CHANGES IN STYLE

The resume of the chief historical events during the century likely to have a marked influence upon manufacture shows that some of those events were of such a drastic character that it is almost a wonder that commerce pre-served any sequence of production at all. Some of the events, even in those days of fewer changes in household appointments, were so startling and entirely disturbing that metal workers must have had busy times. The changes from Popery to Protestantism had been sudden, and again strong and bitter religious contentions had not been unfrequent. Towards the close of the century when things were shaping themselves on lines we can better understand many were still living who could remember the fires of Smithfield ; the inroads on stores of money and plate during the Civil War were never forgotten by those who later on tried to replenish the domestic silver they had given up. New plate of two distinct types took its place, and among old silver of that period those fine old flagons and tankards with plain puritanical ornament and the florid decorations of Carolean silver and pewter form a strong contrast. The beginning of the century was fraught with changes, the result of the transfer of the court from things purely English to those closely allied with Scotch customs. It cannot be too clearly realised that when James I came to his southern possessions he brought with him courtiers whose whole interests were bound up with the habits of the Scottish kingdom. Their ideas were associated both in religion and common usage with the vessels they had used in the Scotch kirk and in their highland castles. The new silver made for James in England would very naturally take some of the characteristics of Scotch ornament, and those who wished to flatter the new Sovereign would not be slow to copy the patterns most likely to please his taste. When Charles I came to the throne, his own ideas would be chiefly English, although on his marriage he had learned to appreciate French art, and the English makers would in consequence be influenced by foreign style. The Civil War as we have seen cleared away much that was old and valuable to a collector, and in sympathy with the puritanical feelings of so many at that time the makers of silver plate moderated their designs and fashioned the goods they made for domestic use after the manner of the plainer style then in vogue. After the Restoration the coast was clear for a new style to be introduced, and it would most naturally contrast as much as possible with the plainer style which had been in vogue during the Commonwealth. There had been no demand for decoration and little scope for the artist of other nations during the brief but very active advance made in trade and commerce abroad during the trade revival which followed the Civil War, and progress was made in colonisation. It must not be thought that all decoration was barred during the Commonwealth, for even Cromwell himself gave some important commissions to silversmiths and others. The strictly plain articles at first made in contrast to the more fanciful were in a short time ornamented with lines and rings, and some of the shields on which crests and monograms were engraved were very tasteful in out-line. Religious mottoes in accord with the views of the day were often inscribed on quite common objects of domestic use. The plates and dishes had large centre shields, and the style of the engraving and of the letters was very good, although plain. Sometimes a wreath further embellished the shield or central design on the platters and dishes. After the Restoration the style became very florid and the designs at first somewhat stiff became fanciful and animals and grotesque figures were introduced. This curiously grotesque ornament was at its height in the reign of James II. The greatest innovation of the period was when Dutch subjects and ornament were introduced in the reign of William and Mary. Indeed, throughout the whole of the seventeenth century there was a tendency to introduce foreign goods, and to copy patterns first designed elsewhere. Thus, towards the end of the century there was a strong following of Oriental taste, and Chinese patterns were engraved upon many articles of silver. It was thus that many articles became dual in their purpose, the commoner things serving the double purpose of use and ornament.