I’m glad to see the interest in the painted decoration I am using on my tool chest. While the construction of that chest is not based on any 17th-century piece; the painted work is pretty close to period work. If you’ve just arrived, here’s what we’re talking about: http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/a-solution-to-too-much-blank-space/ and http://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/another-day-of-painting/
for studying painted work of the 17th century, the trick is there are few surviving examples. Paint was often used as interior decoration. One good source for inspiration in James Ayers, Domestic Interiors: the British Tradition 1500-1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). Ayers’ book goes well past the time period I am interested in, but he has a whole chapter on paint, and painted stuff shows up in other sections too; like doors, windows, walls, etc.
wall painting early 17th c
A sample from Ayers’ book shows a painted plaster wall, done in black & white. Imagine a room like this – you’d be hard-pressed to see any carved furniture sitting in it.
For sources of patterns like this, there’s great stuff done in the early 1600s by Thomas Trevelyon. He made 2 books of patterns, adaptable for gardeners, painters, joiners, embroiderers, etc. But, his were not printed books, but just 2 manuscript copies. So his work didn’t circulate enough to be an original source for much. But it’s based in things he’d presumably seen in various forms; drawings, patterns in gardens, needlework, ceramics, architecture, paintings on cloth, plaster, and more.
Thomas Trevelyon's Miscellany 1608
Here’s one more of his drawings/paintings:
For more of his work, see http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=2283
There are only snippets of painted architectural work surviving in New England, but here & there in old England there are numerous examples. Nothing like there once was… Here’s a room painted to look as if it’s paneled , late 17th-century, from Oakwell Hall inYorkshire.
Oakwell Hall, Yorkshire
For comparison, here’s an actual paneled wall, from the same trip my wife & I made in 2005. So the painting is not to fool you into thinking it’s a paneled wall, but just to give the impression. I think this is from Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. I can’t swear to it, but I’m close…
wall paneling Haddon Hall
How about pinstripes? This is from the Merchant’s House in Marlborough, Wiltshire. Note that the door doesn’t interrupt the scheme.
original 1650/60s paint scheme w re-done section
Painted furniture from the period is not unusual; it’s again hard to find surviving examples, but they are out there. Here’s a simple one. English again. What we don’t know for certain is the finish for the non-painted parts.
Remember, these folks were not afraid of patterns and colors. Here is a very high-style chair of the 2nd half of the 17th century, now displayed against a pale, plain wall in a museum – but in a period house? Could be totally lost against some of these walls.
turkey work chair
and a detail
turkey work detail
On my toolbox, I am not following any particular scheme; just sort of making it up as I go. To make matters more confounding, I have also looked at several examples of late 18th/early 19th-century Pennsylvania chests, seen in Wendy Cooper’s & Lisa Minardi’s book Paint, Pattern and People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850 , I never did make it to see the exhibition, I had seen bits of it when it was being researched. But Kari Hultman went for us::http://villagecarpenter.blogspot.com/2011/03/paint-pattern-people-book-review.html
Those chests and boxes really stuck me, and if I had room here at the house, I’d make some copies. In my spare time…
A favorite random piece of English decoration is this embellishment I found in the Carpenters’ Company Records in London – 1573.
Carpenters' Company Records
As far as how I prepare the paint, several people wrote & asked. Yes, it’d dry pigments mixed in linseed oil. And I doubt I’ll put a finish over that. When it’s painted, it’s done. The stool book has a section about making & using this sort of paint. Any day now…
There’s stuff in a few books on paint in New England work. Abbott Lowell Cummings’ Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay has some architectural interiors with paint. And Jonathan Fairbanks has a whole essay about portrait painting, but it has great details about materials, etc. “Portrait Painting in Seventeenth-Century Boston: Its History, Methods and Materials” in Fairbanks & Trent, New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1982)