Architecture (Jacobean)

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Chastleton House
The Chastelton House, a home from the Jacobean era which embodies the qualities of a simple exterior and a ornate interior.

Jacobean Architecture is the term used to describe the English architecture under the reign of King James I, but it also refers to a specific style. This is one of the few times in English architectural history that a style is so clearly defined by its time period. It is contrasted with Elizabethan Architecture, but the two are very similar. Architecture is significant in Jacobean culture because it reflects a new sense of national pride and a new interest in the visual arts, both of which accompanied the Renaissance to England.


Contents

Characteristics

Architectural Features

The main architectural features that define Jacobean architecture include gables, turrets, flat roofs, window bays with mullioned windows, extruded corners, the transverse entrance hall, the long gallery, he grand staircase, and the use of the orders in non-traditional ways. The traditional entrance hall was parallel to the entrance facade of the building, but in many Jacobean houses, it was made perpendicular. This allowed it to give access to many different rooms in the building. The long gallery is a rather peculiar architectural feature distinct to the Early Modern time period. It was usually located just above the loggia meaning it was on the second floor facing the entrance facade. It was very narrow (often less than 25ft) and very long, in a way recreating the spatial grandeur sought by towering Gothic cathedrals. The wooden, open well staircase was also a central feature of many houses. These grand and often elaborately sculpted staircases dramatized the process of moving between floors. One feature that distinguishes Elizabethan and Jacobean buildings from all of the architecture before and after it was the use of classical orders (that is to day Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns), but not as structural framework. They became a kind of imposed ornamentation.

Plan

There were three basic kinds of floor plans in Jacobean homes. The courtyard plan which descended from Medieval monasteries was a rectangular ring with a large courtyard in the middle. The E- or H-shaped plan (also sometimes manifested as a U-shaped plan) had a facade with perpendicular branches coming off of it. They often had extruded corners and turrets. The square or rectangular plan had projections with gables or towers. For the most part, plans remained symmetrical, but were, in a sense, artificially so. It was a false, imposed kind of symmetry. Room placement within the plan was not symmetrical nor did it follow any sort of order. Dramatic silhouettes and massive exteriors were more important concerns. It has been said that Jacobean architecture resembles Shakespearean theatre; it has a lot of grand scenes and themes but also a lot of distractions [1].

Ornamentation

Carvings from Burton Agnes
Jacobean carvings, like this one from Burton Agnes Hall, were ornate, complex, and often allegorical.

Although a lot of Jacobean buildings had relatively simple facades, they had intensely and extravagantly ornamental carved interiors. This included fireplaces, staircases, ceiling paneling, and wall plasterwork. Also, a lot of times a simple facade would be broken up by a richly carved portal extending the whole height of the building. These carvings, often referred to as strapwork because of their resemblance to curls of straps, can be attributed to French and Flemish influence. The most important influence for early ornamentation, though, was Wendel Dietterlin, a German carver who developed an exaggerated Italian Mannerist style (a style already quite exaggerated in its own right). He drew a lot of his carvings in pattern books which would influence Flemish (and thus English) carvers a great deal. In the Jacobean era, carving became even more complex and ornate. Sometimes it was allegorical. Sometimes it represented Biblical imagery. Sometimes it was playful. Sometimes it showed horrific monsters and demons from the Dark Ages. Sometimes it portrayed animals and fanciful creatures. These sculptural carvings were complex and expressive, like the imagery that riddled Shakespearean plays[2].

English Pride

These carvings, although they were strongly influenced by continental craftsman, harked back to the Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals. One thing that is interesting about Jacobean architecture is that although it implements foreign designs, it is still thoroughly English. This reflects a new pride in English history and culture that had been developing over the best decade due to a string of military, economic, and political successes. This idea is one that can be seen throughout Shakespearean literature, especially the pride in English history. He wrote several plays about past English monarchs, for example. The importance of architecture and the developing role of the architect (discussed later) is also a significant sign of the northern Renaissance having an impact on England. An intellectual and artistic mindset was developing that reflected itself in both architecture and in Shakespearean literature.

Distinction from Elizabethan

In the end, the differences between Jacobean Architecture and that from the Elizabethan era before is somewhat vague, but the two have a distinct enough styles that it is convenient to categorize them in this way. They are similar enough, though, that it would not be incorrect to consider them as parts in a continuum of Early Modern English architecture. The key difference between the two, as historian John Summerson has argued, is that while Elizabethan builders kept traditional English forms and combined them with ornamentation copied from foreign books, Jacobean architects achieved foreign influence directly through craftsmen from continental Europe in a kind of "digested form."[3] This resulted in a greater continuity throughout the country and a more distinctly English style. It can also be said that Jacobean architecture is an intensification of the Elizabethan concepts. In addition, King James spent a lot more time and money on architecture than did his predecessor and this reflects in the architecture[4].

The Drawing and the Architect

In the Middle Ages and into the Elizabethan Era, the term "architect" was alien and unfamiliar to England. Interestingly, Shakespeare only uses the word once in all of his plays and that is in Titus Andronicus:

Of this was Tamora Delivered,
The issue of an irreligious Moor
Chief architect and plotter of these woes.
(Titus Andronicus V.iii.119-121)[5]

For the most part, the different parts of a building were designed by the craftsmen who built them. That would include masons, bricklayers, and carpenters for the structure of the building, carvers for the exterior, and joiners and plasterers for the interior. In many cases though, there was what was known as a "surveyor" or "master-artificer." While these terms are not exactly interchangeable, they both describe a kind of leader in the building process. They would design buildings and create drawings ("platts" and "uprights") and can be seen as kinds of prototypical architects. They were not considered intellectuals though and they did much building themselves so they were not among the same social ranks as professors of the liberal arts. Into King James's reign, though, this leader figure became and more like an architect. This can partly be contributed to a change in the building labor system. The traditional method was the direct labor system where a building owner would engage craftsmen on his own and paid them on short-term basis, for individual parts of the building. Under this system, elaborate drawings were not required for the building to be built because changes could be made throughout the process. This was slowly replaced by the contract system where an owner would contract a group of craftsmen for a set amount of time and a set amount of money. Because all of the costs and times were contracted beforehand, all parties had to be clear on what was expected of them. This created the need for more exact drawings and thus the professional architect, or at least a more competent and specialized "surveyor." Influence from the Italian Renaissance also played an important role in establishing the idea in England because the architect had an important intellectual role in that culture.

Select Works

Audley End
Audley End in Essex was the archetypical and quintessential Jacobean house.

Audley End, Essex

This house, built by the Earl of Suffolk with his Uncle, Earl of Northampton, from 1603-1616, is, in many ways, the archetypical Jacobean house. It has two courtyards and was designed to seem almost endlessly large. It combines different planes of masses to create movement, which was a common theme among later buildings. It does not have much exterior ornamentation. Bernard Janssen was the surveyor.

Northumberland House, Charing Cross

Hatfield House
The Hatfield house in Herts is famous for its extruded corners and its elegant three-story frontispiece which some people attribute to Inigo Jones

Also built by the Earl of Northampton and with surveyor Bernard Janssen around 1608, this house's plan resembles Audley End's. It has corner turrets with bays projected from the center on the garden front. It is more ornamental than Audley End, however. In the center of its entrance facade is a large portal that combines the three orders throughout the house's three floors, and has quite elaborate carving reminiscent of Dietterlin. It is believed that this frontispiece was carved by Gerard Christmas.

Charlton Park, Wilts

The Earl of Suffolk built this house for him and his wife around 1607. It was an H plan with extruded corners that have turrets, and two-storied porches. This would become the standard plan for Jacobean buildings.

Hatfield House, Herts

Begun in 1607, this house was built by Lord Burghley. It has a U-shaped plan with extruded corners and corner towers. In front of a central clock tower lies a three-story elaborately carved portal, reminiscent of the one at the Northumberland House. This frontispiece has been attributed to a carver named Robert Lyming, but some believe that he did not have the skills to create it. These people suggest that it was probably the work of Inigo Jones who was responsible for the inner wing of the south front[6] .

Inigo Jones and the end of Jacobean Architecture

Inigo Jones began his career as a carver and surveyor in the Elizabethan and Jacobean style. However, after his trip to Italy, he became infatuated with the classicism of Italian Renaissance architecture, especially the work by Palladio. He returned to England and became the royal surveyor in 1615. He built the Whitehall Banqueting House in 1619, completely departing from the Jacobean style and ushering in a new era of classical-inspired English architecture.

References

Mowl, Timothy. Elizabethan and Jacobean Style. 1st ed. London, England: Phaidon Press Ltd, 1993. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Titus Andronicus. London, England: Arden Shakespeare, 1995. Print.

Summerson, John. Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830. 6th ed. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1977. Print.

Summerson, John. Inigo Jones. 1st ed. London, England: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.

Ulmer, Daniel Clay. Elizabethan and Jacobean Architecture: The Evolution of a Style. M. Arch thesis. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, 1989. Georgia Institute of Technology Online Database. Web. 16 March 2012.

Whiffen, Marcus. Elizabethan and Jacobean Architecture. 1st ed. London, England: Shenval Press Ltd, 1952. Print.

Images

Audley End. 2009. Photograph. Daily Mail Online, London, England. Web. 16 Mar 2012. <http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/04/12/article-0-04378E48000005DC-203_468x307.jpg>.

Brown, Richard. Marble Fireplace Carving, Burton Agnes Hall. 2011. Photograph. Harrogate Photography Society. Web. 16 Mar 2012. <http://www.harrogatephotographicsociety.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Marble-Fireplace-Carving-Burton-Agnes-Hall-by-Richard-Bown.jpg>

Hatfield House. N.d. Photograph. Tourist Information UK, London, England. Web. 16 Mar 2012. <http://www.tourist-information-uk.com/uploads/images/attraction_images/348/xlarge/hatfieldhouse2.jpg>.

Webtsy, John. Chastelton House. 2010. Photograph. devonvistor.blogspot.com, Devon, England. Web. 16 Mar 2012. <http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_WYzdPqqLER8/TJomxSUTghI/

notes

  1. Whiffen, Marcus. Elizabethan and Jacobean Architecture. 1st ed. London, England: Shenval Press Ltd, 1952. Print.
  2. Mowl, Timothy. Elizabethan and Jacobean Style. 1st ed. London, England: Phaidon Press Ltd, 1993. Print.
  3. Ulmer, Daniel Clay. Elizabethan and Jacobean Architecture: The Evolution of a Style. M. Arch thesis. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, 1989. Georgia Institute of Technology Online Database. Web. 16 March 2012.
  4. Summerson, John. Inigo Jones. 1st ed. London, England: Yale University Press, 2000. Print.
  5. Shakespeare, William. Titus Andronicus. London, England: Arden Shakespeare, 1995. Print.
  6. Summerson, John. Architecture in Britain, 1530 to 1830. 6th ed. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1977. Print.
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