Introduction to Decorative Arts

The decorative elements from the Baroque to the Victorian era

INTRODUCTION

Learn to recognize the style and era of a piece of furniture or an ornament, simply by observing the style and symbols used in the decoration.

BAROQUE / LOUIS Xiv - (1600? -1720?)

reggia di caserta lampadario barocco cappella palatina

Chandelier of the Palatine Chapel

Origins and development

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

Features

Heavy, formal, symmetrical, majestic and showy appearance, with sculptural and rounded shapes. Rich in elaborate carvings and stuccoes, it is often richly decorated with gold leaf and precious materials.

Symbols

Asymmetry, flowers and natural symbols, scrolls in the shape of letters C and S, curved cabriole legs, shells, rocaille, scrolls, simplified grotesques, chinoiserie, singerie (decorations with monkeys), Corinthian), geometric and architectural inlays.

Main Artists

Andrea Brustolon; Andre-Charles Boulle; Daniel Marot.

ROCOCÒ / Louis XV - (1700? -1770?)

Chandelier of the Boudoir of Queen Maria Carolina

Origins and development

Born in France as a reaction to the Baroque formality, it also developed thanks to the requests of the female clientele. Thus, new furnishings were born, such as, for example, sofas to meet the new need for comfort and informality in furnishings. This style soon spread throughout Europe and also in North America.

Features

The final period of the Baroque, compared to the latter, is light, relaxed and informal, favoring the convenience of use over pure theatricality. Extensive use of rural scenes; curved shapes; asymmetry; pastel colours; light colored woods, decorative patterns, light gilding.

Symbols

Asymmetry, flowers and natural symbols, scrolls in the shape of letters C and S, curved cabriole legs, shells, rocaille, scrolls, simplified grotesques, chinoiserie, singerie (decorations with monkeys), Corinthian), geometric and architectural inlays.

Main Artists

Jean Berain I, J. A. Meissonnier, Nicholas Pineau, Pietro Piffetti, T. Chippendale.

NEOCLASSIC / Louis XVI - (1770? -1804?)

Clock in the Boudoir of the Queen Maria Carolina

Origins and development

Born as a reaction to the excessive decoration of the Rococo, and influenced by the Enlightenment rationality. Born due to the interest in the classical Greco-Roman era which originated the Grand Tour, and which 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 reminiscent of the classical Greco-Roman era, and with gilded edges.

Symbols

Vases, urns, Greek keys, arabesques, palmettes, garlands, bundles, trophies, griffins, anthemio, sphinxes, laurel wreaths, classical architectural orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian), geometric and architectural inlays.

Main Artists

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

EMPIRE (LATE NEOCLASSIC) - (1804-1840)

Bedroom Dresser in Joachim Murat’s Apartment

Origins and development

Created by architects Percier and Fontaine, it has an essential but impactful appearance, and has elements inspired by ancient Rome and Egypt to enhance Napoleon’s victories.

Features

Final period of the neoclassical, it presents rigorously classical rectilinear shapes, and military symbols of ancient Rome. The inlay is reduced to enhance the grain of the wood (use of mahogany) and the decoration is often applied and consists of gilded bronze.

Symbols

Acanthus leaves, arabesque, animal masks, uprights, dolphins, palmettes, winged lions, eagles; Egyptian symbols; Napoleon’s emblems (bees and letter N), swans (Giuseppina’s emblem).

Main Artists

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

VICTORIAN REVIVAL - (1840-1900)

Origins and development

It takes its name from Queen Victoria. The London Universal Exposition of 1851 and subsequent ones made the interest in historical styles fashionable throughout Europe and North America. The increase in the wealth of the middle class increased consumerism and the demand for low-cost mass products.

Features

Revival of all previous styles from the Gothic to the Empire. Initially, the styles were respected, then they were mixed, also emphasizing the decorations and appearance. Industrial and mass production, use of new materials, machining and molding.

Symbols

Revival, motifs and elements from different eras, often used together (eclecticism). Furniture with porcelain; capitonnè padding.

Main Artists

Michael Thonet.

Unofficial Website of the Royal Palace of Caserta
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