English Rennaissance

The English Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement in England dating from the early 16th century to the early 17th century. It is associated with the pan-European Renaissance that many cultural historians believe originated in Tuscany in the 14th century. This era in English cultural history is sometimes referred to as “the age of Shakespeare”, “the Elizabethan era”, “Tudor era”, or “the Jacobean era”.

Design Characteristics

Tudor ( 1495- 1558) Late Gothic and a few Renaissance characteristics freely mix in the period. Some symmerty and order are evident.

Elizabethan (1558- 1603) Regularity, symmerty, and mixed classical and Mannerist elements characterize design. Decorations tends to belavish, particulary in interiors and on furniture. Foreign influences dominate design.

Jacobean (1603- 1642) Named after King James, which is the Latin word for James, Jacobean follows Elizabethan patterns, but with less individuality and more stylistic unity. Interiors remain lavishly decorated, but furniture design is simpler.

Motifs- Include heraldic symbols, strapwork, roundels,portrait busts, arabesques, grotesques, obelisks, caryatids, Tudor roses, cabochons, acanthus, and vines.

Heraldic Symbol


Portrait busts

Tudor roses


Architecture- The most common building types are mansions, manor houses, and town houses, and town houses. England has many churches from the Middle Ages, and the monarchs do not undertake large building campaigns.

Tudor- Houses become more outward looking than earlier and center on courtyards. Facades are irregular and often move in and out, roofs vary in design and height, and windows changerandomly in size. Distinctive towered gatehouses form entrances. Half- timbered construction continues in both urban and rural locations.

Elizabethan- Horizontal emphasis and regularity on the lower portions distinguish Elizabethan buildings. Roofs, which have irregular silhouettes, are composed of parapets, balustrades, pinnacles, lanterns, towers, roofs, and chimneys similar to those of France. Larger scale of architecture than the Tutor period. Designs are highly individual.

Jacobean- Towers, truuets, and parapets definerofflines, which are lesscomplex than those of the Elizabethan period. Classical festures, such as the orders, usually are confined to ornamental fronts. These buildings feature more stylistic unity than Elizabethan buildings.

Materials- Brick and stone begin to supersede wood during the Tudor period, although half- timbered houses were still being built. Most houses follow trabeated masonry construction.

Facades- Tutor houses are somewhat symmetrical with a few classical details. They feature battlements, towers, and gatehouses. Large windows dominate Elizabethan and Jacobean facades. Lower portions of Elizabethan and Jacobean exteriors are regular and symmetrical with classical and other motifs and details. Jacobean houses often have frontispieces decorated with a full range of classical and Mannerist details.

Tutor Facade

Elizabethan Facades

Jacobean Facades

Windows- Stone mullions divide the large rectangular windows into a many as 16 smaller lights in Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture. Windows, arranged over one another, may be flanked by pilasters or engaged columns.

Doors- Door surrounds may be arched or rectangular and surmounted by a pediment or other decorative element.


 Typical spaces include the great hall, great chamber, long gallery, chapel, summer and winter parlors, and bedchambers or lodgings.

Tudor- Interiors are largely medieval and somber in feeling. they exhibit few classical details, but as the period progresses, the grow more lively with colorful finishes and textiles.


Elizabethan- Interiors are exuberant with brilliant colors and every surface decorated with carving, painting, gilding, or plasterwork. Classical details, mostly derived from Mannerist sources.

 Jacobean- These interiors continue Elizabethan traditions of exubertant Mannerism with the exception of those by Inido Jones or influenced by him. Classically proportioned his work tends to rely more on architectural details for definition and intrest.

Color- The colors festure highly saturated, even garish, colors in textiles and finishes. White walls are common especially if they have hangings. Walls may be blue or green, paneling is a painted stone color or brown to resembel wood. Ceilings are white or blue.

Lighting- Artifical lighting is minimal, consisting of chandeliers or lanterns, wall sconces, and candlesticks.

Floor- Stone, brick, marble, and wood are common flooring materials. Hard plaster and tiles are used occasionally. Oak, either in random- width planks or parquet, dominates wood flooring.

Wall- Wall paneling is usually of oak. Early panels are small and plain or with carved linenfold, Gothic motifs, or Romayne work. Later years, panels become larger with more elaborate carving, and the wood left natural or painted.

Windows- Windowa are rectangles, bays, or oriels. Glass is expensive, so horn or blinds of cloth or canvas substitute in lesser houses. Some glass is painted or stained. Great houses use curtains in winter as protection from the cold.

Door- Door panels generally match wainscoting. In larger houses, pilasters or columns supporting an entablature often flank doors. Curtains may also br used at doors.

Ceilings- Some Tutor celings have medieval trusses. Others are beamed or coffered. During the Elizabethan period, pargework; plastering in patterns over beams; appears. The Jacobean period, follow allover patterns of interlacing curved or geometric patterns with Tudor roses, cartouches, strapwork, and scrolls. Inigo Jones was thought to have introduced the cove ceiling in England.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts

Types, which include seating, tables, storage pieces, and beds. Rooms have little furniture, and it lines the walls when not in use.

Materials- Most furniture is of oak. A few Jacobean pieces are of walnut. Carving and inlayare the main types of decoration for furniture.

Tutor-Funiture is similar to medievel furniture in form and decoration.

Elizabethan- Fruniture is massive with heavy proportions, rich carving, and inlay. It shows strong Flimish influence along with classical elements.

Jacobean- Furniture continues Elizabethan traditions, but is simpler with more formal and naturalistic carvings.

 Seating- Include chairs, settees, daybeds, stools, benches, and settles.

Farthingale Chair

Turned Chair




Nonesuch chest


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