Introduction to Decorative Arts

The decorative elements since the baroque to the victorian era.

 

 

From the bedroom of Joachim Murat

Learn to recognize the style and era of a piece of furniture or an ornament, simply via observing its decoration.

 

Auth: Salvatore Scarfone

Baroque / Louis XIV (1600-1750)

Origins and development

Born in Rome to represent the power and wealth of the Vatican State, flourished at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, and later spread to the Netherlands and Great Britain thanks to the craftsmen Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).

Features

Heavy, formal, symmetrical, grand and showy, with sculptural and rounded shapes. Rich of elaborate carvings and stucco, and often richly gilded with gold leaf and precious materials.

 

Symbols

Eagles, cornucopia, trophies, cherubs, caryatids, pediments, festoons, lion’s-paw feet, turned legs.

 

Leading artists

Andrea Brustolon. Andre-Charles Boulle. Daniel Marot.

Rococo / Louis XV (1700-1750)

Origins and development

Born in France in reaction to the formality of the Baroque, spread thanks to the demands of female customers. New furniture appeared, such as the sofas, to meet the new needs of comfort and informality furnitures. This style soon spread all over Europe and in North America.

Features

The last period of the Baroque, compared to the latter it is light, relaxed and informal, favoring comfort to pure theatricality. Extensive use of country scenes. curved shapes. asymmetry. pastel colors. light-colored wood, decorative patterns, gilding read.

Symbols

Asymmetry, flowers and natural symbols, scrolls shaped like C and S letters, cabriole leg, shells, rocaille, scrollwork, simplified grotesques , chinoiserie, singeries (decoration with monkeys).

 

Leading artists

Jean I Berain, JA Meissonier, Nicholas Pineau, P. Piffetti, T. Chippendale.

Neoclassical / Louis XVI (1750-1840)

Origins and development

Born as a reaction to the excessive decoration of the rococo, influenced by the Enlightenment rationality. Interest about the greek-roman classical era that resulted in the Grand Tour, and increased after the excavations of Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748). This style is also called Louis XVI, Federal (North America), Etruscan, Regency and Empire.

Features

Rational and symmetrical shapes reminding to classical greek-Roman era, and with gilded edges.

Symbols

Vases, urns, guilloches, greek key, arabesques, palmettes, garlands, fasces, trophies, griffins, anthemion, sphinxes, laurel wreaths, classic architectural orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian), inlaid with geometric and architectural scenes.

Leading artists

Robert Adam, G.B. Piranesi, Giuseppe Maggiolini, Adam Weisweiler, Giuseppe Valadier.

 

Empire (1800-1840)

Origins and development

Created by architects Percier and Fontaine, owns an essential but also striking look, with decorative elements inspired by ancient Rome and Egypt used to show the victories of Napoleon.

Features

The last period of neoclassical, owns strictly classical rectilinear forms, with military symbols of the ancient Rome. The inlay was reduced to enhance the grain of the wood (use of mahogany) and the decoration is often applied and consists of gilded bronze.

 

Symbols

Acanthus, guilloche, animal masks, monopodia, dolphins, palmettes, winged lions, eagles. egyptian symbols. emblems of Napoleon (bees and the letter N), swans (emblem of Giuseppina).

Leading artists

Percier and Fontaine, Jacob-Desmalter, P. P. Thomire.

Victorian (1840-1901)

Origins and development

Called in this way for the Queen Victoria. The Great Exhibition (1851) and the subsequent spread in the whole Europe and in North America the fashion and the interest for the historical styles. The increase in wealth of the middle class increased consumism and the demand for inexpensive mass-produced goods.

Features

Revival of all historic styles from Gothic to the Empire, initially respectful of each style, after mixing them together also emphasizing their decorations and showiness. Industrial and mass production, with new materials. machine-made and moulded objects.

Symbols

Revivals, symbols and motivs from different styles, often mixed together (eclecticism). Furniture with added porcelain. buttoned upholstery(capitonne).

Leading artists

Michael Thonet.

Share this: