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Modern Furniture in other Countries

In France, the cabinet maker has ever excelled in the production of ornamental furniture; and by constant reference to older specimens in the Museums and Palaces of his country, he is far better acquainted with what may be called the traditions of his craft than his English brother. To him the styles of François Premier, of Henri Deux, and the " three Louis" are 4' classic," and in the beautiful chasing and finishing of the mounts with which the French bronziste ornaments the best meubles de luxe, it is almost impossible to surpass his best efforts, provided the requisite price be paid; but these amounts are, in many cases, so considerable as hardly to be credible to those who have but little knowledge of the subject. As a simple instance, the " copy " of the "Bureau du Louvre" in the Hertford House collection, cost the late Sir Richard Wallace a sum of £4,000.

As, however, in France, and in countries which import French furniture, there are many who desire to obtain the effect of this beautiful but expensive furniture, but are unable to spend several thousand pounds in the decoration of a single room. To meet this demand, the industrious and ingenious Frenchman manufactures vast quantities of furniture which affects, without attaining, the merits of the better made and more highly finished articles.

In Holland, Belgium, and Germany, as has already been pointed out, the manufacture of ornamental oak furniture, on the lines of the Renaissance models, still prevails, and such furniture is largely imported into this country.

The illustration of a carved frame in the rococo style of Chippendale with a Chinaman in a canopy, represents an important school of wood- carving which has been developed in Munich; and in the " Künst Gewerberein," or " Workman's Exhibition," in that city, the Bavarians have a very similar arrangement to that of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society of this country, of which mention has already been made, each article being labelled with the name of the designer and maker.

Italian carved furniture of modern times has already been noticed; and in the selections made from the 1851 Exhibition, some productions of different countries have been illustrated, which tend to shew that, speaking generally, the furniture most suitable for display is produced abroad, while none can excel English cabinet makers in the production of useful furniture and woodwork, when it is the result of design and handicraft, unfettered by the detrimental, but too popular, condition that the article when finished shall appear to be more costly than it really is.

In conclusion, it seems evident that, with all the faults and shortcomings of this latter part of the nineteenth century - and no doubt they are many, both of commission and of omission - still, speaking generally, there is no lack of men with ability to design, and no want of well trained patient craftsmen to produce, furniture which shall equal the finest examples of the Renaissance and Jacobean periods. With the improved means of inter-communication between England and her Colonies, and with the chief industrial centres of Europe united for the purposes of commerce, the whole civilised world is, as it were, one kingdom: merchants and manufacturers can select the best and most suitable materials, can obtain photographs or drawings of the most distant examples, or copies of the most expensive designs, while the public Art Libraries of London, and Paris, contain valuable works of reference, which are easily accessible to the student or to the workman. It is very pleasant to bear testimony to the courtesy and assistance which the student or workman invariably receives from those who are in charge of our public reference libraries.

There needs, however, an important condition to be taken into account. Good work, requiring educated thought to design, and skilled labour to produce, must be paid for at a very different rate to the furniture of machined mouldings, stamped ornament, and other numerous and inexpensive substitutes for handwork, which our present civilization has enabled our manufacturers to produce, and which, for the present, seems to find favour with the multitude. It has been well said that " Decorated or sumptuous furniture is not merely furniture that is expensive to buy, but that which has been elaborated with much thought, knowledge, and skill. Such furniture cannot be cheap certainly, but the real cost is sometimes borne by the artist who produces, rather than by the man who may happen to buy it." (Essay on " Decorated Furniture," by J. H. Pollen.) It is often forgotten that the price paid is that of the lives and health of the workers and their families.

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