History of Wall Panelling in Interior Design Periods


Early Stuart Interiors c.1603 - 1660

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described, but a full appreciation of his genius in domestic application had not yet been assimilated.

It was during the closing years of the sixteenth century that a young artist, by name Inigo Jones, was sent to Italy to study landscape painting; his interest and attention was immediately drawn towards the architectural wonders of Palladio, and on his return to England in 1604 he was employed by James I to paint and arrange the scenery for Ben Jonson's plays and masques, so popular in the English Court. His interests however still turned towards Italy, which he revisited in 1612. On his return to England he was employed as surveyor-­general of the royal buildings. This position enabled him to lead English architec­ture by his example, and the ornament so dear to the builders and craftsmen of a few years earlier eventually gave place to the simpler proportions of a better interpreted classic formula.

Although Inigo Jones did actually carry out several of his own designs, there is a vast amount of both architectural and Stuart interior decoration which has been wrongly attributed to him. The comparatively few years between his return to England (when he was working on the Royal Palaces) and the commen­cement of the Civil Wars make it an impossibility for the artist himself to have been capable of so much work. What did happen, however, was the eventual adoption of the Palladian ideal in England because of Inigo Jones' research in Italy, but this was many years after his death.

Such revolutionary ideas could not easily or quickly be mastered, and it is possible that the intervention of the Civil Wars delayed their publication long enough before they were put into practice to render them more acceptable to the conservative mind of the average Englishman who, then as now, jibbed violently about accepting a fashion to which he was not already accustomed. By the time the Palladian was ultimately established, it had gained a maturity and grace on paper before actually being carried attributed to Stuart Interior design of Inigo Jones. This might be the reason for the delightfully gracious buildings of the Restoration period that appear even now to be so neat and `right.' Certainly the Double Cube room at Wilton which would to be Inigo Jones work (as it was finished before his death in 1652) has neither the simplicity nor the grace attributed to Stuart Interior design like a dozen less famous later examples based upon a similar set of principles.

The lesson to be learned from the drawings and examples of Inigo Jones' research has used in Stuart Interior design, which apply to this subject of Stuart interior decoration, is one of Classic Ornament introduced as domestic decoration in a comfortably proportioned setting. Previously the classic had been interpreted freely in the form of architec­tural features reduced to miniature to serve as decoration.

This particular period is one of the most difficult phases in our history to describe rightly, for there was the fundamental and tenacious hold of the Elizabethan ideas and ideals which had become so much a part of the people that any drastic change amounted almost to treason in the minds of a still super­stitious and conservative country. Yet here we find the greatest architectural changes of a century about to be made. There are extremely few examples of this new type of architecture, only the very wealthy could afford to experi­ment and drive on with their purpose whilst the country was being torn apart by the Civil Wars, and such examples which survive today are all on the Grand Scale and not in any way applicable to this particular work.
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