The William and Mary Period is roughly dated from 1690-1730, in terms of a general artistic style, it corresponds with the Baroque style and shows heavy influence from Dutch, Flemish and French designs.
It would be easy to just introduce the Monarchs and move on… but that’s not how we roll at the Howard and Thomas Blog. William of Orange and His Wife, Mary became co-monarchs of England in 1689 as William III and Mary II. They took power in the Glorious Revolution. Some background. William’s mother was the daughter of Charles I and sister to James II and Charles II. To make things odder, William and Mary were first cousins, as Mary was the daughter of Charles II.
William was a staunch Protestant, waging wars against Louis XIV and other Catholic powers, and was widely regarded as the most powerful champion of Protestantism in Europe. When James II’s (Catholic and William’s Father-in-law) reign in England became widely unpopular, William and Mary staged the Glorious Revolution much to the delight of Protestant powers that be. They landed on November 5, 1688, in Brixham and took over. Obviously, there is a lot of history talk missing, but there are great books on the subject.
What is important for furniture and decorations is that taste in the English court moved away from the provincial and got a big injection of the Dutch style. The Dutch at this time were the trade powers of Europe, serving as the import/export center of Europe. Much more egalitarian, they were importing objects, spices, and goods from Asia and the New World. To further complicate things, if one were drawing a line of influence, you would have to consider that William and Mary, although they fought wars against Louis XIV, were greatly influenced by the art and styles that came about as Louis XIV created and furnished Versailles. Essentially, the William and Mary style in England was a derivative of the prevailing French style.
To this point, a French Huguenot, Daniel Marot, was in the service of William and Mary to design furniture and Gerrit Jensen, a Dutch cabinetmaker was appointed Royal Cabinet Maker by the co-monarchs.
In terms of furniture, we tend to see lacquer and a technique called japanning, which is painted and lacquered surface depicting Asian (not necessarily Japanese) scenes. There was wide use of richly figured veneers, inlays, and woods, with the primary wood being walnut. The furniture tends to be dark and serious with elaborate ornamentation. The case pieces were ponderous, ranging from the Kas, a large cabinet on bun feet, to fantastically decorated chests on stands with elaborately turned legs.
What we see the most in today’s marketplace are tables and chairs. The gate-leg and butterfly leaves became popular during this time period. Look for tables with barley-twist legs, trumpet form legs either stabilized with x-stretchers. We do see the introduction of the writing table at this time. The writing table is a much simpler and less grand evolution of the French Bureau Plat, with tended to be quite fancy and ornate. Tilt-top tea tables, especially japanned, are introduced as are daybeds.
The chairs range from wingback library chairs to wooden chairs with rattan backs and seats. The legs on the chairs are turned with trumpet forms or large bulbs. It is also in this time that stretchers (the slats of wood that stabilize the legs) begin to take on a major design element, they can be scrolling, shaped and/or include pendants or finials.
Trying to spit out tons of details in a five minute read! Onward to Queen Anne!