In The Spotlight: Georgian Antiques
The Georgian Period
When we think of Georgian antiques, the first thing that often comes to mind is large and solid pieces of dark furniture. This isn’t surprising, the Georgian era is often referred to as ‘The Age of Mahogany’. What is surprising is the range of styles that emerged and evolved over this period. The Georgian era does not represent one style of antique furniture but rather, an evolution of design that covers a number of distinct styles from Italianate to Rococo, Chippendale to Neoclassical.
Early Georgian Antiques
For the most part of the Early Georgian period, the best features from the reign of Queen Anne were combined to create a subtle, functional and attractive style of furniture.
The most significant development arrived with the succession of mahogany over walnut as the wood of choice. Mahogany rapidly won favour amongst cabinet makers because of its strong qualities and attractive close grain. Mahogany was also less prone to cracking, didn’t warp as easily and its deep rich colour suited the design disposition of the day.
One cabinetmaker to champion the rise of mahogany was William Kent. Like many of the period, he had undertaken the Grand Tour of Europe. In Rome he found inspiration in the 16th Century Italianate architecture of Andrea Palladio and his distinctive Palladian style.
Palladian style furniture stands apart from most early Georgian furniture in that it was designed for the wealthiest class of people, intended to sit in great country homes and palaces. It commonly features ornate pediments, cornices, lion masks, paws and swags. It had, in consequence, little lasting influence and never made the leap to common use and acceptance.
Mid Georgian Antiques
In the middle of the eighteenth century Chippendale published the “Gentleman’s and Cabinet Maker’s Director”, which was soon hailed as the most important compendium of furniture designs to be published in Britain. It illustrated almost every type of mid-18th-century domestic furniture. Chippendale was known for his trademark fusion of rococo, oriental and gothic elements which came to underpin the ‘English’ Rococo style.
Chippendale pieces are characterised by a number of key characteristics: S-curves, gothic arches, cabriole legs, heavy Chinese influences and pagoda elements in cabinet pediments. Authentic Chippendale furniture can go for vast sums as they truly are historical works of art. However there are many Chippendale inspired pieces on the market today which give the same taste with a significantly lower price tag. Chippendale pieces are popular amongst designers for their unique and interesting shapes and mix well with modern furniture.
Late Georgian Antiques
From about the time of George the third’s accession in 1760 a response to the characterful Palladian and curvy Rococo styles of the early and mid Georgian eras began to emerge. Neoclassicism demonstrated the new taste for antique simplicity. This Neoclassical style is most associated with the designers Adam, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton, drawing inspiration from the ‘classical’ art and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome.
Regency and the end of the Georgian Period
The close of the Georgian Era saw the Neoclassical style evolve while King George III’s son ruled as Regent. The regency period remained devoted to classical antiquity with its symmetry, clean lines and simple designs. However, influences from the Napoleonic Egyptian campaigns of the late 1790s can be seen in the inclusions of mythological figures such as the sphynx and other Egyptian motifs. The Prince Regent at the time particularly favoured Asian influences featuring highly lacquered finishes and exotic details such as faux bamboo.
Buying Georgian Antiques
For anyone in the market for elegant and practical pieces of furniture Georgian furniture always hits the mark. The quality construction and quality manufacture lends itself to everyday use. The proportions of Georgian antiques are invariably faultless, and even country-made pieces have great charm that is pleasing to the eye. Buying Georgian antiques means not only acquiring a practical piece of history but a timeless heirloom for future generations. To shop our wide range of Georgian antiques click here.
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