History of Wall Panelling in Interior Design Periods


Early Stuart Interiors c.1603 - 1660

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The beginning of the Stuart dynasty made no very remarkable difference to the modes and manners which had already reached a ripe maturity during Elizabeth's lengthy reign. Decoration was the same only `more so.' That which we now call Jacobean was all an over-decoration of what had gone before-no lily was left un-gilded, no beauty unadorned.

Taken singly each design, used in interior decoration, was often a masterpiece in itself, bulling and where we find existing examples of rooms of this period with decorated ceilings oak beam and plaster and oak panelling, wall panelling, wainscot as well as gigantic and heavily ornamented fireplaces, the whole is overwhelming and altogether too `busy'. The simpler rooms that concentrated their decoration on either plaster ceiling and chimney­piece or carved chimney-piece alone are the most delightful examples of the period.

The desire to decorate everything continued fairly generally for at least the first twenty-five years of the century. Where examples of wall paintings occur these carry out the same or similar patterns as those seen already on the panelled walls. The colouring has lost the decisive tones of the Elizabethan murals and an almost sickly green and coral pink appear to predominate in the arches and spandrels, though some of the `vase and flower' pieces are unexpectedly at­tractive.

In France tapestry was hung on walls almost to the exclusion of other forms of wall covering, but in this country both wall panelling, oak panelling and wainscot and mural decoration continued in favour.

Sponsored by James I, tapestry workshops were opened at Mortlake by Sir Francis Crane to encourage the production of these still useful wall hangings.
It was also indirectly due to the King's interest in Stuart Interior design and the arts that the traditional Elizabethan design with its lingering medieval influence was eventually dis­carded in favour of the new Palladian ideal as adapted to suit this country ­a perfect lesson in proportion and ornament.
In order to appreciate the coming revolutionary changes (not of the Civil War but of design we must hesitate here and look further afield.

As far back as the middle of the sixteenth century a new form of architecture had been well established in Italy. This was the classic revival as interpreted by Palladio(1515-1580) and since known as Palladian. Glimmerings of his example had-as we have seen in the previous chapter-arrived in this country with the classic ornament already
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