of Henry VIII. the armour altogether became very showy and rich, in character with the ostentation of that monarch. A magnificent suit of the armour of Henry is preserved in the Tower, which was presented to him by the Emperor Maximilian, on his marriage with Catherine of Arragon, and is the fellow to a suit of Maximilian's preserved in the Little Belvidere Palace in Vienna, in the collection of armour and arms formed on the model of Sir Samuel Meyrick's. It covers both horse and man, and is richly engraved with legendary subjects, badges, mottoes, &c. The seal of Henry presents a fine figure of him on horseback, in armour, with his tabard and crowned helmet, and its depending plumes.
The tilting helmet disappeared altogether in the time of Henry VIII., and a coursing-hat was worn instead, with a "mentonniere," or defence for the lower part of the face. In the reign of Mary we learn that the military force of the kingdom consisted of demi-lancers, who supplied the place of the men-at-arms; pikemen, who wore back and breast plates, with tassets, gauntlets, and steel hats; archers, with steel scull-caps and brigandines; black-billmen or halberdiers, who wore armour called almain rivet and morions; and harquebussiers, similarly appointed. In Elizabeth's reign the armour was seldom worn on the legs and thighs, except in jousting, and not always then.
There were various changes in the shapes of swords and glaives; the battleaxe changed into the halberd in the time of Edward IV., and it became general in that of Henry VII. In the reign of Henry VIII. was added the partisan, a kind of pike or spontoon; but the great change was in firearms, the hand-gun making several steps towards its modern termination in the musket and rifle, with detonating caps. The first improvement was to place a cock to the gun-barrel, to hold and apply the match instead of the soldier holding it in his hand. This was called an arc-a-bousa, thence corrupted into the arquebuse, much used by Henry VII. In his son's reign the wheel-lock was invented by the Italians, in which a wheel revolving against a piece of sulphuret of iron, ignited the powder in the pan by its sparks. Pistols were also introduced now, and called pistols or dags, according to the shape of the butt-ends; the pistol finishing with a knob, the dag, or tacke, having its butt-end slanting. Pistols at first more resembled carabines in length, and the pocket pistol was of a considerable bulk. Cartridges were first used in pistols, and were carried in a steel case called a patron. In the reign of Elizabeth we hear of carabines, petronels, and dragons. Carabines were a sort of light, Spanish troops, who, probably, used this kind of arm; petronels were so called because their square butt-end was placed against the chest, or "poitrine;" and the dragon received its name from its muzzle being terminated with the head of that fabulous monster, and gave the name of "dragoon" to the soldiers who fought with them. Bandoliers, or leathern cases, each containing a complete charge of powder for a musket, were used till the end of the seventeenth century, when they gave way to the cartridge-box.
With the progress of fire-arms, it is almost needless to say, that the famous art of archery, by which the English had won such fame in the world, was gradually superseded. During the reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., bows were much used in their armies as well as fire-arms, but it was impossible long to maintain the bow and arrow in the presence of the hand-gun and powder. In vain did Henry VIII. pass severe laws against the disuse of the bow; by the end of his reign it had fallen, for the most part, from the hands of the warrior into that of the sportsman. In vain did Henry forbid the use even of the cross-bow to encourage the practice of archery, and Roger Ascham in his "Toxophilus" endeavour to prolong the date of the bow. By the end of the reign of Elizabeth, the endeavour to protract the existence of archery by statute was abandoned, and its long reign, except as a graceful amusement, was over.
The costumes of this age come down to us depicted by great masters, Holbein, Rubens, and Vandyke, and are displayed to us in their full effect, at least those of the aristocracy. Looking at these ladies and gentlemen, they appear as little like plain, matter-of-fact, English people, as possible. There is a length and looseness of robes about the men which has more the air of a holiday, gala garb, than that of people who had very serious affairs to carry through, and you would scarcely credit them to be the ancestors of the present plain, buttoned up, and busy generation. In a MS. of this date, called the Boke of Custome, the chamberlain is commanded to provide against his master's uprising, "a clene sherte and breche, a pettycotte, a doublette, a long cotte, a stomacher, hys hosen, hys socks, and his shoen." And the Boke of Kervynge, quoted by Strutt, says to the chamberlain, "Warrne your soverayne his pettycotte, his doublette, and his stomacher, and then put on his hosen, and then his schone or slyppers, then stryten up his hosen mannerly, and tye them up, then lace his doublette hole by hole." Barclay in the "Ship of Fools," printed by Pynson in 1508, mentions some who had their necks
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