Our next stop on the alphabetic tour through the decorative arts takes us to one of the most celebrated architects of all times, Inigo Jones. He was the most notable architect in England and was the first person to introduce the architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to Britain.
Jones was born in Smithfield to a clothworker in 1573. He was recorded as a picture maker in 1603 and quickly gained prominent patrons. Christian IV of Denmark commissioned Jones to travel to Italy to study the buildings of Andrea Palladio. By 1605, Jones was working for Queen Anne of Denmark, James I’s wife and Christian’s sister.
Jones served as the surveyor of the king’s works from 1613 to 1642 when civil war broke out. During this time he visited Italy again and further studied the classical architecture in Milan, Parma, Venice, Padua, Bologna, Siena, Florence, and Rome.
One of his first major commissions for the royal family was the Queen’s House in Greenwich, which borrows design elements from the Villa Medici a Poggio a Caiano built for Lorezno de’ Medici in the late 15th century. Jones’ Banqueting House in Whitehall Palace, built between 1619 and 1622, is one of his best known buildings. The building is conceived as a basilica ending in an apse and takes inspiration from Palladio’s Palazzo Thiene as well as the Basilica in Vincenza.
Jones had a significant impact on the decorative arts in 18th century England. In addition to his architectural designs, Jones also produced an umber of furniture designs for bookcases, cabinets, chimney items, doorways, brackets, amongst other pieces. These designs influenced Jones’ contemporaries and followers, including William Kent and other Palladian designers. Kent produced a publication, Designs of Inigo Jones, in 1727, which was followed in 1744 with John Vardy’s Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent. We have selected two pieces from our collection and archive that demonstrate the widespread influence that Jones had on furniture in England.
This exceptional George II carved giltwood table reflects the influence of Inigo Jones and William Kent. The table features a gadrooned edge above a central mask flanked by acanthus scrolls, on shell carved cabriole legs and ball and claw feet, with an inset Portoro Nero marble top.
This elegant George II mirror incorporates a broad selection of ancient motifs that became popular with the Palladian revival with the influence of Inigo Jones and William Kent.