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Studio: international art — 2.1894

Seite: 105
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Christmas Decorations


When any one asks me how to set
about decorations in church for Christ-

mas and other seasons, I am always fain to give for
answer the classic advice of Punch to those about
to marry—" don't." I have an irreconcilable feud
against hammers and nails which destroy, and
against cotton-wool, rice, straw, red flannel, sealing-
wax berries, immortelles (the very odour of which
is as of the charnel-house) and all the various items
of feint and frippery which disguise metal work and
carvings and other architectural features of our
churches. The damp of green vegetation and the
chafing of string, bad enough indeed, are about the
least of the evils to be dreaded, so
difficult is it for " decorations " to
be quite harmless, even supposing
the utmost care be taken. But
what with the hurry and excite-
ment, the zeal of vain display and
rivalry—for, after all, decorators are
human, and he or she, generally
she, wishes her own work to at-
tract more attention than her neigh-
bours— what with flirtations be-
tween young ladies and curates,
and the other distracting matters
incidental to such occasions, care
and regard for the fabric of the
sacred edifice are, alas ! only too
easily forgotten. I am therefore
not advocating Christmas decora-
tions in the usual acceptation of
the term. But the counsel of the
wise and prudent seldom prevails.
The stubborn fact remains that
people will " decorate." So it be-
hoves us who cannot stop the
dangerous propensities we deplore,
to temper them so far as maybe by
suggesting to those who are bent
on " decorating," how they can do
so with the smallest amount of
damage. First of all, let the use of tin-tacks and
nails of all kinds, even though they present them-
selves in the specious innocence of needle-
points, be entirely prohibited. It is not pos-
sible to overrate the harm inflicted on priceless
and irreparable works of art at the hands of ama-
teurs furnished with a supply of nails, and license
to drive them in without restriction wherever they
please. If it is required for any hooks or rings
to be provided, let them be securely fixed by the
skilled hands of a carpenter or fitter, who knows
how and in what exact spot to secure them without
injuring the walls, &c. But in the majority of
cases there is no necessity for anything of the kind.
For wreathing pillars, for instance—perhaps the
simplest and most sensible form of decoration pos-
sible—the capital affords a sufficient support at the
top, while its own weight will keep the wreath in
position at the base. If another wreath is twisted

in a spiral fashion round the column—and this
always gives a picturesque effect—the ends can be
attached severally to the upper and lower garland ;
this, be it noted, without a single nail. I may here
observe that wreaths following a string course or
other horizontal line should be stretched tight from
point to point, and not allowed to droop in the form
called a swag (ugly name that aptly suits an ugly
device, to my thinking); for in Christian architecture
all the lines other than horizontal tend in an upward
direction, and accordingly the downward inclination
of the swag is inconsistent with the character of the

Those who knew the Leyland collection will
doubtless remember Botticelli's paintings of the
Story of Nastagio degli Onesti. The fourth of the
series represents a feast taking place in a colonnaded

building, adorned for the occasion with green
brandies thrust into iron sockets attached bracket-
wise to each of the piers. The nearest parallel to
these sockets I know are the wrought-iron link-
holders still remaining outside some old-fashioned
town houses. If only in more suitable designs,
some such iron sockets might well be provided in
churches for holding flowers or branches. Again,
small trees or branches of trees, stuck in tubs or
large pots standing upon the ground immediately
under the crown of each arch, forming thus a sort
of avenue, make a handsome decoration, easily
removable, and incapable of injuring the fabric of
the church in the smallest degree.

As to other forms of so-called decorations, surely
it is patently incongruous to smother lectern, pulpit,
or font, still more the altar, jack-in-the-green fashion.
One can readily recall the futile efforts of the
unfortunate clergyman trying to officiate with dig-


pen-drawing (from a photograph) by e. h. new, of the
birmingham school of art [sm page 96)
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