Lapas attēli

a tomb. Both designs were evidently from the merest tyro in art, as applied to manufactures.

Amid an almost endless variety of articles of furniture in the Renaissance, Louis Quatorze, Gothic, and Elizabethan styles, the specimens of classic furniture were exceedingly scarce. The cabinet manufacturers of all countries appeared to shrink from the task of producing a piece of furniture of a purely classic character; probably because the initiated knew the difficulties of attempting to place such designs in the positions Isuited to them. There was, however, one article-a sideboard, by Poole & Co.-where these difficulties were mainly overcome, and where every line, form, moulding, and ornament would have satisfied the most fastidious. The winged chimeras, combined with chaste Italian trusses, enriched with tastefully carved ornaments, support pedestals in front; whilst finely proportioned and characteristic pilasters give support to the back. The raising of the pedestals from the plinths imparts lightness, and is an acceptable novelty, whilst a graceful" sway" of foliage and fruits links each with the other, and gives a pleasing variety to the outline. The back is a study, as graceful in form as it is novel in character. The oaken wreath-the most honorable of the Roman crowns—is an excellent frame to the bronze satyr, and the two combined form a fine subject and centre ornament for the back. The four columns which carry the lamps are beautifully outlined, and, whilst architecturally correct, are subservient to the happy introduction of a novelty; and the lamps have a place receiving special consideration, and forming an essential portion of the design of a piece of furniture which was chiefly used by artificial light. No portion of detail escaped attention. The upper portion of the lamps is removed at pleasure, leaving the lower-a neat glass vessel-to be dressed, if need be, when the sun is above the hori zon, with the originals of the natural products luxuriantly grouped, and finely carved, in the panels of the back. The bronzes on the doors of the two pedestals represent the fable of Baucis and Philemon."

The Austrian furniture, by Leistler & Son, received much merited attention through the whole time of the Exhibition. A parlor, dining. room, bed-room, and ante-room had been fitted up in this division, specially to show the style of furniture and decoration in an Austrian house of the first class. The most remarkable feature of these apartments to an American was the parquetrie work of the floors, walls, and ceilings. This parquetrie, in geometrical forms and a Greek border, was made of solid oak, of an inch in thickness, the squares secured to each other by grooves and tongues cut in the solid wood. It is largely used upon the continent, and, being made by machinery, is furnished at a comparatively low price.

The furniture exhibited in these rooms was remarkable for many reasons. It was of great size. A kind of palatial grandeur was apparent in every article. The wood, of Brazilian growth, very closely resembling zebra wood, was carefully selected. In design, and in carving, it claimed a position that was not reached by any other articles exhibited. Without purity of ornament there were novel conceptions, happy thoughts, brilliant imaginings, and touches of humor that well-nigh confused the beholder. In the oak book-case-a specimen of the florid Gothic-strictly architectural forms were nicely adapted to the purposes of the article, so that the whole effect was original and pleasing. The groined centre

was a capital beauty. Portions of the detail in ornamentation were criticized as being out of style; but they were so unimportant as to be unworthy of notice. This book-case consisted of two, in fact, enclosed in friezes, forming two wings, the centre between the two being canopied with a looking glass beneath. The space between the two wings might be used as a writing desk. There were wide pilasters at the ends, with reeded columns, capitals, and bases at the angles, playful and happy looking figures around the cornice of the canopied centre, and much florid ornament over the whole.

In the drawing-room were a round table of locust wood, eight feet in diameter; a novel piece of furniture, called a picture stand, for displaying paintings in the centre of the room; and a pair of doors leading to the dining room, of solid oak, twice veneered. The top of the diningtable was also twice veneered-within of lime wood, without of mahogany. In the ante-room was a centre table elaborately inlaid with boule ornaments, and other articles of furniture equally beautiful. In regard to all this furniture it may be remarked, that only in an old country, where feudal customs still obtain, where labor toils without adequate remuneration, and where wealth is unequally distributed, could it be manufactured or patronized.


The exhibition of articles of this class, always a subject of general interest, so far as quantity was concerned, was by no means remarkable. The day has been-perhaps is now-when any large depot of furs in New York could show, in its stock on hand, an amount exceeding in value by ten times all that was arrayed in the Crystal Palace. In variety, however, it was worthy of its place. Through the extraordinary exer tions of the parties who had this class in control, the furs of nearly every country on the globe were represented; so that a better field for studying the comparative excellencies of the various kinds, or a more interesting one for inquiry into the habits and character of that order of the animal creation which, more than any other, has ever excited the cupidity of mankind, was, perhaps, never presented. Many articles of this class always have been of very high value. Rich furs were for many ages the friendly offerings of princes to each other, and the tokens of regard to their favorites. In later days, the use of furs, as well as their variety and richness, has greatly extended. The sumptuary laws, which once confined their use to particular persons, were stringent and severe; but these have long been in abeyance, and taste, fashion, and utility have become the sole arbiters in such matters. That such is the fact, let the following curious table, compiled from recently published documents in England, witness;

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The value of this table, elucidating curious facts in reference to the taste of the different nations of the world, will appear in the course of our remarks.

The great amount of furs which supply the European market still proceed from our own continent. Russia, indeed, is no small contributor from the boundless wastes of Kamschatka and Siberia; the islands of the Northern and Southern seas furnish tributaries, and both Asia and Africa bring certain quotas, to swell the total trade. But it is from those immense tracts of country over which the Hudson's Bay Company has control, and which are great preserves for Europe, that the varied and exhaustless supply proceeds. The wild and inhospitable character of that Northern region would offer no inducement to human enterprise, had not nature bountifully diffused there a race of rare and curious animals, eminently subservient both to the comfort and elegance of civilized life. It is a striking illustration of the imperfection of geographical knowledge, after all our researches, that so little is known of these territorial possessions of the Hudson's Bay Company, lying but a few degrees of latitude above us, whose object of association is the acquisition of furs. Their possessions cover one seventh of the habitable globe. It is here, in these immense hunting grounds-mountainous, sterile, and snow-covered for nine or ten months in the year-that the richest furs of the world are found. As warmer latitudes are approached, the rich, fine silkiness of the covering of animals of colder regions disappears; and furs,

still splendid in appearance, indeed, but neither adapted for warmth, comfort, or general use, are met with in its stead.

As it will be impossible to specify within due limits all the different kinds of furs which are exhibited, we will only comment upon the more curious, stating such facts of interest in regard to them as we are able to command.

Her Majesty's furriers, Messrs. J. A. Nicholay & Son, agents of the Hudson's Bay Company, selected from the importation of 1851 such furs as characterized their general trade. This selection was of great value, beauty, and interest. The groups of the varieties of foxes included the black, silver, cross, red, blue, white, and kite. The black and silver fox skins are the most valuable of this tribe-a single skin bringing from $50 to $200. They are generally purchased for the Russian and Chinese markets, being highly prized in those countries. The cross and red fox are used by the Chinese, Greeks, and Persians for cloak linings and for trimming their dresses. The white and blue fox are used in England and other countries for ladies' wear. In the English sumptuary laws, passed in the reign of Henry III, the fox is named, with other furs, as being then in use, It has been stated that the fox in the Arctic regions changes color with the changes of the seasons. Such, however, it is now stated by the hunters, is not the case, with the exception of the white fox, which is in winter a pure white and in summer a grayish tint. The otter skins exhibited were exceedingly beautiful. None of these, as will be seen by reference to the table, are used in England; the Russians, Chinese, and Greeks offering a greater price for them for caps, collars, robes, and trimmings.

The day of the beaver has, in a great measure, gone by. In the manufacture of hats it has been entirely superseded, and its present value, when compared with twenty years ago, is almost nothing. It is said, however, to be rising in the market, by a new process of preparing it for ladies' wear having been just discovered, and by the fur being manufactured in France into a costly and beautiful bonnet. In color the skin of the beaver is of a rich brown, similar in appearance to that of the costly sea otter. It is exceedingly light and very durable.

The furs of the lynx and lynx cat have gone entirely out of use in Europe-why, except from the caprice of fashion, it is difficult to say; for their rich, silky, and glossy appearance ought to cause them to be great favorites. I learned from the Messrs. Nicholay, however, that they are now dyed and prepared solely for the United States markets. The lynx fur of the present day is the same as that which used to be called "Incern.'


The wolf skins are all exported to Russia, where they are manufactured into sleigh robes. The tail of the wolf is a separate trade, and very valuable; the demand by the Jews for them all over the continent being in advance of the supply.

The North American and European badger, when shown side by side, strongly resemble each other. The quality of the fur of the former greatly surpasses the latter. The European badger's fur is stiff, bristly, and coarse, and is used for shaving brushes alone; while the soft, fine fur of the American renders it valuable and suitable for general wear.

The heraldic associations connected with the sable render it highly interesting to the historian and antiquary. In every age it has been

highly prized in England. The lining of a mantle made of black sables, with white spots, was presented by the Bishops of Lincoln to Henry Í at a cost of £100-a great sum at that day. In Henry VIII's time a sumptuary law confined the use of the sable fur to the nobility above the rank of viscount. This fur is still highly valued in England, France, and Germany, and is mostly confined to ladies' wear. The darkest colors are most valuable, and the lighter shades are frequently colored to resemble the darker varieties.

The mink is exclusively a North American animal, and its fur is one of the most admired in Europe. It is durable, reasonably low in price, and, from its rich and glossy appearance, is a more favorite article of ladies' wear than any other in common use. The small, fine, dark mink is this season the rage of fashion in Paris, inducing the exportation of nearly all the last arrivals, and commanding a high price. Almost its rival is the fur of the musquash, or musk rat, now the largest article of import among furs into England. The great use to which it was formerly appropriated-the manufacture of hats-has been entirely superseded by silk plush; but it is now dressed in such a manner as to be cheap, durable and beautiful for female wear, though it is almost invariably sold under another than its real name.

The resemblance between the North American and Russian white hare is perfect. No difference is known to exist between the habits, character, or color of the two animals; both being taken in the same way, and both changing from a pure white in winter to a grayish tint as warm weather approaches. It was formerly much used in its white state for ladies' cloak linings, and other similar purposes, and as a substitute for the white fox; but the skin being exceedingly tender, it has given place to the white Polish rabbit. This fur is also often palmed off, when dyed, for something other than it really is. The same is true of the Hudson's Bay rabbit-perhaps the least valuable of all skins which are imported. The fur is fine, long, and thick; but the skin is so fragile and tender as to render the fur nearly useless.

The black bear skins are valuable. It receives the name of the army bear from the appropriation of its fur into caps, pistol-holsters, and other military accoutrements. The fine black cub-skins are much desired in Russia for shoe-linings, coat-linings, trimmings, and facings. The skin of the white Polar bear, the supply of which is very limited, is generally made into rugs, which are often bordered by those of the black and gray bear. The brown Isabella bear skin is reserved exclusively for sale in the Canadas and the United States. Forty years ago they were the ton of the Hudson Bay furs in England, and on the continent; but the caprice of fashion has now reduced the price of a single skin from forty guineas to five, and, in some instances, as low even as one.

The sea otter is the royal fur of China, confined to the reigning family, the mandarins, and great officers of State. It will now command from from $150 to $200 in the English market for export to the East. It is also in great esteem in Russia; being worn by the wealthy nobles for collars, cuffs, facings, and trimmings. It is very heavy, and thus becomes unsuited for ladies' wear; but its fur is of the thickest, softest, and richest kind, and it is more durable than any other tur in wear.

The fur of the raccoon is greatly admired in Germany; Leipsic is the headquarter of its sale; an annual fair being held there principally to

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« iepriekšējāTurpināt »