In the Best Possible Taste archive

Thursday 16 June 2011

Somewhere between over the top and perfectly balanced this classic piece requires a little explanation


We've had a run on contemporary pieces for our chosen classic piece recently and we thought something a little more 'classic' was long over due. So after much debate we decided on this example. From top to bottom it's jam packed with influences from all four points of the compass and spans a couple of centuries. So who better to unravel the mystery behind this eclectic masterpiece than Michael Huntley.

In the third quarter of the nineteenth century some Victorians began to look to the Renaissance for design inspiration. This is the result of this type of retrospection. It is, of course a combination of styles. The heaviness is North European, the architectural features are derived from Greek originals, the black ebonised structure was common in the late 17th century all over Europe, the marquetry inlay might be taken from 16th century Italian work, or from 17th century Dutch work, which was later imported to England with William of Orange and finally there is some English Tudor in the piece.

It's a striking example of what Victorian historians could come up with. One interesting point is that all this carved work and the repetitive mouldings would have been very costly if worked by hand in the earlier centuries. Because the Victorians had developed machines to produce carvings and mouldings the decoration became much cheaper. It was also less individualistic and frequently overdone. But in this instance I think they just got away with it and stopped in time.

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

furniture , contemporary , Victorian , classic

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Where To Buy The Book

The photograph on this page is taken from History of Furniture Ancient to 19th Century, written by Michael Huntley and available from GMC Publications in paperback at £19.99. Containing 789 photographs, it represents a pictorial reference to furniture from the Ancient Egyptians to the end of the Victorian era, complied by the former head of Sothebys restoration workshops in southern England. For a copy call 01273 488005 or visit the website.