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The Victorian era

Antique furniture

The Victorian Era, Treasure chest for the Collector

The spirit of 19th century England could be personified through Queen Victoria and it's known as the Victorian era. It is covering the eclectic period of 64-year reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. The British Empire became the most powerful, and England the most modern, and wealthy country in the World. The second half of the 19th century has been called the positivist age and one of the most fascinating periods in our history. It has been an age of faith in the positive consequences of what can be achieved through the close observation of the natural and human realms. Prosperity brought a large number of consumers, with money to spend on art and furnishings.
When most people think of the Victorian era - high fashion, gilded age, rich with elegance, splendour, and romance, strict etiquette, and plush or eclectic decorating styles come to mind - but it was so much more than that. New technology was harnessed to reproduce the styles of the past - Regency, Rococo, Baroque, Elizabethan and the enigmatic 'modern English Gothic". With its versatility and ingenuity Victorian furniture offers many good pickings for the modern collector. In variety alone it makes a colourful study. Several styles of furniture representing different influences might meet in a Victorian drawing room of England. Looking at a 19th-century painting by Conrad Kiesel makes the point. Lavishly upholstered and heavily tasselled and fringed chair steals the focal point from the three fashionable ladies. Another chair has a change in style with it's leather back, slipping two centuries away from the contemporary scene. Globes, maps, books jostle with vases, a marble bust and drapery. The effect is of unmitigated clutter, but what invitingly fertile ground it would be for the modern antiques hunter.

Early Victorian Days were designed for an indoor society, of lighting the parlour lamps on a family esconced in upholstered comfort. Substantial mahogany and rosewood without veneer or marquetry were the basic woods of fashion. Although the dining table was a rectangle often extendable by potable pieces, it was the day of the round parlour table. Variations were made, sometimes round, sometimes oval, for use at breakfast or other non-formal meals. The family sat in balloon-back chairs, which were more comfortable than their appearance suggested. The sofa, or day-bed, with one roll-over end and half back, was designed for one person when reclining. The setee was usually a two or three seater of more complex construction. Cabinets and sideboards erupted in elaborate carving. Shelves, corner cabinets, whatnots, tiered stands and cupboards proliferated to enable the vivid Victorian collectors to display their treasures. Chests of drawers retained their bow fronts from Regency times and round wooden knob handles were common. By the late 1950s the dressing table with built in drawers and mirror was appearing. For a generation obsessed with cleanliness - washstands were in - attractive and functional pieces of furniture.
In the latter half of the 19th century the craze for variety produced excellent interpretations of bygone designs: Sheraton, Chippendale, Louis XV and XVI, Elizabethan, Renaissance and Gothic. There was heavy flirtation with satinwood, tulipwood and other exotic veneers. Masterful marquetry bloomed on everyday pieces of furniture such as desks, tables and chairs. Furniture tended to be lighter as the century matured. Design was helped by ideas and materials brought back from an Empire on which the sun never set. Lifestyle changed and with more time spent outdoors cast iron furniture came in vogue.
The period when the interest in historical styles, combined with naturalism, when the scientific outlook embraced the artistic research and experimentation, achieved in creating a spontaneous vision of form and function. The typical Victorian interior - comfortable and welcoming, rich with warm-hued furniture and objects of different origins and styles - romantic and desirable. In our modern age we are so fortunate to find pieces of this enchanting period still available and in remarkably good condition. Their quality, eclectic flair and reasonable price can not compare with any modern piece created in a world short of resources, time and proud craftsman.

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