Department of Art History

Architecture and the Applied Arts


Architecture and the Applied Arts in Sixteenth-Century England  Professor Maurice Howard

My research has long been concerned with the broader picture of the making of buildings and their furnishing in sixteenth-century England. From the beginnings of research along well-established lines of enquiry about the major buildings of the period my concerns reached further with my work on the National Trust house of The Vyne, with its variety of sixteenth-century internal decorative fragments, my close involvement in the making of the Gallery of European Ornament and the British Galleries project at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1990 to 2001 and more recently with the Leverhulme-funded project Making Art in Tudor Britain from 2010 to the present at the National Portrait Gallery. The outcomes from the NPG work on the materials used in the production of pictures can be applied to wider issues in the making of all kinds of painted, and gilded objects from buildings to the smallest household ephemera in this century, whether surviving in whole or part, or completely lost but recorded in images or documentation. Among the many challenges faced by multi-tasking artists of this time was the exploitation of new materials, improvisation when called upon to produce things at great speed and nurturing an ability to mimic the effects of precious materials by transitory, fugitive expedients if these were the only means available. The judgment of success was likely to have been much more to do with creating the effect desired than an expectation of a particular style or fashion. Surviving fragments are one test of the impact of these processes; documentary and literary texts are another in underlining their worth and their contemporary appreciation.


Some relevant books and articles:

The Vyne. A Tudor House Revealed (co-authored with Edward Wilson) (National Trust, 2003)

The Building of Elizabethan and Jacobean England (New Haven and London, 2007)

‘Civic Buildings and Courtier houses: new techniques and materials for architectural ornament’ The Age of Transition: The Archaeology of English Culture 1400-1600 eds. David Gaimster and Paul Stamper, Oxford, 1997, pp. 105-13

 ‘Fashionable Living 1500-1700’, chapter for Design and the Decorative Arts. Britain 1500-1900, eds. Michael Snodin and John Styles (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2001) pp. 95-119

All’antica Ornament: its use and limitations in England (1520-1550)’ L’invention de la Renaissance. La réception des formes à l’antique au début de la Renaissance, ed Jean Guillaume (Paris 2003) pp. 55-66

‘William Sandys: a courtier in a changing consumer market’, Late Gothic England: Art and Display, ed. Richard Marks, Gloucester and London V&A, 2007, pp. 25-34