|Imported Oriental cabinet
on English carved wood stand built around 1670. Furniture: a Concise
History, Edward Lucie-Smith, Oxford University Press, New York and
|Much of the furniture of
the seventeenth century seems to be more familiar to us today than of
the sixteenth century. Furniture built in this century began to escape
the influence of fashion and richness for the principle of practicality
and function. It was difficult for some, especially the wealthy and
members of nobility, to stray very far from the most exquisite and
exotic furniture. The growth of trade allowed for importing of exotic
furniture and materials from India and adjacent countries. Lacquering
and japanning were very popular methods of finishing furniture. Oak was
still used but walnut was being used even more as well as other imported
exotic woods. The cabinet on a stand and framed wall mirror and table
ensemble were very popular for displaying collectibles.
| Many furniture
types evolved during the 18th century and many of these styles are
considered current even today. Furniture styles of this century
reflected ideas of comfort and luxury. More people were able to own
furniture because of the growth of the middle class. Furniture in the
first half of the 18th century evolved in reaction against the formal,
elaborate period of Baroque furniture of the 17th century. Rococo
furniture was characterized by asymmetrical scrollwork, decorative
motifs with informality and comfort in mind and originated in France. In
the later half of the 18th century, Rococo furniture caused a reaction
and return to Neoclassical furniture. Neoclassical furniture was
characterized by the use of classic designs from ancient Greece and
Roman art and architecture. Some of the more recognizable styles of
furniture from this era include: Traditional, Queen Anne, Chippendale,
Hepplewhite, Adams Brothers and Sheraton. Walnut was the predominant
material used in this era. Mahogany and other imported woods like ebony
and satinwood were also used.
Which chair is
older? The chair on the left was built in the first half of the 18th
century during the Rococo period. The chair on the right looks as if it
was built in ancient Greece or Rome. The chair on the right was built in
the later part of the 18th century during the Neoclassical period. The
History of Furniture, William Morrow & Company, INC. New York City, 1976
|A tabouret stool.
Military motifs became very popular after Napoleon's victories.
Furniture early in the 19th century was of Neoclassical Roman influence.
furniture in the first half of the 19th century were greater than the
previous 200 years. Not only were the changes of style, but
technological as well. Technological changes however; occurred more
slowly. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had a tremendous influence on
furniture style during his reign in the early part of the 19th century.
Primary materials used were mahogany solids and veneers. After the fall
of Napoleon's Empire, several styles of furniture evolved in reaction
against the Neoclassical design. Even though new styles of furniture
were desired, many retained familiar details of furniture from Gothic,
Rococo and Renaissance furniture. One note worthy designer of this time
period was Duncan Phyfe. Phyfe was the only American cabinetmaker for
which a period or style of furniture was named. His designs are still
popular today. Near the middle of the 19th century many innovations took
place in furniture construction. Coil springs in upholstered furniture,
metal furniture, laminated and bentwood furniture and even paper mache
were utilized in furniture construction. These innovations along with
poorly manufactured furniture, led to yet another movement in furniture
in the later part of the 19th century and into the 20th century.
Metal beds first appeared near the middle of the 19th century and
provided a welcome hygienic alternative to traditional wooden beds which
were often infested with bugs. These beds were usually made of brass or
iron and continued to be popular well into the 20th century.