Monday, 24 September 2007

A timeline of English Period Antiques from 1485 to 1918



When King Henry VII came to the throne 1485, the event signified the end of the Middle (Medieval) ages. It marked a brighter new era for England and the historic beginning of the English Renaissance.

Tudor Furniture Characteristics

• Made of Oak.
• Heavy, strong, detailed and uncomfortable furniture.
• Similar to medieval and gothic furniture periods preceding it.
• Often decorated with tapestries, embroidery, carpets, and fabrics.
• Very rare as only a few rich people in the 1500's could afford such luxuries.

Before Elizabeth the furniture in previous ages was always made to be functional and plain, repetitive patterns and square based design. The Elizabethan age saw a greater degree of experimentation with furniture as influences from abroad made their mark. Furniture was also starting to be constructed out of Walnut, however due to the lack of strength many walnut pieces have not survived the years

Elizabethan Furniture Characteristics

• Solid inlays now being used.
• Mother of pearl, Gold Guiding, Marble.
• A greater devotion to the arts.
• Home decor objects becoming more available.
After having difficulties working with Walnut, the Jacobean period saw a move back to Oak. Not as square as previous Oak pieces they remained inward looking, without not fully embracing exotic influences, and its ornamentation became less prominent, more ordered and uniform, this was the last era of wax based finishes.

Jacobean Furniture Characteristics

• Relief carvings of geometric or floral motifs
• Solid and sturdy, made of Oak.
• Influenced many early American pilgrims.
• Accentuated mouldings used to divide areas into geometric shapes
• The wax used to preserve the pieces has built up an aged dark oak lustre.
After England breaks out into civil war, leadership is overturned marking a new era, 'The Commonwealth' producing Cromwellian or puritan furniture. This era stands alone in the history of English furniture, moving away from the the Gothic styles we begin to see more ancient and classical forms of decoration, although the period continues to differ from foreign influences.

Puritan Furniture Characteristics

• Wood carving and upholstery was rarely used.
• Sharp, angular, a simple practical styling.

The Carolean or Restoration period brought the traditional aspects of English furniture back in line with European styles. It was also during this era that the ancient art of 'French polishing,' was beginning to be experimented with. It would be another 100 years before the process was mastered.

Restoration Furniture Characteristics

• Restoration furniture was decorative and colourful.
• Veneer and marquetry made advancements to produce detailed designs.
•In addition to walnut and oak there was also used olive, white cedar, kingwood, and coromandel among others.

Previous eras saw dark, Gothic, primitive and uncomfortable furniture, The William and Mary period gave us bright insight into what was ahead for English furniture. Great numbers of French and Dutch refugee's came to England, many of them working in the furniture industry. They brought with them many new techniques that continued to increase the standards of English furniture.

William and Mary Furniture Characteristics

ª Oak, declined as Walnut was used widely, Mahogany made its first appearance.
• There was also use of kingwood and amboyna for inlay work and ebony
• A lot of Dutch and French influences.
• Standards improve as we see a greater number of these antiques today.

By now, English craftsmen have mastered foreign techniques and adapted them to their own. English furniture is now developing a distinct style and can be compared at par with Italian and French furniture styles.

Queen Anne Furniture Characteristics

• Working class people are now more able to own furniture.
• Walnut now the wood of choice.
• A small amount of Queen Anne furniture was painted white and gilded.
• Furniture design is more thought out as the pieces become lighter.

A big change began in this era, the introduction of Mahogany. It would later replace Walnut as the wood of choice. 'Geargian' furniture consisted of a wide variety of styles including Adam, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton.

Georgian Furniture Characteristics

• The beginning of Mahogany and Architectural influence
• Consisted of a wide variety of styles

Finally, the long awaited mastering of the technique to apply Shellac to wood, 'French polishing.' Now furniture is coated with smooth surfaces and intricate veneers are laid. A striking vibrant display of colours are introduced as knowledge of a variety of wood increases.

Regency Furniture Characteristics

• Plain, slender, elegant lines
• Mahogany is continued to be used along with Rosewood and Zebrawood
• Elaborate inlaid marquetry

The straight and smooth lines of the Regency period were opposed with a more oval and circular style. Mass produced furniture had taken a new level and the Victorian style was rapidly welcomed into the homes of many. Later in the period the demands of mass market would have a negative effect on the quality of the furniture being produced.

Victorian Furniture Characteristics

• Oak makes a nationalist comeback for its Englishness.
• Mahogany and Rosewood mostly used.
• Japanese design shows influence in ebony finishes.

Edwardian furniture designers came to the realization that reproductions would outsell anything new or innovative. During this era the Antique trade was launched and quickly grew as people started buying second hand furniture.

Edwardian Furniture Characteristics

• Art Nouveau is given a English interpretation.
• Reproduction furniture is produced.

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