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An Introduction To Tudor And Elizabethan Styles Of Furniture


While Medieval era furniture was usually entirely wood, upholstery became more and more common in the Jacobean period, mostly to offer comfort. Chairs were increasingly designed with the comfort of women, in particular, which shaped the depth of the seat and the height/lack of arms, to accommodate wide elaborate skirts and clothing women often wore. Upholstery was usually velvet or floral tapestry fabric and would become more beautiful and elaborate in the late Jacobean period. Popular chair designs included wainscot variety (heavy chairs with arms and elaborate wood carved backs) and cane woven seats and backrests. Tall backs were popular on chairs, as well as other seating, though often uncomfortable. The late Jacobean period brought more curved and padded designs to cater to the comfort of the wealthy middle class who harbored them in their homes Larger, heavier chairs were often used for dining tables. Because of their weight, sometimes these chairs contained small wheel attachments on the front legs, which allowed the user to be able to pull them to the table more easily. The Cromwellian period, in the middle of the century, returned briefly to more staid lines but offered the comfort of a leather-upholstered seat and back. These chair styles were often matched with setees, longer seating options.




An Introduction to Tudor and Elizabethan Styles of Furniture



James I ascended to the English throne with the death of his childless cousin, Elizabeth I, last of the Tudor Dynasty. Along with the throne, James I inherited English furniture styles. Tudor furniture was traditionally bulky, heavy, and sparsely decorated. It was medieval furniture, made for medieval castles and not the comforts of the emerging modern world.


That began to change under Elizabeth. The Elizabethan era saw the first real introduction of the Renaissance into England, as Italian ideas of art and philosophy arrived alongside a more international economy and emerging middle class. As a result, Elizabethan furniture was the first to start transitioning out of the medieval era. It incorporated classical motifs like columns in its decorations, although admittedly ornamentation in this era could be a bit clumsy.


Jacobean furniture was often geometric and symmetrical, with a strong influence on rectilinear shapes and lines. It was straightforward in design but decorated with carvings of classical or intricate geometric motifs. It was more complex than previous furniture, and for the first time, furniture makers began consistently treating their pieces like three-dimensional objects that would be seen from all sides. Due to the bulkiness and weight of medieval furniture, English furniture objects were made to only be seen from one direction. Jacobean furniture was still heavy compared to later styles but was now light and mobile enough that designers had to pay attention to details and ornamentation from every visible angle.


One of the biggest signs that English furniture was shifting away from its medieval roots was a new focus on comfort. Comfort wasn't a definitive aspect of medieval furniture, but Jacobean styles included new types of chairs designed with comfort for different circumstances. There were even chairs made specifically to accommodate the wider, hoop-style dresses of court ladies who needed a comfortable way to recline. It should be no surprise to learn that this was also the first era in which upholstery really appeared in English furniture.


All right, let's take a moment or two to review. Jacobean furniture refers to the styles of England influenced by the reign of King James (roughly 1603-1625), which is known as the Jacobean era. Jacobean furniture was a style that remained in use until about 1650, and during this time it represented an important transition between medieval Tudor furniture and the early English Renaissance styles of Elizabeth. Jacobean furniture was lighter than Tudor furniture, made to be seen from all angles, placed a greater emphasis on comfort, and reflected England's growing global presence. It was also still relatively heavy and straightforward in design. So it was an important transitional style and just one of many influential changes to English culture under James I.


Elizabethan houses are highly ornamental in style and feature a number of distinctive qualities. The period favoured wood and stonework, with brick suffering in popularity due to the growing influence of the Renaissance. Elizabethan houses also borrow elements of Flemish and Late Gothic design visible in the curved gables, parapets and chimney stacks which adorn the exterior. Furthermore, the windows reflect the Elizabethan penchant for the decorative, with mullioned and transomed windows proving popular alongside bay and oriel styles. The inherent beauty of these designs was enhanced with the introduction of panes of glass in upper and middle class homes. These replaced wooden shutters, allowing light to infiltrate the home and create a sense of airiness and space.


Carving in the Elizabethan furniture style became more ambitious, as illustrated by four-post beds canopies. The costumes and faces of figures or busts gave them a specific character, making the Elizabethan period style distinct from the other contemporary European furniture styles.


Under James I and Charles I, the Renaissance continued tosubmerge the Tudor Gothic styles. The straightforward structure and simple outlines persist,but furniture grows smaller, lighter, less ornamented, , with ornament changing fromEarly Renaissance types to Baroque.


Jacobean FurnitureThe 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.


Regency FurnitureRegency 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.


Victorian FurnitureFor 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. 350c69d7ab


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