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History of wood carving

History of wood carving

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The History of wood carving has from the remotest ages the decoration of wood as a foremost art. The tendency of human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

 has always been to ornament every article in use. The North American Indian carves his wooden fish-hook or his pipe stem just as the Polynesian
The Polynesian peoples is a grouping of various ethnic groups that speak Polynesian languages, a branch of the Oceanic languages within the Austronesian languages, and inhabit Polynesia. They number approximately 1,500,000 people...

 works patterns on his paddle. The native of Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

 decorates his cavassa grater with a well-conceived scheme of incised scrolls, while the native of Loango Bay distorts his spoon with a design of perhaps figures standing up in full relief carrying a hammock.

Figure-work seems to have been universal. To carve a figure in wood may be not only more difficult but also less satisfactory than sculpting
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 with marble, owing to the tendency of wood to crack, to be damaged by insects, or to suffer from changes in the atmosphere. The texture of the material, too, often proves challenging to the expression of features, especially in the classic type of youthful face. On the other hand, magnificent examples exist of the more rugged features of age: the beetling brows, the furrows and lines neutralizing the defects of the grain of the wood. In ancient work the surface may not have been of such consequence, for figures as a rule being painted for protection and especially color.

It is not always realized at the present day to what extent color has even from the most ancient times been used to enhance the effect of wood-carving and sculpture. The modern Colour prejudice against gold and other tints is perhaps because painted work has been vulgarized. The arrangement of a proper and harmonious scheme of colour is not the work of the house painter
Painter and decorator
A house painter and decorator is a tradesman responsible for the painting and decorating of buildings, and is also known as a decorator or house painter...

, but of the specially trained artist.

In the early 20th Century, the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition
The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition is a 29-volume reference work, an edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. It was developed during the encyclopaedia's transition from a British to an American publication. Some of its articles were written by the best-known scholars of the time...

, on which much of this entry is based, commented, "Of late years carving has gone out of fashion. The work is necessarily slow and requires substantial skill, making the works expensive. Other and cheaper methods of decoration have driven carving from its former place. Machine work has much to answer for, and the endeavor to popularize the craft by means of the village class has not always achieved its own end. The gradual disappearance of the individual artist, elbowed out as he has been, by the contractor, is fatal to the continuance of an art which can never flourish when done at so much a yard." This statement has proven untrue, as the continued survival of the art and craft of woodcarving can be demonstrated by the large number of woodcarvers who have carried on or advanced the tradition in different parts of the world.

Ancient Egypt

The extreme dryness of the climate of Egypt accounts for the existence of a number of woodcarvings from this remote period. Some wood panels from the tomb of Hosul Egypt, at Sakkarah
Saqqara is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of...

 are of the III. dynasty
Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...

. The carving consists of Egyptian hieroglyph
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

s and figures in low relief, and the style is extremely delicate and fine. A stool shown on one of the panels has the legs shaped like the fore and hind limbs of an animal, a form common in Egypt for thousands of years.

In the Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 museum may be seen the statue of a man from the period of the Great Pyramid of Giza
Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact...

, possibly 4000 B.C. The expression of the face and the realism of the carriage have never been surpassed by any Egyptian sculptor of this or any other period. The figure is carved out of a solid block of sycamore, and in accordance with the Egyptian custom the arms are joined on. The eyes are inlaid with pieces of opaque white quartz, with a line of bronze surrounding to imitate the lid; a small disk of transparent rock crystal
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 forms the iris, while a tiny bit of polished ebony fixed behind the crystal imparts to it a lifelike sparkle. The IV., V. and VI. dynasties
Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...

 cover the finest period of Egyptian sculpture. The statues found in the tombs show a freedom of treatment which was never reached in later times. They are all portraits, which the artist strove his utmost to render exactly like his model. For these are not, like mere modern statues, simply works of art, but had primarily a religious signification (Maspero). As the spirits of the deceased might inhabit, these Ka statues, the features and proportions were closely copied.

There are to be found in the principal museums of Europe many Egyptian examples: mummy cases of human beings with the face alone carved, animal mummy cases, sometimes boxes, with the figure of a lizard, perhaps, carved in full Mummy relief standing on the lid. Sometimes the animal would be carved in the round and its hollowed body used as the case itself.

Of furniture, folding seats like the modern camp stool, and chairs with legs terminating in the heads of beasts or the feet of animals, Furniture still exist. Beds supported by lions paws XI. and XII.
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, between 2055 BC and 1650 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate...

 dynasties, from Gebelein
Gebelein is a town in Egypt. It is located on the Nile, about 40 km south of Thebes, in Qena Governorate.The modern geographic area is known as Naga el-Gherira.-Archaeology:...

, now in the Cairo Museum
Egyptian Museum
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum, in Cairo, Egypt, is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. It has 120,000 items, with a representative amount on display, the remainder in storerooms....

), headrests, 6 or 8 in. high, shaped like a crutch on a foot, very like those used by the native of New Guinea
New Guinea
New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

 today, are carved with scenes, &c., in outline. In the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 may be seen a tiny little coffer, 4 in. by 21/2 in., with very delicate figures carved in low relief. This little box stands on cabriole legs 3/4 of an inch long with claw feet, quite Louis Quinze
Louis Quinze
The Louis XV style or Louis Quinze was a French Rococo style in the decorative arts, and, to a lesser degree, architecture.Datable to the personal reign of Louis XV , the style was characterised by supreme craftsmanship and the integration of the arts of cabinetmaking, painting, and...

 in character. There are incense ladles, the handle representing a bouquet of lotus flowers, the bowl formed like the leaf of an aquatic plant with serrated edges from Gurnah during the XVIII. dynasty
New Kingdom
The New Kingdom of Egypt, also referred to as the Egyptian Empire is the period in ancient Egyptian history between the 16th century BC and the 11th century BC, covering the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Dynasties of Egypt....

; mirror handles, representing a little pillar, or a lotus stalk, sometimes surmounted by a head of Hathor
Hathor , is an Ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of love, beauty, music, motherhood and joy. She was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt...

, the Egyptian Venus or of Bes
Bes was an Egyptian deity worshipped in the later periods of dynastic history as a protector of households and in particular mothers and children. In time he would be regarded as the defender of everything good and the enemy of all that is bad...

, god of the toilet; pin-cushions, in the shape of a small round tortoise with holes in the back for toilet pins, which were also of wood with dog-head ends (XI. dynasty, Cairo Museum); and perfume boxes such as a fish, the two halves forming the bottom and top of the perfume or pomatum was removed by little wooden spoons, one shaped in the form of a cartouche emerging from a full-blown lotus, another shaped like the neck of a goose, a third consisting of a dog running with a fish in its closed mouth, the fish forming the bowl. The list might be prolonged, but enough has been said to show to what a pitch of refinement the art of wood-carving had reached thousands of years before the birth of Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...


Of the work of Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, little is actually known except from history or inference. It may be safely assumed that the Assyria craft kept pace with the varying taste and refinement of Greece and all the older civilizations. Important pieces of wooden Roman sculpture
Roman sculpture
The study of ancient Roman sculpture is complicated by its relation to Greek sculpture. Many examples of even the most famous Greek sculptures, such as the Apollo Belvedere and Barberini Faun, are known only from Roman Imperial or Hellenistic "copies." At one time, this imitation was taken by art...

 which once existed in Greece and other ancient countries are only known to us from the descriptions of Pausanias
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

 and other classic writers. Many examples of the wooden images of the gods, were preserved down to late historic times. The Palladium
Palladium (mythology)
In Greek and Roman mythology, a palladium or palladion was an image of great antiquity on which the safety of a city was said to depend. "Palladium" especially signified the wooden statue of Pallas Athena that Odysseus and Diomedes stole from the citadel of Troy and which was later taken to the...

, or sacred figure of Pallas
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, which was guarded by the Vestal Virgin
Vestal Virgin
In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins , were priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The College of the Vestals and its well-being was regarded as fundamental to the continuance and security of Rome, as embodied by their cultivation of the sacred fire that could not be...

s in Rome and was fabled to have been brought by Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

 froth the burning Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

, was one of these wooden figures.

Woodcarved figures as statuary in Christian art

Great works of art were created in wood during the entire Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 in Cathedrals, Abbeys and other Church connected sites. These works demonstrated both craftsmanship and artistry.

First eleven centuries after Christ

Wood-carving examples of the First eleven centuries after Christ are extremely rare. The carved panels of the main doors of St Sabina
Santa Sabina
The Basilica of Saint Sabina at the Aventine is a titular minor basilica and mother church of the Roman Catholic Dominican order in Rome, Italy. Santa Sabina lies high on the Aventine Hill, beside the Tiber, close to the headquarters of theKnights of Malta....

 on the Aventine Hill
Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill is one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa, the twelfth rione, or ward, of Rome.-Location and boundaries:The Aventine hill is the southernmost of Rome's seven hills...

, Rome, are very interesting specimens of early Christian relief sculpture in wood, dating, as the dresses show, from the 5th century. The doors are made up of a large number of small square panels, each minutely carved with a scene from the Old or New Testament. A very fine fragment of Byzantine art (11th or 12th centuries) is preserved in a monastery at Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 in Macedonia. It consists of two panels (one above the other) of relief sculpture, surmounted by a semicircular arch of conventional foliage springing from columns ornamented with animals in foliage of spiral form. The capitals and bases are square, each face being carved with a figure. It is a wonderfully fine piece of work, conceived in the best decorative spirit.

In Scandinavian countries we find some very early work of excellent design. In the Christiania Museum there are some fine chairs Scandina, of the 9th or 10th centuries carved with that particular vian work flat and broad treatment of scroll and strapwork so eminently suited to soft wood. In the Copenhagen Museum there are panels from Iceland in the same style. The celebrated wooden doorways of Aal (AD. 1200), Sauland, Flaa, Solder and other Norwegian churches (Christiania Museum) are only an elaboration of the same treatment of dragons and intricate scroll work, a style which we still see carried on in the door-posts of the 15th century in the Nordiska museum, Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

, and in the Icelandic work of quite modern times. In these early days the leaf was not much developed in design. The carver depended almost entirely on the stalk, a style of work which has its counterpart in Burmese
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

 work of the 17th century.

Gothic period (12th-15th centuries)

It was towards the end of this epoch that wood-carving reached its culminating point. The choir stalls
Stall (enclosure)
A stall is a small enclosure of some kind, usually less enclosed than a room.-Market stall:A market stall is usually an immobile temporary structure erected by merchants to display and shelter their merchandise...

, rood-screens
Rood screen
The rood screen is a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron...

, roofs, retable
A retable is a framed altarpiece, raised slightly above the back of the altar or communion table, on which are placed the cross, ceremonial candlesticks and other ornaments....

s, of England
Britain in the Middle Ages
England in the Middle Ages concerns the history of England during the Medieval period — from the end of Roman rule in Britain through to the Early Modern period...

, France
France in the Middle Ages
France in the Middle Ages covers an area roughly corresponding to modern day France, from the death of Louis the Pious in 840 to the middle of the 15th century...

 and the Teutonic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 countries of Europe, have in execution, balance and proportion, never at any time been approached. In small designs, in detail, in minuteness, in mechanical accuracy, the carver of this time has had his rivals, but for greatness of architectural conception, for a just appreciation of decorative treatment, the designer of the 15th century stands alone.

It should always be borne in mind that color was the keynote of this scheme. The custom was practically universal, and enough traces remain to show how splendid was the effect of these old Gothic churches and cathedrals. The priests in their gorgeous vestment
Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among Latin Rite and other Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans...

s, the lights, the crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

, the banners and incense
Incense is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term "incense" refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces. It is used in religious ceremonies, ritual purification, aromatherapy, meditation, for creating a mood, and for...

, the fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

ed or diapered walls, and that crowning glory of Gothic art
Gothic art
Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical...

, the stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

, were all in harmony with these beautiful schemes of colored carved work. Red, blue, green, white and gilding were the tints as a rule used. Not only were the screens painted in colors, but the parts painted white were often further decorated with delicate lines and sprigs of foliage in conventional pattern. The plain surfaces of the panels were also adorned with saints, often on a background of delicate gesso
Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these...

 diaper, colored or gilded (Southwold). Nothing could exceed the beauty of the triptych
A triptych , from tri-= "three" + ptysso= "to fold") is a work of art which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works...

s or retables of Germany
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, Flanders or France; carved with scenes from the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 in high relief arranged under a delicate lacework of canopies and clustered pinnacles glistening with gold and brilliant colors. In Germany the effect was further enhanced by emphasizing parts of the gilding by means of a transparent varnish tinted with red or green, thus giving a special tone to the metallic luster.

The style of design used during this great period owes much of its interest to the now obsolete custom of directly employing the craftsman
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

 and his men, instead of the present-day habit of giving the work to a contractor. It is easy to trace how those bands of carvers traveled about from church to church. In one district the designer would employ a particular form and arrangement of vine leaf, while in another adjoining quite a different style repeatedly appears. The general scheme was of course planned by one master mind, but the carrying out of each section, each part, each detail, was left to the individual workman. Hence that variety of treatment, that endless diversity, which gives a charm and interest to Gothic art, unknown in more symmetrical epochs. The Gothic craftsman appreciated the cardinal fact that in design beautiful detail does not necessarily insure a beautiful composition
Composition (visual arts)
In the visual arts – in particular painting, graphic design, photography and sculpture – composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art or a photograph, as distinct from the subject of a work...

, and subordinated the individual part to the general effect. He also often carved in situ
In situ
In situ is a Latin phrase which translated literally as 'In position'. It is used in many different contexts.-Aerospace:In the aerospace industry, equipment on board aircraft must be tested in situ, or in place, to confirm everything functions properly as a system. Individually, each piece may...

, a practice seldom if ever followed in the present day. Here and there one comes across the work of long years ago still unfinished. A half-completed bench-end, a fragment of screen left plain, clearly show that sometimes at least the church was the workshop.

Gothic and Renaissance: A comparison

Gothic design roughly divides itself into two classes: (1) the geometrical, i.e. tracery and diaper patterns, and (2) the foliage designs, where the mechanical scroll of the Renaissance is as a rule absent. The lines of foliage treatment, so common in the bands of the 15th-century roodscreens and the panel work especially of Germany, serve to illustrate the widely different motives of the craftsmen of these two great epochs. Again, while the Renaissance designer as a rule made the two sides of the panel alike, the Gothic carver seldom repeated a single detail. While his main lines and grouping corresponded, his detail differed. Of numberless examples a 15th-century chest (Plate III. fig. 6) in the Kunstgewerbe Museum, Berlin, may be referred to. The arrangements of foliage, &c., on top, back and front, are typical of Gothic at its best.

End of the 12th century

As this section treats of woodcarving in Europe generally, and not of any one country alone, the dates just named must be of necessity only approximate. The 13th century was marked not only by great skill both in design and treatment, but also much devotional feeling. The craftsman seems to have not merely carved, but to have carved to the glory of God. At no time was work more delicately conceived or more beautifully cut. This early Gothic style certainly lent itself to fine finish, and in this respect was more suited to stone treatment than to wood. But the loving care bestowed on each detail seems to point to a religious devotion which is sometimes absent from later work. Very good examples of capitals
Capital (architecture)
In architecture the capital forms the topmost member of a column . It mediates between the column and the load thrusting down upon it, broadening the area of the column's supporting surface...

 (now, alas, divided down the center) are to be seen in Peterborough cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral, properly the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew – also known as Saint Peter's Cathedral in the United Kingdom – is the seat of the Bishop of Peterborough, dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, whose statues look down from the...

. Scrolls and foliage spring from groups of columns of four. Some Italian
Italy in the Middle Ages
This is the history of Italy during the Middle Ages.- Transition from Late Antiquity :Italy was invaded by the Visigoths in the 5th century, and Rome was sacked by Alaric in 410. The last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed in 476 by an Eastern Germanic general, Odoacer...

A column or pillar in architecture and structural engineering is a vertical structural element that transmits, through compression, the weight of the structure above to other structural elements below. For the purpose of wind or earthquake engineering, columns may be designed to resist lateral forces...

s of the same date (Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum , set in the Brompton district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects...

) should be compared, much to the advantage of the former. Exeter cathedral
Exeter Cathedral
Exeter Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter at Exeter, is an Anglican cathedral, and the seat of the Bishop of Exeter, in the city of Exeter, Devon in South West England....

 boasts miserere
Miserere may refer to:* Psalm 51, and its musical settings:** Miserere ** Miserere ** Miserere * Miserere by Zucchero* Plaza Miserere, a plaza in Buenos Aires...

s unsurpassed for skilful workmanship; mermaids, dragons, elephants, masks, knights and other subjects introduced into foliage, form the designs. Salisbury cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral, formally known as the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, England, considered one of the leading examples of Early English architecture....

 is noted for its stall elbows, and the reredos
thumb|300px|right|An altar and reredos from [[St. Josaphat's Roman Catholic Church|St. Josaphat Catholic Church]] in [[Detroit]], [[Michigan]]. This would be called a [[retable]] in many other languages and countries....

 in the south transept
For the periodical go to The Transept.A transept is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture...

 of Adisham
Adisham is a village and civil parish in the English county of Kent. The village, six miles south-east of Canterbury, and located on the B2046 road between Wingham and Barham, is known as Edesham in the Domesday Book....

, Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, is another fine example testifying to the great skill of the 13th-century woodcarvers. A very interesting set of stalls, the early history of which is unknown, was placed in Barming
Barming is a civil parish in the Maidstone District of Kent, England. It lies to the west of Maidstone, the county town, and had a population of 2234 persons . The eastern end of the parish is part of the built-up area of Maidstone, although the remainder is much more rural...

 church, Kent, about the year 1868. The book rest ends are carved with two scrolls and an animal standing between, and the ends of the stalls with figure sculpture:


During this period foliage forms, though still conventional, more closely followed nature. The canopy work of the choir of Winchester contains exquisite carvings of oak and other leaves. The choir stalls of Ely and Chichester and the tomb of Edward III. in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 are all fine examples of this period. Exeter boasts a throne that of Bishop Stapledon
Walter de Stapledon
Walter de Stapledon , English bishop, was born at Annery in North Devon.On 13 March 1307 Stapledon was chosen Bishop of Exeter, and was consecrated on 13 October 1308. He went on errands to France for both Edward I and Edward II, and attended the councils and parliaments of his time...

 (An. 1308-1326) standing 57 ft (17.4 m). high which remains unequaled for perfection of proportion and delicacy of detail. In France the stalls of St Benoit-sur-Loire, Lisieux, and Évreux are good 14th-century examples. But little Gothic work is now to be seen in the churches of this country. It is to the museums we have to look for traces of the old Gothic carvers. The two retables in Dijon Museum, the work of Jacques de Baerze
Jacques de Baerze
Jacques de Baerze was a Flemish sculptor in wood, two of whose major carved altarpieces survive in Dijon, now in France, then the capital of the Duchy of Burgundy....

 (1301), a sculptor of Flanders, who carved for Philippe le Hardi
Philip II, Duke of Burgundy
Philip the Bold , also Philip II, Duke of Burgundy , was the fourth and youngest son of King John II of France and his wife, Bonne of Luxembourg. By his marriage to Margaret III, Countess of Flanders, he also became Count Philip II of Flanders, Count Philip IV of Artois and Count-Palatine Philip IV...

, Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks...

, are masterpieces of design and workmanship. The tracery is of the very finest, chiefly gilt on backgrounds of diapered gesso.


Towards the end of the 14th century carvers gave up natural foliage treatment to a great extent, and took to more conventional forms. The oak and the maple no longer inspired the designer, but the vine was constantly employed. A very large amount of 15th-century work remains to us, but the briefest reference only can be made to some of the more beautiful examples that help to make this period so great.

The rood screen
Rood screen
The rood screen is a common feature in late medieval church architecture. It is typically an ornate partition between the chancel and nave, of more or less open tracery constructed of wood, stone, or wrought iron...

, that wonderful feature of the medieval church, was now universal. It consisted of a tall screen of usually about thirty ft. high, on the top of which rested a loft, i.e. a platform rood about 6 ft (1.8 m). in width guarded on either side by a gallery screen, and either on the top or in front of that, facing the nave, was placed the rood, i.e. a large crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

 with figures of St Mary and St John on either side. This rood screen sometimes spanned the church in one continuous length (Leeds, Kent
Leeds, Kent
Leeds is a village and civil parish in the Maidstone District of Kent, England. The parish is located to the east of Maidstone.The village of Leeds is five miles from the county town. It appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 called Esledes - an old English word meaning slope or hillside...

), but often filled in the aisle and chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 arches in three separate divisions (Church Handborough, Oxon.). The loft was as a rule approached by a winding stair built in the thickness of the aisle wall. The lower part of the screen itself was solid paneled to a height of about 3 in 6 in (1.07 m) and the upper part of this paneling was filled in with tracery (Carbrook, Norfolk), while the remaining flat surfaces of the panels were often pictured with saints on a background of delicate gesso
Gesso is a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these...

A nappy or a diaper is a kind of pant that allows one to defecate or urinate on oneself discreetly. When diapers become soiled, they require changing; this process is often performed by a second person such as a parent or caregiver...

 (Southwold, Suffolk
Southwold is a town on the North Sea coast, in the Waveney district of the English county of Suffolk. It is located on the North Sea coast at the mouth of the River Blyth within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town is around south of Lowestoft and north-east...

). Towards the end of this period the employment of figures became less common as a means of decoration, and the panels were sometimes filled- entirely with carved foliage (Swimbridge, Devon). The upper part of the rood screen consisted of open arches with the heads filled in with pierced tracery, often enriched with crocket
A crocket is a hook-shaped decorative element common in Gothic architecture. It is in the form of a stylised carving of curled leaves, buds or flowers which is used at regular intervals to decorate the sloping edges of spires, finials, pinnacles, and wimpergs....

s (Seaming, Norfolk), embattled transoms (Castle Hedingham, Essex), or floriated cusps (Eye, Suffolk
Eye, Suffolk
Eye is a small market town in the county of Suffolk, East Anglia, England, south of Diss, and on the River Dove.Eye is twinned with the town of Pouzauges in the Vendée Departement of France.-History:An island...

). The mullions were constantly carved with foliage (Cheddar, Somerset), pinnacles (Causton, Norfolk), angels (Pilton, Devon
Pilton, Devon
Pilton is a suburb of Barnstaple. It is located about half a mile north on the outskirts of Barnstaple in Devon, England. It is home to about 2000 residents, and has its own primary and secondary school...

), or decorated with canopy work in gesso (Southwold). But the feature of these beautiful screens was the loft with its gallery and vaulting. The loft floor rested on the top of the rood screen and was usually balanced and kept in position by means of a groined vaulting (Harberton, Devon) or a cove (Eddington, Somerset). The finest examples of vaulting are to be seen in Devon. The bosses at the intersections of the ribs and the carved tracery of the screen at Honiton stand unrivaled. Many screens still possess the beam which formed the edge of the loft floor and on which the gallery rested. It was here that the medieval roodscreen carver gave most play to his fancy, and carved the finest designs in foliage to be seen throughout the whole Gothic period. Although these massed moulds, crests and bands have the appearance of being carved out of one log, they were in practice invariably built up in parts, much of the foliage, &c., being pierced and placed in hollow moulds in order to increase the shadow. As a rule the arrangement consisted of a crest running along the top, with a smaller one depending from the lower edge, and three bands of foliage and vine between them (Feniton, Devon). The designs of vine leaves at Kenton, Bow and Dartmouth, all in Devon, illustrate three very beautiful treatments of this plant. At Swimbridge, Devon, there is a very elaborate combination; the usual plain beads which separate the bands are carved with twisted foliage also. At Abbots Kerswell and other places in the district round Totnes the carvers introduced birds in the foliage with the best effect. The variety of cresting used is very great. That at Winchcomb, Gloucester, consists of dragons combined with vine leaves and foliage. It illustrates how Gothic carvers sometimes repeated their patterns in as mechanical a way as the worst workmen of the present time. Little can be said of the galleries, so few remain to us. They were nearly all pulled down when the order to destroy the roods was issued in 1548. That they were decorated with carved saints under niches (Llananno, Wales), or painted figures (Strencham, Worcester), is certain from the examples that have survived the Reformation. At Atherington. Devon, the gallery front is decorated with the royal coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

, other heraldic devices, and with prayers. The Breton screen at St Fiacre-le-Faouet is a wonderful example of French work of this time, btit does not compare with the best English examples. Its flamboyant lines and its small tracery never obtained any foothold in England, though screens carved in this way (Colebrook, Devon) are sometimes to be found.

The rood was sometimes of such dimensions as to require some support in addition to the gallery on which it rested. A carved beam was used from which a chain connected the rood itself. At Cullompton
Cullompton is a civil parish and town in Devon, England, locally known as Cully. It is miles north-north-east of Exeter and lies on the River Culm. In 2010 it had a population of 8,639 and is growing rapidly....

, Devon, such a beam still exists, and is carved with foliage; an open cresting ornaments the under side and two angels support the ends. This particular rood stood on a base of rocks, skulls and bones, carved out of two solid logs averaging 18 in. wide and 21 in. high, and together measuring 15 in 6 in (4.72 m) long; there are round holes along the top which were probably used for lights.

No country in Europe possesses roofs to equal those of England created in the 15th century. The great roof of Westminster Hall
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament or Westminster Palace, is the meeting place of the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom—the House of Lords and the House of Commons...

 remains to the present day unique. In Norfolk and Suffolk roofs abound of the hammerbeam class
Hammerbeam roof
Hammerbeam roof, in architecture, is the name given to an open timber roof, typical of English Gothic architecture, using short beams projecting from the wall.- Design :...

; that at Woolpit, Suffolk, achieves the first rank of quality. Each bracket is carved with strongly designed foliage, the end of every beam terminates in an angel carrying a shield, and the purlins are crested, while each truss is supported by a canopied riche (containing a figure) resting on an angel corbel. Here, too, as at Ipswich and many other churches, there is a row of angels with outspread wings under the wall-plate. This idea of angels in the roof is a very beautiful one, and the effect is much enhanced by the coloring. The roof at St Nicholas, Kings Lynn, is a magnificent example of tiebeam construction. The trusses are filled in with tracery at the sides and the centres more or less open, and the beams, which are crested and embattled, contain a row of angels on either side. In Devon, Cullompton possesses a very fine semicircular ceiling supported at intervals by ribs pierced with carving. Each compartment is divided up into small square panels, crossed by diagonal ribs of cresting, while every joint is ornamented with a boss carved in the decorative way peculiar to the Gothic craftsman. The nave roof of Manchester cathedral
Manchester Cathedral
Manchester Cathedral is a medieval church on Victoria Street in central Manchester and is the seat of the Bishop of Manchester. The cathedral's official name is The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George in Manchester...

 is nearly flat, and is also divided up into small compartments and bossed; the beams are supported by carved brackets resting on corbels with angels at each base.

In the 15th century, choir stalls with their canopies continued to increase in magnificence. Manchester cathedral (middle of 15th century) and Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 chapel in Westminster Abbey (early 16th) are good examples of the fashion of massing ~7~7 pinnacles and canopies; a custom which hardly compares with the more simple beauty of the 14th-century work of Ely cathedral
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon...

. The stalls of Amiens
Amiens Cathedral
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens , or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral and seat of the Bishop of Amiens...

 cathedral were perhaps the finest in the world at the beginning of the 16th century. The cresting employed, though common on the Continent, is of a kind hardly known in England, consisting as it does of arches springing from arches, and decorated with crockets and finials. The tabernacle work over the end seats, with its pinnacles and flying buttress
Flying buttress
A flying buttress is a specific form of buttressing most strongly associated with Gothic church architecture. The purpose of any buttress is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards by redirecting them to the ground...

es, stretches up towards the roof in tapering lines of the utmost delicacy. The choir stalls (the work of Jörg Syrlin) in Ulm cathedral are among the finest produced by the German carver. The front panels are carved with foliage of splendid decorative boldness, strength and character; the stall ends were carved with foliage and sculpture along the top edge, as was sometimes the case in Bavaria and France as well as Germany.

In early times the choir alone possessed seats, the nave being left bare. Gradually benches were introduced, and during the 15th century became universal. The poppyhead
Poppyhead (carving)
Poppyhead is a form of carving of the end of a bench or a choir stall. The carving consists of leaves and flowers, which are usually in the form of a fleur-de-lys....

 form of B ornament now reached perfection and was constantly used enc for seats other than those of the choir. The name refers en a. to the carved finial which is so often used to complete the top of the bench end and is peculiarly English in character. In Devon and Cornwall it is rarely met with (Ilsington, Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

). In Somerset it is more common, while in the eastern counties thousands of examples remain. The quite simple fleur-de-lys
The fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys is a stylized lily or iris that is used as a decorative design or symbol. It may be "at one and the same time, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic", especially in heraldry...

 form of poppyhead, suitable for the village, is seen in perfection at Trunch, Norfolk, and the very elaborate form when the poppyhead springs from a crocketed circle filled in with sculpture, at St Nicholas, Kings Lynn. Often the foliage contained a face (Cley, Norfolk), or the poppyhead consisted of figures or birds only (Thurston, Suffolk
Thurston, Suffolk
Thurston is a village in Suffolk situated about four miles east of Bury St Edmunds. As of mid-2005, Thurston's estimated population was 3,260. It is recorded in the Domesday book as Thurstuna and Torstuna.-Services:...

) or a figure standing on a dragon (Great Brincton, Northampton); occasionally the traditional form was departed from and the finial carved like a lemon in outline (Bury St Edmuncis) or a diamond (Tirley, Glos.). In Denmark an ornament in the form of a large circle sometimes takes the place of the English poppy-head. In the Copenhagen Museum there is a set of bench ends of the 15th century with such a decoration carved with coats of arms, interlacing strap-work, &c. But the old 15th century bench end did not depend entirely on the poppy-head for its embellishment. The side was constantly enriched with elaborate tracery (Dennington, Norfolk) or with tracery and domestic scenes (North Cadbury, Somerset), or would consist of a mass of sculpture in perspective, with canopy work, buttresses and sculptured niches, while the top of the bench end would be crowned with figures carved in the round, of the finest craftsmanship. Such work at Amiens cathedral is a marvel alike of conception, design and execution. In the Kunstgewerbe Museum, Berlin, some beautiful stall ends are to be seen. Out of a dragons mouth grows a conventional tree arranged and balanced in excellent proportion. On another, stall end a tree is carved growing out of the mouth of a fool. This custom of making foliage grow out of the mouth or eyes is hardly defensible, and was by no means confined to any country or time. We have plenty of Renaissance examples of the same treatment.

Before the 15th century preaching had not become a regular institution in England, and pulpits were not so common. However, the value of the sermon began to be appreciated from the use to which the Lollards and other sects put this method of teaching doctrine, and pulpits became a necessity. A very beautiful one exists at Kenton, Devon
Kenton, Devon
Kenton is a small village located near Exeter, the capital of Devon, England.Kenton is known for its mediæval castle, Powderham Castle, where the Earl of Devon once settled in. Powderham Castle was built between 1390 and 1420 by Sir Philip Courtenay...

. It is, as is generally the case, octagonal, and stands on a foot. Each angle is carved with an upright column of foliage between pinnacles, and the panels, which are painted with saints, are enriched with carved canopies and foliage; it is, however, much restored. The puipit at Trull, Somerset, is noted for its fine figure carving. A large figure standing under a canonv fills each of the nanelled sides. while many other smaller figures help to enrich the general effect. Examples of Gothic sounding boards are very rare; that, together with the pulpit, in the choir of Winchester is of the time of Prior Silkstede (1520), and is carved with his rebus, a skein of twisted silk.

The usual form of font cover during the hundred years before the Reformation was pyramidal, the ribs of the salient angles being Fo straight and cusped (Frindsbury, Kent) or of curved outline and cusped (St Mildred, Canterbury). There is a very charming one of this form at Colebrook, Devon. It is quite plain but for a little angel kneeling on the top, with its hands clasped in prayer. But the most beautiful form is the massed collection of pinnacles and canopy work, of which there is such a fine example at Sudbury, Suffolk
Sudbury, Suffolk
Sudbury is a small, ancient market town in the county of Suffolk, England, on the River Stour, from Colchester and from London.-Early history:...

. It was not uncommon to carve a dove on the topmost pinnacle (Castleacre, Norfolk), in allusion to the descent of the Holy Spirit. The finest font in England is undoubtedly that of Ijiford, Suffolk. It rises some 20 ft (6.1 m). in height, arid when the panels were painted with saints and the exquisite tabernacle work colored and gilded, must have been a masterpiece of Gothic craftsmanship. A cord connecting the tops of these covers with the roof or with a carved beam standing out from the wall, something like a crane (Salle, Norfolk), was used to remove the cover on the occasion of baptism.

Many lectern
A lectern is a reading desk with a slanted top, usually placed on a stand or affixed to some other form of support, on which documents or books are placed as support for reading aloud, as in a scripture reading, lecture, or sermon...

s of the Gothic period do not exist today. They usually had a double sloping desk which revolved round a central moulded post. The lectern at Swanscombe, Kent, has an eras, circle of good foliage ornamenting each face of the book rest, and sonic tracery work at either end. The box form is more common in France than in England, the pedestal of such a lectern being surrounded by a casing of three or more sides. A good example with six sides is in the church of Vance (France), and one of triangular form in the Muse of Bourges, while a four-sided box lectern is still in use in the church of Lenham, Kent. The Gothic prayer desk, used for private devotional purposes, is hardly known in England, but is not uncommon on the Continent. There is a beautiful specimen in the Muse, Bourges; the front and sides of the part for kneeling are carved with that small tracery of flowing character so common in France and Belgium during the latter part of the 15th century, and the back, which rises to a height of 6 ft (1.8 m)., contains a little crucifix with traceried decoration above and below.

A word should be said about the ciboria
Ciboria is a genus of fungi in the family Sclerotiniaceae. The widespread genus, which currently contains about 21 species, was circumscribed by the German botanist Karl Fuckel in 1870.-Species:*Ciboria acerina*Ciboria aestivalis...

, so often found on the Oboria continent of Europe. In tapering arrangement of tabernacle work they rival the English font covers in delicacy of outline (Muse, Rouen).

Numbers of doors are to be met with not only in churches but also in private houses. Lavenham, Suffolk, is rich in work of this latter ooo,-s class. In England the general custom was to carve the head of the door only with tracery (East Brent, Somerset), but in the Tudor period
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

 doors were some times covered entirely with linenfold
Linenfold is a simple style of relief carving used to decorate wood panelling with a design "imitating window tracery", "imitating folded linen" or "stiffly imitating folded material". Originally from Flanders, the style became widespread across Northern Europe in the 14th to 16th centuries...

 paneling (St Albans Abbey). This form of decoration was exceedingly common on the Continent as well as in England. In France the doors towards the latter part of the r5th century were often square-headed, or perhaps had the corners rounded. These doors were usually divided into some six or eight oblong panels of more or less equal size. One of the doors of Bourges Cathedral is treated thus, the panels being filled in with very good tracery enriched with crockets and coats of arms. Biit a more restrained form of treatment is constantly employed, as at the church of St Godard, Rouen, where the upper panels only are carved with tracery and coats of arms and the lower adorned with simple linenfold design.

To Spain and the Teutonic countries of Europe we look for the most important object of church decoration, the retable; the Reformation accounting for the absence in England of any work of this iec kind. The magnificent altar-piece
An altarpiece is a picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church. The altarpiece is often made up of two or more separate panels created using a technique known as panel painting. It is then called a diptych, triptych or polyptych for two,...

 in Schleswig cathedral
Schleswig Cathedral
Schleswig Cathedral , officially the Cathedral of St. Peter at Schleswig , is the main church of Schleswig and was the cathedral of the Bishop of Schleswig until the diocese was dissolved in 1624...

 was carved by Hans Bruggerman, and consists, like many others, of a number of panels filled with figures standing some four or five deep. The figures in the foremost rows are carved entirely separate, and stand out by themselves, while the background is composed of figure work and architecture, &c., in diminishing perspective. The panels are grouped together under canopy work forming one harmonious whole. The genius of this great carver shows itself in the large variety of the facial expression of those wonderful figures all instinct with life and movement, In France few retables exist outside the museums. In the little church of Marissel, not far from Beauvais
Beauvais is a city approximately by highway north of central Paris, in the northern French region of Picardie. It currently has a population of over 60,000 inhabitants.- History :...

, there is a retable consisting of eleven panels, the crucifixion being, of course, the principal subject. And there is a beautiful example from Antwerp in the Muse Cluny, Paris; the pierced tracery work which decorates the upper part being a good example of the style composed of interlacing segments of circles so common on the Continent during late Gothic times and but seldom practised in England. ln Spain the cathedral of Valladolid was famous for its retable, and Alonso Cano
Alonzo Cano
Alonzo Cano or Alonso Cano was a Spanish painter, architect and sculptor born in Granada. He learned architecture from his father, Miguel Cano; painting in the academy of Juan del Castillo, and from Francisco Pacheco the teacher of Velázquez; and sculpture from Juan Martínez Montañés...

 and other sculptors frequently used wood for large statuary, which was painted in a very realistic way with the most startlingly lifelike effect. Denmark also possessed a school of able wood-carvers who imitated the great altar-pieces of Germany. A very large and well-carved example still exists in the cathedral of Roskilde. But besides these great altarpieces tiny little models were carved on a scale the minuteness of which staggers the beholder. Triptych
A triptych , from tri-= "three" + ptysso= "to fold") is a work of art which is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works...

s and shrines, &c., measuring but a few inches were filled in with tracery and figures that excite the utmost wonder. In the British Museum there is such a triptych (Flemish, I 511); the center panel, measuring an inch or two square, is crowded with figures in full relief and in diminishing perspective, after the custom of this period. This rests on a semicircular base which is carved with the Lord's Supper
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

, and is further ornamented with figures and animals. The whole thing inclusive measures about 9 in. high, and, with the triptych wings open, 5 in. wide. The extraordinary delicacy and minuteness of detail of this microscopic work baffle description. There is another such a piece, also Flemish, in the Wallace collection, which rivals that just referred to in rni& applied talent. For, marvellous as these works of art are, they fail to satisfy. They make ones eyes ache, they worry one as to how the result could ever have been obtained, and after the first astonishment one must ever feel that the same work of art on a scale large enough for a cathedral could have been carved with half the labor.

With regard to paneling generally, there were, during the last fifty years of the period now under review, three styles of design followed by most European carvers, each of which attained great notoriety. Firstly, a developed form of small Panelling. tracery which was very common in France and the Netherlands. A square-headed panel would be filled in with small detail of flamboyant character, the perpendicular line or mullion being always subordinate, as in the German chasse (Muse Cluny), ,and in some cases absent, as the screen work of Évreux cathedral shows us. Secondly, the linenfold
Linenfold is a simple style of relief carving used to decorate wood panelling with a design "imitating window tracery", "imitating folded linen" or "stiffly imitating folded material". Originally from Flanders, the style became widespread across Northern Europe in the 14th to 16th centuries...

 design. The great majority of examples are of a very conventional form, but at Bere Regis
Bere Regis
Bere Regis is a village in the Purbeck district of Dorset, England, situated north-west of Wareham.The village has one shop, a post office and two pubs, The Royal Oak and The Drax Arms. The parish church is St. John the Baptist Church...

, Dorsetshire, the designs with tassels, and at St Sauvur, Caen, those with fringe work, readily justify the universal title applied to this very decorative treatment of large surfaces. At the beginning of the 16th century yet another pattern became the fashion. The main lines of the design consisted of flat hollow mouldings sometimes in the form of interlacing circles (Gatton, Surrey), at other times chiefly straight (Rochester cathedral), and the intervening spaces would be filled in with cusps or sprigs of foliage. It marks the last struggle of this great school of design to withstand the oncoming flood of the new art, the great Renaissance. From this time onward Gothic work, in spite of various attempts, has never again taken a place in domestic decoration. The lines of the tracery style, the pinnacle, and the crocket unequaled as they have always been in devotional expression are universally considered unsuited for decoration in the ordinary house.

But little reference can be made to the domestic side of the period which ended with the dawn of the 16th century, because so few remains exist. At Bayeux
Bayeux is a commune in the Calvados department in Normandy in northwestern France.Bayeux is the home of the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.-Administration:Bayeux is a sub-prefecture of Calvados...

, Bourges
Bourges is a city in central France on the Yèvre river. It is the capital of the department of Cher and also was the capital of the former province of Berry.-History:...

, Reims
Reims , a city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, lies east-northeast of Paris. Founded by the Gauls, it became a major city during the period of the Roman Empire....

 and preeminently Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

, we see by the figures of saints, bishops or virgins, how much the religious feeling of the Middle Ages entered into the domestic life. In England the carved corner post (which generally carried a bracket at the top to support the overhanging storey) calls for comment. In Ipswich
Ipswich is a large town and a non-metropolitan district. It is the county town of Suffolk, England. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell...

, there are several such posts. On one house near the river, that celebrated subject, the fox preaching to geese, is carved in graphic allusion to the dissemination of false doctrine.

Of mantelpieces, there is a good example in the Rouen Museum. The overhanging corners are supported by dragons and the plain mouldings have little bunches of foliage carved at either end, a custom as common in France during the 15th century as it was in England a century earlier; the screen. beam at Eastbourne parish church, for example.

As a rule, cabinets of the 15th century were rectangular in plan. In Germany and Austria the lower part was often enclosed, as well as the upper; the top, middle and lower rails being carved with geometrical design or with bands of foliage (Museum, Vienna). But it was also the custom to make these cupboards with the corners cut off, thus giving five sides to the piece of furniture. A very pretty instance, which is greatly enhanced by the metal work of the lock plates and hinges, is in the Muse Cluny, and there are other good specimens with the lower part open in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...


The chest
Chest (furniture)
A chest is one of the oldest forms of furniture. It is typically a rectangular structure with four walls and a liftable lid, for storage. The interior space may be subdivided...

 was a very important piece of furniture, and is often to be met with covered with the most elaborate carving (Orleans Museum). There is a splendid chest (14th century) in the Cluny Museum
Musée de Cluny
The Musée de Cluny , officially known as Musée National du Moyen Âge , is a museum in Paris, France...

; the front is carved with twelve knights in armour standing under as many arches, and the spandrels are filled in with faces, dragons and so on. But it is to the 15th century that we look for the best work of this class; there is no finer example than that in the Kunstgewerbe Museum, Berlin. The front is a very animated hunting scene most decoratively arranged in a scheme of foliage, and the top bears two coats of arms with helms, crests and mantling. But the more general custom in chest decoration was to employ tracery with or without figure work; Avignon Museum contains some typical examples of the latter class.

A certain number of seats used for domestic purposes are of great interest. A good example of the long bench placed against the wall, with lofty panelled back and canopy over, is in the Musée Cluny, Paris. In the Museum at Rouen
Rouen , in northern France on the River Seine, is the capital of the Haute-Normandie region and the historic capital city of Normandy. Once one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe , it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages...

 is a long seat of a movable kind with a low panelled back of pierced tracery, and in the Dijon Museum there is a good example of the typical chair of the period, with arms and high panelled and traceried back. There was a style of design admirably suited to the decoration of furniture when made of softwood such as pine. It somewhat resembled the excellent Scandinavian treatment of the 10th-12th centuries already referred to. A pattern of Gothic foliage, often of beautiful outline, would be simply grounded out to a shallow depth. The shadows, curves and twists only being emphasized by a few well-disposed cuts with a V tool; and of course the whole effect greatly improved by colour. A Swiss door of the 15th century in the Berlin Museum, and some German, Swiss and Tirolese work in the Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum , set in the Brompton district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects...

, offer patterns that might well be imitated today by those who require simple decoration while avoiding the hackneyed Elizabethan forms.

It is hard to compare the figure work of England with that on the Continent owing to the disastrous effect of the Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. But when we examine the roofs of the Eastern counties, the bench ends of Somerset, or the misereres in many parts of the country, we can appreciate how largely wood sculpture was used for purposes of decoration. If as a rule the figure work was I not of a very high order, we have conspicuous exceptions in the stall elbows of Sherborne, and the pulpit of Trull, Somerset. Perhaps the oldest instance is the often mutilated and often restored effigy of Robert, Duke of Normandy
Duke of Normandy
The Duke of Normandy is the title of the reigning monarch of the British Crown Dependancies of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The title traces its roots to the Duchy of Normandy . Whether the reigning sovereign is a male or female, they are always titled as the "Duke of...

, in Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of St Peter and the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, in Gloucester, England, stands in the north of the city near the river. It originated in 678 or 679 with the foundation of an abbey dedicated to Saint Peter .-Foundations:The foundations of the present...

 (12th century), and carved, as was generally the case in England, in oak. At Clifton Reynes
Clifton Reynes
Clifton Reynes is a village in the Borough of Milton Keynes, in the ceremonial county of Buckinghamshire, England. It is about a mile east of Olney...

, Buckingham, there are two figures of the 13th century. They are both hollowed out from the back in order to facilitate seasoning the wood and to prevent cracking. During the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries there are numberless instances of figure carving of the most graphic description afforded in the misereres in many of our churches and cathedrals. But of figures carved in the round apart from their surroundings hardly an instance remains. At the little chapel of Cartmel Fell, in the wilds of Westmorland, there is a figure of Our Lord from a crucifix, some 2 in 6 in (0.762 m) in length. The cross is gone, the arms are broken away, and the feet have been burned off. A second figure of Our Lord (originally in the church of Keynes Inferior) is in the museum of Caerleon, and a third, from a church in Lincolnshire, is now in a private collection. On the continent some of the finest figure work is to he found in the retables, some of which are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. A Tirolese panel of the 15th century carved in high relief, representing St John seated with his back to the onlooker, is a masterpiece of perspective and foreshortening, and the drapery folds are perfect. The same may be said of a small statue of the Virigin, carved in lime by a Swiss hand, and some work of the great Tilman Riemenschneider
Tilman Riemenschneider
Tilman Riemenschneider was a German sculptor and woodcarver active in Würzburg from 1483. He was one of the most prolific and versatile sculptors of the transition period between late Gothic and Renaissance, a master in stone and limewood.- Biography :Tilman Riemenschneider was born between 1459...

 of Wurzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

 (1460–1531) shows that stone sculptors of medieval times were not ashamed of wood.

Renaissance period (16th-17th centuries)

With the beginning of the 16th century, the great Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 began to elbow its way in to the exclusion of Gothic design. But the process was not sudden, and much transition work has great merit. The rood screen at Hurst, Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

, the stall work of Cartmel Priory
Cartmel Priory
Cartmel Priory is the parish church of Cartmel, Cumbria . The priory was founded in 1190 by William Marshal, later 1st Earl of Pembroke for the Augustinian Canons and dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Michael. It was first colonised by a Prior and twelve monks from Bradenstoke Priory in...

, Westmorland, and the bench ends of many of the churches in Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, give good illustrations. But the new style was unequal to the old in devotional feeling, except in classic buildings like St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

, where the stalls of Grinling Gibbons better suit their own surroundings. The rest of this article will therefore be devoted in the main to domestic work, and the exact location of examples can only be given when not the property of private owners or where the public have access.

During the 16th century the best work is undoubtedly to be found on the Continent. France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and the Netherlands producing numberless examples not only of house decoration but of furniture as well. The wealth of the newly discovered American continent
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 was only one factor which assisted in the civilizing influence of this time, and hand in hand with the spread of commerce came the desire for refinement. The custom of building houses chiefly in wood wherever timber was plentiful continued. Pilaster
A pilaster is a slightly-projecting column built into or applied to the face of a wall. Most commonly flattened or rectangular in form, pilasters can also take a half-round form or the shape of any type of column, including tortile....

s took the place of pinnacles, and vases or dolphins assisted the acanthus leaf to oust the older forms of design. House fronts of wood gave ample scope to the carver. That of Sir Paul Pinder (1600), formerly in Bishopsgate
Bishopsgate is a road and ward in the northeast part of the City of London, extending north from Gracechurch Street to Norton Folgate. It is named after one of the original seven gates in London Wall...

, but now preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a good example of decorative treatment without overloading. The brackets carved in the shape of monsters which support the projecting upper storey are typical of hundreds of dwellings, as for instance St Peters Hospital, Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

. The panels, too, of Sir Paul Pinders house are good examples of that Jacobean
Jacobean architecture
The Jacobean style is the second phase of Renaissance architecture in England, following the Elizabethan style. It is named after King James I of England, with whose reign it is associated.-Characteristics:...

 form of medallion surrounded by scroll work which is at once as decorative as it is simple.

In England that familiar style known as Elizabethan
Elizabethan furniture
Elizabethan furniture is the form which the Renaissance took in England in furniture and general ornament, and in furniture it is as distinctive a form as its French and Italian counterparts.- Gradual emergence :...

 and Jacobean prevailed throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. At the present time hardly a home in the land has not its old oak chest carved with the familiar half circle or scroll border along the top rail, or the arch pattern on the panels. The court cupboards, with their solid or open under parts and upper cornice
Cornice molding is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns any building or furniture element: the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the edge of a pedestal. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown molding.The function of the projecting...

 supported by turned baluster
A baluster is a moulded shaft, square or of lathe-turned form, one of various forms of spindle in woodwork, made of stone or wood and sometimes of metal, standing on a unifying footing, and supporting the coping of a parapet or the handrail of a staircase. Multiplied in this way, they form a...

s of extravagant thickness, are to be seen wherever one goes. And chairs, real as well as spurious, with solid backs carved in the usual flat relief, are bought up with an avidity inseparable from fashion. Four-post bedsteads are harder to come by. The back is usually broken up into small panels and carved, the best effect being seen in those examples where the paneling or the framework only is decorated. The dining-hall tables often had six legs of great substance, which were turned somewhat after the shape of a covered cup, and were carved with foliage bearing a distant resemblance to the acanthus. Rooms were generally panelled with oak, sometimes divided at intervals by flat pilasters and the upper frieze carved with scroll work or dolphins. But the feature which distinguished the period was the fire mantle. It always must be the principal object in a room, and the Elizabethan carver fully appreciated this fact. By carving the chimney breast
Chimney breast
A chimney breast is a portion of a wall which projects forward over a fireplace. Chimney jambs similarly project from the wall, but they do so on either side of the fireplace and serve to support the chimney breast. The interior of a chimney breast is commonly filled with brickwork or concrete....

 as a rule to the ceiling and covering the surrounding walls with more or less plain paneling, the designer, by thus concentrating the attention on one point, often produced results of a high order. Caryatid
A caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head. The Greek term karyatides literally means "maidens of Karyai", an ancient town of Peloponnese...

 figures, pilasters and frieze
thumb|267px|Frieze of the [[Tower of the Winds]], AthensIn architecture the frieze is the wide central section part of an entablature and may be plain in the Ionic or Doric order, or decorated with bas-reliefs. Even when neither columns nor pilasters are expressed, on an astylar wall it lies upon...

s were among the customary details employed to produce good effects. No finer example exists than that lately removed from the old palace at Bromley-by-Bow
Bromley-by-Bow, historically and officially Bromley, is a place in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is an inner-city district situated east north-east of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

 to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The mantelshelf is 6 ft (1.8 m). from the ground and consists of a deep quadrant mould decorated with flat scroll work of good design. The supporting pilasters on either side are shaped and moulded in the customary Jacobean manner and are crowned by busts with Ionic capitals on the heads. Above the shelf the large center panel is deeply carved with the royal coat of arms with supporters and mantling, and on either side a semicircular arched niche contains a figure in classic dress. The Elizabethan carver often produced splendid staircases, sometimes carving the newel posts with heraldic figures bearing coats of arms, &c. The newels of a staircase at Highgate support different types of Cromwellian soldiers, carved with great vivacity and life. But in spite of excellent work, as for example the beautiful gallery at Hatfield, the carving of this period did not, so far as England was concerned, compare with other epochs, or with contemporary work in other parts of Europe. Much of the work is badly drawn and badly executed. It is true that good decorative effects were constantly obtained at the very minimum of cost, but it is difficult to discover much merit in work which really looks best when badly cut.

In France this flat and simple treatment was to a certain extent used. Doors were most suitably adorned in this way, and the split baluster so characteristic of Jacobean work is often to be met with. There are some very good cabinets in the museum at Lyngby, Denmark, illustrating these two methods of treatment in combination. But the Swiss and Austrians elaborated this style, greatly improving the effect by the addition of color. However, the best Continental designs adopted the typical acanthus foliage of Italy, while still retaining a certain amount of Gothic feeling in the strength of the lines and the cut of the detail. Panelling often long and narrow was commonly used for all sorts of domestic purposes, a feature being a medallion in the center with a simple arrangement of vase, dolphins, dragons, or birds and foliage filling in the spaces above and below.

The cabinets of Holland and Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 are excellent models of design. These pieces of furniture were usually arranged in two storeys with a fine moulded and carved cornice, mid division and plinth. The pilasters at the sides, and small raised panels carved only on the projecting part, would compose a very harmonious whole. A proportion of the French cabinets are decorated with caryatids not carved in the best taste, and, like other French woodwork of this period, are sometimes overloaded with sculpture. The doors of St Maclou, Rouen, fine as they are, would hardly to-day be held up as models for imitation. A noteworthy set of doors belong to the Oudenaarde Town Hall
Oudenaarde Town Hall
The Town Hall of Oudenaarde, Belgium was built by architect Hendrik van Pede in 1526-1537 to replace the medieval Schepenhuis that occupied the same site...

. The central door contains twelve and that on either side eight panels, each of which is carved with Renaissance foliage surrounding an unobtrusive figure. In the Palais de Justice we see that great scheme of decoration which takes up the whole of the fireplace end of the hall. Five large figures carved in the round are surrounded by small ones and with foliage and coats of arms.

In Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, there is much fine work of the 16th century. A very important school of design was promoted by Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

, whose patterns were used or adapted by a large number of craftsmen. The shutters of Raphaels Stanze in the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

, and the choir stalls in the church of St Pietro de Cassinesi at Perugia, are among the most beautiful examples of this style of carving. The work is in slight relief, and carved in walnut with those graceful patterns which Raphael developed out of the newly discovered remains of ancient Roman wall painting from the palace of Nero and other places. In the Victoria and Albert Museum are many examples of Italian work: the door from a convent near Parma, with its three prominent masks and heavy gadroon moulds; a picture frame with a charming acanthus border and, egg and tongue moulds on either side; and various marriage chests in walnut covered with very elaborate schemes of carving. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish Spanish, or for that matter South of France work, from Italian, so much alike is the character. The Spaniards yield to none in good workmanship. Some Spanish panels of typical Italian design are in the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as cabinets of the purest Renaissance order. There is a wonderful Portuguese coffer (17th century) in this section. The top is deeply carved in little compartments with scenes from the life of Our Lord.

17th-18th centuries

In England, the great school of Grinling Gibbons
Grinling Gibbons
Grinling Gibbons was an English sculptor and wood carver known for his work in England, including St Paul's Cathedral, Blenheim Palace and Hampton Court Palace. He was born and educated in Holland where his father was a merchant...

 arose. Although he carved many beautiful mouldings of conventional form (Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London; it has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames...

, Chatsworth, &c.), his name is usually associated with a very heavy form of decoration which was copied direct from nature. Great swags of drapery and foliage with fruit and dead birds, &c., would be carved in lime a foot thick. For technical skill these examples are unsurpassed; each grape would be undercut, the finer stalks and birds legs stand out quite separate, and as a consequence soon succumb to the energy of the housemaids broom. Good work of this class is to be found at Petworth; Trinity College, Oxford
Trinity College, Oxford
The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in the University of Oxford, of the foundation of Sir Thomas Pope , or Trinity College for short, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It stands on Broad Street, next door to Balliol College and Blackwells bookshop,...

; Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

; St Pauls cathedral; St James, Piccadilly; and many other London churches.

During the reigns of Louis XIV. and XV. the principal merit of carved design, i.e. its appropriateness and suitability, gradually disappeared. Furniture was often carved in a way hardly legitimate. The legs, the rails of tables and chairs, the frames of cabinets, of looking-glasses, instead of being first made fcr construction and strength. and then decorated, were first designed to carry cherubs heads and rococo
Rococo , also referred to as "Late Baroque", is an 18th-century style which developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly ornate, florid, and playful...

 (i.e. rock and shell ornament), quite regardless of utility or convenience. A wealth of such mistaken design was also applied to state carriages, to say nothing of bedsteads and other furniture. However, the wall paneling of the mansions of the rich, and sometimes the paneling of furniture, was decorated with rococo design in its least illegitimate form. The main part of the wood surface would be left plain, while the center would be carved with a medallion surrounded by foliage, vases or trophies of torches and musical instruments, etc., or perhaps the upper part of the panel would be thus treated. France led the fashion, which was more or less followed all over Europe. In England gilt chairs in the style of Louis XV. were made in some quantities. But Thomas Chippendale
Thomas Chippendale
Thomas Chippendale was a London cabinet-maker and furniture designer in the mid-Georgian, English Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. In 1754 he published a book of his designs, titled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director...

, Ince and Mayhew, Sheraton, Johnson, Heppelwhite and other cabinet-makers did not as a rule use much carving in their designs. Scrolls, shells, ribbon, ears of corn, etc., in very fine relief, were, however, used in the embellishment of chairs, etc., and the claw and ball foot was employed as a termination to the cabriole legs of cabinets and other furniture.

The mantelpieces of the 18th century were, as a rule, carved in pine and painted white. Usually the shelves were narrow and supported by pilasters often of flat elliptic plan, sometimes by caryatid
A caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head. The Greek term karyatides literally means "maidens of Karyai", an ancient town of Peloponnese...

s, and the frieze would consist of a raised center panel carved with a classic scene in relief, or with a mask alone, and on either side a swag of flowers, fruit and foliage.
Interior doorways were often decorated with a broken pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

 more or less ornate, and a swag of foliage commonly depended from either side over a background of scroll work. The outside porches so often seen in Queen Anne houses were of a character peculiar to the 18th century. A small platform or curved roof was supported by two large and heavy brackets carved with acanthus scroll work. The staircases were as a rule exceedingly good. Carved and pierced brackets were fixed to the open strings (i.e. the sides of the steps), giving a very pretty effect to the graceful balustrade of turned and twisted columns.

Renaissance figure work calls for little comment. During the 16th century many good examples were produced those priestly statues in the museum of Sens for example. But the figure work used in the decoration of cabinets, &c., seldom rose above the ordinary level. iii the 18th century cherubs heads were fashionable and statuettes were sometimes carved in boxwood as ornaments, but as a means of decorating houses wood sculpture ceased to be. The Swiss, however, have kept up their reputation for animal sculpture to the present day, and still turn out cleverly carved chamois and bears, &c.; as a rule the more sketchily cut the better the merit. Their more ambitious works, their groups of cows, &c., sometimes reach a high level of excellence.

Between the 17th and 18th century a florid woodcarving industry started in the Gardena valley, which is now located in the Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 province of South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

. A network of people from that valley traveled on foot to all European cities, as far as to Lisbon and Saint Petersburg, to sell the products of hundreds of carvers. Finally in the 19th century in Gardena, mainly wooden toys and dolls known also as Dutch dolls or penny dolls, were carved by the millions of pieces. The Museum Gherdëina
Museum Gherdëina
The Gherdëina Local Heritage Museum was opened in the Cësa di Ladins in Urtijëi in 1960. The building is the seat of the Union di Ladins de Gherdëina a cultural organisation for the keeping of the Ladin language and heritage in Val Gherdëina...

 in Urtijëi
Urtijëi is a town of 4,637 inhabitants in South Tyrol, in the Italian region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. It occupies the Val Gardena within the Dolomites, a mountain chain that is part of the Alps...

 displays a large collection of examples of woodcarcarvings from that region.

Gilded woodcarving in Portugal and Spain continued to be produced, and the style exported to their New World colonies, and the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, Macao
Mação is a municipality in Portugal with a total area of 400.0 km² and a total population of 7,763 inhabitants.The municipality is composed of eight parishes, and is located in the Santarém District....

 and Goa
Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...


19th centuries

Of the work of the 19th century little can be said in praise. Outside and beyond the present-day fashion for collecting old oak there seems to be no demand for carved decoration. In church work a certain number of carvers find occupation, as also for repairs or the production of imitations. But the carving one is accustomed to see in hotels or on board the modern ocean palace is in the main the work of the machine. There is no objection to the machine in itself, as it only grounds out and roughly models the design which is finished by hand. Its fatal drawback is that it is of commercial value only when a large number of panels of the same pattern are turned out at the same time. It is this repetition which takes away the life of good work, which places that gulf between the contract job and the individual effort of the artist. The price of all labor has so greatly increased, to build a house is so much more expensive than it was before the days of the trades union that none but the very rich can afford to beautify their home in the way to which our forefathers were accustomed -

Nonetheless, the 1800s saw the teaching of woodcarving became formalized in several European countries. For example, the Austrian woodcarver Josef Moriggl
Josef Moriggl
Josef Moriggl was a master woodcarver and teacher whose work covered both religious and folk themes. Examples of his intricately detailed carvings, sculptures, and furniture can be found today in churches and private collections, mainly in his native Austria but also abroad.- Early years and...

 (1841–1908) had a long career as a teacher, culminating in his appointment in 1893 as Professor at the Staats-Gewerbeschule (Craft School) in Innsbruck
- Main sights :- Buildings :*Golden Roof*Kaiserliche Hofburg *Hofkirche with the cenotaph of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor*Altes Landhaus...

, where he served until his retirement in 1907.

In Gröden the institution of an art school in 1820 improved considerably the skills of the carvers. A new industrial branch developed with hundreds of artists and artisans dedicated to sculpture and manufacturing of statues and altars in wood exported to the whole world. Unfortunately the machine-carving industry, initiated in the 1950s and the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

, caused hundreds of carvers in Val Gardena to quit their craft. A worldwide trade of machine-carved figuerines and statues ensued.


In the early medieval
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 period screens and other fittings were produced for the Coptic
Coptic Christianity
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is the official name for the largest Christian church in Egypt and the Middle East. The Church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, which has been a distinct church body since the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, when it took a different...

 churches of Egypt by native Christian workmen. In the British Museum there is a set of ten small cedar panels from the church door of Sitt Miriam, Cairo (13th century). The six sculptured figure panels are carved in very low relief and the four foliage panels are quite Oriental in character, intricate and fine both in detail and furnish. In the Cairo Museum there is much work treated, after the familiar Arab style, while other designs are quite Byzantine
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

 in character. The figure work is not of a very high order.

Islamic work

Nothing can exceed the skill with which the Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 wood-carvers of Persia, Syria, Egypt and Spain designed and executed the richest paneling and other decorations for wall linings, ceilings, pulpits and all kinds of fittings and furniture. The mosques and private houses of Cairo, Damascus and other Oriental Cities are full of the most elaborate and minutely delicate woodwork. A favorite style of ornament was to cover the surface with very intricate interlacing patterns, formed by finely moulded ribs; the various geometrical spaces between the ribs were then filled in with small pieces of wood carved with foliage in slight relief. The use of different woods such as ebony or box, inlaid so as to emphasize the design, combined with the ingenious richness of the patterns, give this class of woodwork an almost unrivaled splendour of effect. Carved ivory is also often used for the filling in of the spaces. The Arabs are past masters in the art of carving flat surfaces in this way. A gate in the mosque of the sultan Bargoug (Cairo, 14th century) well illustrates this appreciation of lines and surfaces. The pulpit or mimbar (15th century) from a Cairo mosque, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is also a good example in the same style, the small spaces in this case being filled in with ivory carved in flat relief.

Screens made up of labyrinths of complicated joinery, consisting of multitudes of tiny balusters connecting hexagons, squares or other forms, with the flat surfaces constantly enriched with small carvings, are familiar to every one. In Cairo we also have examples in the mosque of Qous (12th century) of that finely arranged geometrical interlacing of curves with foliage terminations which distinguishes the Saracenic designer. Six panels in the Victoria and Albert Museum (13th century), and work on the tomb of the sultan Li Ghoury (16th century), show how deeply this form of decoration was ingrained in the Arab nature. Figure work and animals were sometimes introduced, in medieval fashion, as in the six panels just referred to, and at the hflpital du Moristan (13th century) and the mosque of El Nesfy Qeycoun (14th century). There is a magnificent panel on the door of Beyt-el-Emyr. This exquisite design is composed of vine leaves and, grapes of conventional treatment in low relief. The Arab designer was fond of breaking up his paneling in a way reminding one of a similar Jacobean custom. The main panel would be divided into a number of hexagonal, triangular or other shapes, and each small space filled in with conventional scroll work. Much of this simple flat design reminds one of that Byzantine method from which the Elizabethan carvers were inspired.


The Persian carvers closely followed Arab design. A pair of doors of the i4th century from Samarkand (Victoria and Albert Museum) are typical. Boxes, spoons and other small articles were often fretted with interlacing lines of Saracenic character, the delicacy and minuteness of the work requiring the utmost patience and skill. Many of the patterns remind one, of the sandalwood work of Madras, with the difference that the Persians v~ere satisfied with a much lower relief. Sometimes a very beautiful result was obtained by the sparing tise of fretted lattice pattern among foliage. A fine panel of the 14th century in the Victoria and Albert Museum shows how active was Arab influence even as far as Bokhara.

India and Burma

Throughout the great Indian peninsula
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 woodcarving of the most luxurious kind has been continuously produced for many centuries. The ancient Hindu temple
Hindu temple
A Mandir, Devalayam, Devasthanam, or a Hindu temple is a place of worship for followers of Hinduism...

s were decorated with doors, ceilings and various fittings carved in teak and other woods with patterns of extreme richness and minute elaboration. We have architectural remains from Kashmir Smats (Punjab) dating from the 3rd or 4th century, the patterns employed being of a bold and decorative character strongly resembling the best Elizabethan design. The doors of the teniple of Somnath, on the north-west coast, were famed for their magnificence and were highly valued as sacred relics. In 1024 they were carried off to Ghazni by the Moslem conqueror, Sultan Mahmud, and are now lying at the fort at Agra. The gates which now exist are very fine specimens of ancient woodcarving, but are probably only copies of the original very early doors. The Asiatic carver, like certain of his European brethren, is apt to be carried away by his own enthusiasm and to overcrowd his surfaces. Many a door, column, gallery or even a whole house-front is covered with the most intricate design bewildering to behold (Bhera, Shahpur). But this is not always the case, and the Oriental is at times more restrained in his methods. Architectural detail is to be seen with only a simple enrichment carved round the framing, producing the happiest result. The Hindu treatment of the circle is often exceedingly good, and might perhaps less rarely inspire western design. Sometimes native work strongly resembles Scandinavian of the 12th century. The scrolls are designed on the same lines, and foliage and flowers (beyond elementary buds) are not employed (Burma, 17th century, Victoria and Albert Museum). The pierced work of Bombay calls for note. Foliage, fruit and flowers are constantly adapted to a scheme of fret-cut decoration for doors or windows as well as the frames of chairs and the edges of tables. A reference should also be made to those wonderful sandalwood tables, cabinets and boxes to be seen in Southern India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

, always covered with design, often with scores of figures and monsters with every space filled in with the minutest decoration. Many of the gong stands of Burma show the highest skill; the arrangement of two figures bearing a pole from which a gong hangs is familiar. The Burmese are sculptors of proved merit.

Indochina and the Far East

In these countries the carver is unrivaled for deftness of hand. Grotesque and imitative work of the utmost perfection is produced, and many of the carvings of these countries, Japan in particular, are beautiful works of art, especially when the carver copies the lotus, lily or other aquatic plant. A favorite form of decoration consists of breaking up the architectural surfaces, such as ceilings, friezes, and columns, into framed squares and filling each panel with a circle, or diamond of conventional treatment with a spandrels in each corner. A very Chinese feature is the finial of the newel post, so constantly left more or less straight in profile and deeply carved with monsters and scrolls. A heavily enriched moulding bearing a strong resemblance to the gadroon pattern is commonly used to give emphasis to edges, and the dragon arranged in curves imitative of nature is frequently employed over a closely designed and subordinated background. The general rule that in every country designers use much the same means whereby a pattern is obtained holds good in China. There are forms of band decoration here which closely resemble those of Gothic Europe, and a chair from Turkestan (3rd century) might almost be Elizabethan, so like are the details. Screens of grill form, often found in the historically Islamic countries, are common, and the deeply grounded, closely arranged patterns of Bombay also have their counterparts. The imperial dais in the Chien-Ching Hall, Pekin, is a masterpiece of intricate design. The back consists of one central panel of considerable height, with two of lesser degree on either side luxuriously carved. The whole is crowned with a very heavy crest of dragons and scroll work; the throne also is a wonderful example of carved treatment, and the doors of a cabinet in the same building show how rich an effect of foliage can be produced without the employment of stalk or scroll. The Chinaman, who is unequaled as a microscopic worker, does not limit himself to ivory or metal. One might almost say, he wastes his talent on such an ungrateful material as wood. In this material fans and other trifles are carved with a delicacy that courts disaster.

In Japan much of the Chinese type is apparent. The native carver is fond of massing foliage without the stalk to lead him. He appears to put in his foliage, fruit and flowers first and then to indicate a stalk here and there, thus reversing the order of the Western method. Such a treatment, especially when birds and beasts are introduced, has the highest decorative effect. But, as such close treatment is bound to do, it depends for success to some extent upon its scheme of color. A long panel in the Victoria and Albert Museum, depicting merchants with their packhorse, strongly resembles in its grouping and treatment Gothic work of the 15th century, as for example the panel of St Hubert
Saint Hubertus or Hubert , called the "Apostle of the Ardennes" was the first Bishop of Liège...

 in the museum at Chftlons. The strength and character of Japanese figure work is quite equal to the best Gothic sculpture of the 15th century.


There is a general similarity running through the carved design of most races of primitive culture
Primitive culture
In older anthropology texts and discussions, the term "primitive culture" is used to refer to a society that is believed to lack cultural, technological, or economic sophistication/development...

, the chip form of ornament being almost universally employed. Decorated surfaces depending almost entirely upon the incised line also obtain all over the world, and may no doubt be accounted for by the extensive use of stone cutting tools. The carver shows the same tendency to over-exalt his art by crowding on too much design as the more civilized craftsman of other lands, while he also on occasion exercises a good deal of restraint by a harmonious balance of decoration and plain space. So far as his chip designs and those patterns more or less depending on the line are concerned, his work as a rule is good and suitable, but when he takes to figure work his attempts do not usually meet with success. Primitive carving, generally, shows that very similar stages of artistic development are passed through by men of every age and race.

A very favorite style of chip pattern is that formed by small triangles and squares entirely covering a surface in the Cook Islands
Cook Islands
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean in free association with New Zealand...

, the monotony being sometimes varied by a band of different arrangement in the middle of the article or at the top or bottom. So far as the cultivation of patience and accuracy is concerned, has no equal. The Fiji Islanders
Fiji , officially the Republic of Fiji , is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about northeast of New Zealand's North Island...

, employ chip designs rivaling those of Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 in variety. Upon occasion the aboriginal Marquesas
Marquesas Islands
The Marquesas Islands enana and Te Fenua `Enata , both meaning "The Land of Men") are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9° 00S, 139° 30W...

 carver appreciates the way in which plain surfaces contrast and emphasize decorated parts, and judiciously restricts his skill to bands of decoration or to special points. The Ijos of the lower Niger
Niger Delta
The Niger Delta, the delta of the Niger River in Nigeria, is a densely populated region sometimes called the Oil Rivers because it was once a major producer of palm oil...

 design their paddles in a masterly way, and show a fine sense of proportion between the plain and the decorated surface. Their designs, though slightly in relief, are of the chip nature. The method of decorating a subject with groups of incised lines, straight or curved, though often very effective and in every way suitable, is not a very advanced form of art and has decided limits. The natives of the Congo, now two nations, covered by the landmass of the Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
The Republic of the Congo , sometimes known locally as Congo-Brazzaville, is a state in Central Africa. It is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo , the Angolan exclave province of Cabinda, and the Gulf of Guinea.The region was dominated by...

 and Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a state located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world...

 does good work of this kind.

Carving in relief is common enough, idols being produced in many forms. The South African carves the handle of his spoon perhaps in the form of a giraffe
The giraffe is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all extant land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant...

, and in the round, with each leg cut separately and the four hoofs meeting at the bowl, hardly a comfortable form of handle to hold. The North American Indian
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 shows a wider invention than some nations, the twist in various shapes being a favorite treatment say of pipe stems. The Papuan has quite a style of his own; he uses a scroll of the form familiar in Indian shawls, and in some cases the scroll entwines in a way which faintly suggests the guilloche
Guilloché is a decorative engraving technique in which a very precise intricate repetitive pattern or design is mechanically engraved into an underlying material with fine detail...

. The native of New Guinea also employs the scroll for a motive, the flat treatment of which reminds one of a similar method in use in Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n countries. The work of the New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

er is greatly in advance of the average primitive type
Primitive culture
In older anthropology texts and discussions, the term "primitive culture" is used to refer to a society that is believed to lack cultural, technological, or economic sophistication/development...

; he uses a very good scheme of scroll work for decorative purposes, the lines of the scrolls often being enriched with a small pattern in a way reminding one of the familiar Norman treatment, as for example the prows of his canoes. The Maori wood carver sometimes carves not only the barge boards of his house but the gables also, reptilian and grotesque figures being as a rule introduced; the main posts and rafters, too, of the inside receive attention. Unlike the Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

he has a good idea of decorative proportion, and does not plan his scheme of design on too small a scale.