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Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937; Codman, Ogden / The decoration of houses

V: Windows,   pp. 64-73

Page 69

interfering with the curtains; but this difficulty is easily met by
the use of curtains made with cords and pulleys, in the sensible
old-fashioned manner.  The real purpose of the window-curtain
is to regulate the amount of light admitted to the room, and a
curtain so arranged that it cannot be drawn backward and for-
ward at will is but a meaningless accessory.    It was not until the
beginning of the present century that curtains were used without
regard to their practical purpose.  The window-hangings of the
middle ages and of the Renaissance were simply straight pieces
of cloth or tapestry hung across the window without any attempt
at drapery, and regarded not as part of the decoration of the
room, but as a necessary protection against draughts.  It is proba-
bly for this reason that in old prints and pictures representing the
rooms of wealthy people, curtains are so seldom seen.  The better
the house, the less need there was for curtains.  In the engravings
of Abraham Bosse, which so faithfully represent the interior deco-
ration of every class of French house during the reign of Louis
XIII, it will be noticed that in the richest apartments there are no
window-curtains.  In all the finest rooms of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries the inside shutters and embrasures of the
windows were decorated with a care which proves that they
were not meant to be concealed by curtains (see the painted
embrasures of the saloon in the Villa Vertemati, Plate XLIV).
The shutters in the state apartments of Fouquets chateau of
Vaux-le-Vicomte, near Melun, are painted on both sides with
exquisite arabesques; while those in the apartments of Mesdames
de France, on the ground floor of the palace of Versailles, are
examples of the most beautiful carving.  In fact, it would be more
difficult to cite a room of any importance in which the windows
were not so treated, than to go on enumerating examples of what

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