History of Antiques Styles

The Tudor period in English history begins with the ascent to the throne of King Henry VII in 1485 and ends with the crowning of Queen Elizabeth I, this event signifying the end of the Middle Ages in Britain and supposedly the historic beginning of the English Renaissance.

Tudor Furniture
Early Tudor furniture was very similar to the Medieval furniture and Gothic furniture periods preceding it. Ordinary people had very few furniture possessions and even in the large houses of the wealthy there would be only beds, benches, stools, tables, and coffers. Chairs were reserved for the owner of homes when presiding over meals in the hall – their guests made do with joint stools.

Tudor Antiques
Tudor antiques are exceptionally rare and are mostly found in museums and great houses with some highly expensive furniture appearing in the market place.

Queen Elizabeth I belonged to the Tudor line of English royalty and played such an important role in her young country’s fortunes that her time is signified by her name rather than that of her father, King Henry VIII. Elizabeth Tudor came to the throne in 1558 and reigned until 1603.

Elizabethan Furniture
The Elizabethan era of English furniture history saw a gradual absorption of the Gothic tradition, dominant in the Tudor furniture period, into a native English version of the Renaissance movement, particularly that part of the Renaissance as had developed in Holland, Germany and the Flemish lands.

At the end of Elizabeth’s time a highly decorative and architectural style had become established among wealthy and fashionable persons of the period derived from the Flemish Renaissance, but applied with perhaps less knowledgeable artistry than it had obtained on the continent.

Elizabethan Antiques
Elizabethan antiques are exceptionally rare and are mostly found in museums and great houses with some highly expensive furniture appearing in the market place.

The Jacobean era is named after King James I who ruled from 1603 until 1625. James 1 belonged to the Stuart family as did his son and successor King Charles I, reigning from 1625 until 1649.

Jacobean Furniture
The early Jacobean furniture period inspired much of the early American furniture of the pilgrims (in America Jacobean style furniture is often called Pilgrim furniture), it was similar to Elizabethan furniture made of oak and of a solid, sturdy construction. Early Jacobean furniture had still not fully embraced European influences. Later Jacobean styles were influenced by the greater use of padded upholstery, embroidery and carving.

Jacobean Antiques
Jacobean antiques are also exceptionally rare and mainly found in museums and great houses, with choice pieces of furniture occasionally appearing in the market place.

Charles II – Restoration/Carolean Period
Charles II ascended to the throne in 1660 bringing to an end England’s republic and the return of monarchy.

Charles II – Restoration/Carolean Furniture
Charles II and his court had spent years in exile in the fashionable centres of France and Holland and had learnt to admire the styles of furniture. On their return to their homeland they transplanted French and Dutch baroque tastes to London and English furniture. Elaborate furniture of the European continent, particularly that belonging to the Louis XIV Baroque style, spread into the homes of wealthy Londoners. The pieces were veneered, gilded, marquetry-inlaid and lacquered. However, in provincial areas of England, country furniture continued being made of oak in the semi-Gothic Jacobean styles.

Charles II Antiques
Charles II furniture was made in great variety and quantity. It can be found today and remains popular in the market place.

William and Mary
William and Queen Mary ruled England from 1688 to 1702. William of Orange was Dutch and a great deal of Dutch influences entered English furniture.

William and Mary Furniture
William and Mary furniture was very decorative. Large numbers of Dutch cabinet makers and craftsmen came to England; they were regarded as very skilful in furniture design and decoration which brought England closer to the major movements of furniture in Europe. There was much use of ornate decorative effects on surfaces such as veneering, parquetry, lacquer and marquetry, with walnut now the timber of choice for the cabinet-maker.

William and Mary Antiques
William and Mary pieces have survived in some number although they demand a high price when found in the market place.

Queen Anne
Queen Anne of England reigned from 1702 – 1714 and in this age English baroque furniture hit the peak of its history.

Queen Anne Furniture
Queen Anne furniture was the start of the English movement of self-styled furniture, which competed happily alongside that of our French and Dutch neighbours. English furniture started to become elegant, well proportioned and decorated. Walnut was still the main timber used. The claw and ball foot made its appearance in English furniture design; lacquered work was very decorative and elaborate also during this period.

Queen Anne Antiques
Queen Anne pieces have survived in some number, but still demand a high price when found in the market place.

The Kings George I, II and III span from 1714 – 1811 and together their reigns are known as the Georgian period.

Georgian furniture
The early Georgian period kept with the styles that had come from the Queen Anne period and continued in popularity, but underwent modifications of its own.

The most important change that occurred was the replacement of walnut by mahogany. Mahogany had first been observed on a voyage in 1595 by the carpenter on board Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship. It was admired as one of the many wonders of the Indies and on very rare occasions used. In the early/mid part of the 18th century, mahogany rapidly won favour among cabinet makers due to it being very strong, long lasting and having close grained wood; the rich dark red colour was well sought after. The lifting of taxes on mahogany imports by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole in the mid-18th century was the start of the mahogany revolution.

Carving of the highest quality was used in seating furniture, a carved eagles head or sometimes scroll form was favoured for the termination of the arms. Furniture was ornate, with lavish carving and golden ornamentation; it was sculpture like and could just as easily have been carved out of stone as of wood. Motifs used were the lion mask, the satyr or human mask, the acanthus, the claw and ball foot, the scroll foot and the paw foot. It was the start of fantastic British furniture. The Palladian-style furniture made much use of elaborate pediments, masks and sphinxes. As the Georgian period progressed, Britain had a wealthier and more knowledgeable lower upper class that wanted the trimmings that came with wealth. This is the real boom for the English Cabinetmaker.

The age of the great designers had started. Chippendale, Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton helped create masterpieces that are being recreated up to the present day. They sold publications of their designs and the first of Chippendale’s sold for the large sum of £2. 8s.

As the Georgian period progressed so did the furniture. It formed a distinct contrast with that of the earlier period as a new simplicity and severity of form was sought. In general, curved lines became straight, ornament was abundant and sometimes intricate, but of a less robust character and was usually painted inlaid or applied in low relief.

Georgian Antiques
Georgian antiques have survived in large numbers due to the quality of the craftsmanship and timbers used, they have mellowed with age and matured with beauty and will sit happily in the smallest home to largest mansion and will be admired by all.

Regency is a term used to describe a style in English decoration and furniture of which successive phases extended over rather more than the first quarter of the 19th century. The term is loosely applied, the period to which it refers does not, in fact, coincide with that of George, Prince of Wales (1811 – 1820) nor does the style reflect the personal tasted of the Prince Regent during those years.

Regency Furniture
Regency furniture took one step further the neoclassical antique style seen in Robert Adam Furniture and his descendants in later Georgian times. While previously the antiques of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome were a source of inspiration for furniture designers, in the Regency period attempts were made to make actual copies of ancient furniture, and there was a new interest in the heritage of Egyptian furniture. Regency-style furniture has plain, slender, elegant lines and avoids shapes and curves for surfaces. The use of carving and elaborate forms of decoration and ornament-like marquetry declined. There is a great deal of brass work employed and much use of rosewood and zebrawood, because they allowed striking use of colour in veneers, alongside mahogany, which was still the wood of choice. Woodworking machines were adopted to cut costs of manufacture, French polishing came to be used extensively. During the end of the Regency period, Gothic and Chinese styles underwent a revival.

Regency Antiques
As with Georgian antiques, Regency pieces have survived in large numbers due to the quality of the craftsmanship and timbers used. They have mellowed with age and matured with beauty and will sit happily in the smallest home to largest mansion to be admired by all.

Years before Victoria became Queen, English society was becoming Victorian, reaction, political unrest, the Evangelical Revival all played their part in the change, but a major cause was the growing importance of the middle classes. In 1832 the Reform Bill was passed, setting the middle classes on the road to political power. From now on their standards and values were to be a major influence.

Victorian Furniture
For the first time, ordinary comfort is becoming the determining factor in the design and making of furniture. With a great increase in the numbers of middle class homes more furniture was needed and it was made in an abundance of styles, but again for the first time in history it was with the desires of the consumer. Furniture was serious, it was more imposing, rounded, with ample ornament, decoration, curving and gloss, turned legs replaced the straight leg of earlier periods. Furniture was mainly made in mahogany and rosewood with the revival of oak (Victorian Gothic) and lacquered furniture. This was the start of the furniture manufacturing industry employing thousands and thousands of people.

Victorian Antiques
Available in many different forms and sizes, affordable for everyone.

Though Edward was on the throne for the short period of 1901 – 1910, pieces today known as Edwardian tend to span from 1890 – 1910.

Edwardian Furniture
Furniture makers in the Edwardian period realised more than ever the possibility of production on a larger scale. Furniture was reproduced from earlier pieces but often incorporating styles from different periods. Furniture became smaller for the smaller home, mahogany was still the main timber of choice and back came the decorative inlays that tended not to be used in the Victorian times, we find the Adams inlaid swags, the carved leg, the satinwood banding, and the brass mounts. Furniture became affordable.

Edwardian Antiques
Very many pieces are available in the market, though some are not of such high quality. The Edwardian antique is of solid timber and is well priced compared with today’s mass manufactured pieces.

The Windsor period commenced with the crowning of George V in 1910 – 1936. Edward VIII followed him very briefly for less than a year. Next in line was George VI who ruled from 1936 – 1952. Elizabeth II replaced him until the current day.

Windsor Furniture
Furniture from the Windsor period saw some extreme style changes including the later half of the Art Nouveau period, the beginning of the Art Deco period and various post war designs.

Windsor Antiques
New technology and materials developed during World War II allowed new forms and construction techniques; mass production encouraged disposable consumer goods and rapid response to changes of style.

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Period: 12th-16th century.

Characteristics: Highly decorative style; use of carving such as linenfold panelling; use of indigenous woods and materials.

Motifs: Tracery, pinnacles, crockets, pointed arches, arcading, trefoils and quatrefoils.

Origins and development: Early Gothic style derived from Romanesque architecture and seen in mid-12th century architecture in France; flourished in Italy until c. 1400; spread by prints from c. 1500; continued in northern Europe and Iberian peninsula until late 15th/early 16th century; revived as a light, very decorative style in England from the 1740s and known as “Gothick”; more conscientious revivals were seen in Europe (from the 1820s) and in North America (from the 1840s).

Period: 13th-17th century.

Characteristic: Classical architectural orders; symmetry; influence of Italian artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael.

Motifs: Vases, candelabra, cornucopia, nymphs, mythological and biblical figures, caryatids, masks, putti; northern Europe: strapwork and herms.

Origins and development: Started and flourished in Italy, where the main centre was Florence; introduced to France by Italian craftsmen and spread to the rest of northern Europe by pattern-books, in which it was diluted by Mannerism; in Britain and The Netherlands the influence was felt in the 17th century; revived in Italy (1840s-1890s), North America (1850s-1880s), and Britain from the 1860s.

Period: 17th-early 18th century.

Characteristics: Heavy, grand and theatrical; sculptural, bulbous forms, elaborate carving and moulding; rich gilding, asymmetry.

Motifs: Eagles, cornucopia, trophies, putti, caryatids, pediments, swags, lion’s-paw feet.

Key creative figures: Andreas Brustolon; Andre-Charles Boulle; Daniel Marot.

Important monarchs: Louis XIV, Charles II, William and Mary.

Origins and development: Originated in Rome, where the style was representative of the Roman Catholic Church; flourished at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles; spread to The Netherlands and Britain by Huguenot craftsmen after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).

Period: Early to mid-18th century.

Characteristics: Light, playful, informal; rustic scenes; curved forms; asymmetry; pastel colours, light-coloured woods, diaper patterns; light gilding.

Motifs: Flowers, C-and S-scrolls, shells, rocaille (rockwork), scrollwork, light grotesques, chinoiseries, singeries.

Key creative figures: Jean Berain I, Juste-Aurele Meissonnier, Nicholas Pineau.

Origins and development: Developed in France after the Regence period (1715-23) as a reaction to the heavy, ponderous forms of the Baroque; spread to Germany, Austria, Britain, and North America; revived in Europe from the 1820s-1860s, as a reaction to the severe Empire style, and again between 1880 and 1900.

Period: Mid-to late 18th century.

Characteristic: Classical antique forms; rationality; symmetry.

Motifs: Vases, urns, guilloche, Greek key, palmettes, husks, fasces, trophies, griffins, anthemion, sphinxes, laurel wreaths, Classical architectural orders.

Key creative figures: Robert Adam, James “Athenian” Stuart, Karl Friederich Schinkel, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Samuel McIntyre.

Origins and development: Reaction to the excesses of Rococo; interest in the styles of ancient Greece and Rome stimulated by the Grand Tour and by excavations of sites such as Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748); developed into the Louis XVI, Federal (North America), Etruscan, Regency, and Empire styles.

Period: c.1714-c.1790

Characteristic: Early Georgian (c.1714-40) architectural in style; mid-Georgian (1740-60) lighter asymmetrical Rococo style; late Georgian (after 1760) strictly Neo-classical style; period from c.1790-1830 usually referred to as Regency.

Motifs: Early: sculpted eagles, herms, swags, masks; mid: chinoiseries, singeries; later: swags, Greek key, paterae, vases.

Key creative figures: William Kent, Matthias Lock, Thomas Chippandale, George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton.

Origins and developments: Styles reflect the British interpretation of Palladianism (early), the Rococo (mid), and Neo-classicism (late); became the regency style from c. 1790.

Period: Regency (Britain): c.1790-1830; Empire (France): c.1804-15.

Characteristic: Regency: broadly Classical, heavier than Georgian; Empire: severely Classical rectilinear forms.

Motifs: Acanthus, guilloche, animal masks, monopodia, dolphins, palmettes, winged lions, eagles, Egyptian motifs such as lotus flowers, scarabs; bees (Napoleon’s emblem), swans (Josephine’s emblem).

Key creative figures: George Smith, Thomas Hope, Percier and Fontaine.

Origins and development: Regency: named after the regency (1811-20) of George, Prince of Wales (later George IV); Empire: style inspired by ancient Rome and used in celebration of the reign, empire, and military victories of Napoleon.

Period: 1837-1901.

Characteristic: Revivals of historical styles; increasing emphasis on heavy decoration and carving; deeply buttoned upholstery; mass production; new materials; novelty designs; over-ornamentation

Motifs: Derived from historical styles; motifs and elements from different periods often used together (eclecticism).

Origins and developments: The Great Exhibition in London (1851) and later international exhibitions stimulated an interest in historical styles that became fashionable throughout Europe and North America; a burgeoning population and the increased wealth of the middle-classes encouraged consumerism and a demand for inexpensive mass-produced goods.

Arts & Crafts
Period: 1860s-1939.

Characteristics: Simple, traditional, vernacular form; craftsmanship; honesty to materials; hand-worked, hammered metalwork; indigenous woods; exposed mortise-and-tenon joints; medievalism.

Motifs: Naturalistic; ornament appropriate to the design; Celtic; Japanese.

Key creative figures: William Morris, John Ruskin, C.R. Ashbee, Christopher Dresser, Elbert Hubbard, Gustav Stickley.

Origins and development: British style based on philosophy of Morris, who was influenced by John Ruskin and A.W.N. Pugin; rejection of Victorian over-decoration and poor design; numerous handcraft guilds formed; philosophical ideas spread throughout Europe and the USA.

Art Nouveau
Period: 1890s-1910.

Characteristic: Sinuous, organic, asymmetrical forms; stylized naturalism; symbolism; exotic woods, marquetry

Motifs: Coup de fouet (whiplash); plants and flowers; insects-dragonflies, bees, scarabs, butterflies; women with long, flowing tresses and diaphanous gowns

Key creative figures: Victor Horta, Emile Galle, Louis Majorelle, Hector Guimard, Rene Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany

Origins and development: Name derived from Samuel Bing’s La Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris; influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, Japanese art, and Horta’s designs in Belgium; style spread particularly to Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and the USA; revived in the 1960s.

Art Deco
Period: c.1918-1940.

Characteristics: Streamlined, stylized forms based on machines and abstract art; bright, bold colours influenced by Cubism and Futurism; elements from African art, Egyptian art (after the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922); manmade materials including chromium-plated steel and Bakelite.

Motifs: Fashionable women, chevrons, zigzags, sunbursts, lightning bolts, abstract geometric patterns.

Key creative figures: Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Clarice Cliff, Donald Deskey.

Origins and development: Originated in France; early decorative and luxurious French style evolved into Modern Movement, which discarded ornament.

Post-War Design
Period: after c.1945.

Characteristics: Organic, biometric, asymmetrical shapes; manmade materials: moulded plywood, plastics, fibreglass, PVC, synthetic fabrics; strong, bright colours; mass production.

Motifs: Abstract motifs from the scientific world reflecting atomic and molecular structure; film and cartoon characters.

Key designers: Ettore Sottsass, Piero Fornasetti, Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen.

Origins and development: New technology and materials developed during World War II allowed new forms and construction techniques; mass production encouraged disposable consumer goods and rapid response to changes of style.