The key to understanding American Empire furniture is to look for three things:. Let's take a deeper look at the ideas of strength and prosperity in furniture. Before this new style, American furniture was highly inspired by British trends, which encouraged light, thin and elegant forms. By contrast, the American Empire style was bulky and large, but not obtuse or obstructive. Furniture was made to feel heavy and grounded, and almost architectural. This was partly achieved by using classical proportions of Greek and Roman architecture in furniture design, as well as by modeling legs and backs after architectural features like columns.
Thick pedestals were also incorporated into many pieces of furniture. Now, how about prosperity? For one, expensive woods like mahogany became preferred. For more affordable pieces, the same basic effect was achieved by using a lighter wood like walnut and covering in a shiny veneer. This sense of extravagance was further emphasized by exaggerating features while still keeping them within the limits of classical proportions.
A common way to do this was to use rolling backs and arms, which looked elegant but were also reminiscent of Roman scroll motifs. Finally, the prosperous attitude of the style was displayed with ornate decorations. Previous American styles utilized delicate inlays in furniture, but these were replaced in the American Empire style with bold images carved in high relief. The outline, not the details, was what mattered. Scrolls, columns, vases, and bold geometric shapes were preferred motifs.
Add some feet to the base of the legs likely carved like eagle claws because, you know, America and you've got a piece of furniture fit for a growing, expanding, and thriving republic. When France transitioned from a republic to empire under Napoleon, the emperor adopted a new style that strongly evoked the Roman Empire, known as Empire style. The American Empire style communicated the strength and prosperity of the republic, as well as growing imperialist tendency in the expansion west.
This style was characterized by heavy, bulky, yet regal neoclassical forms that used architectural proportions and motifs to for visual weight. The concept of prosperity was captured in profuse ornamentation and decorations, primarily in the form of high reliefs, veneers, and exaggerated features. American attitudes about the republic really began changing after , reflecting a new confidence and optimism in the seemingly limitless potential of the nation.
That was an attitude the American Empire style of furniture certainly managed to reflect. To unlock this lesson you must be a Study. Login here for access. Did you know… We have over college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1, colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level. To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page.
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Timeline and descriptions of antique furniture styles
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American Empire Furniture: Style & Characteristics
Can furniture styles really reflect geopolitical attitudes? As it turns out, yes. In this lesson, we'll look at the American Empire style of furniture and see how a good chair can capture an entire nation's attitudes about their future. History In the early 19th century, Napoleon rose to power in the chaos of the French Revolution. The klismos-style chair, directly modeled on ancient Greek styles, was one of the most important forms of the Empire style This was the French Empire style. American Empire couch, modeled on Roman reclining beds After the War of ended, the United States entered into a period of rapid growth, relative peace, and prosperity.
Characteristics of American Empire Furniture Okay, that's a lot of history, which introduced some pretty complex political, economic, and social themes. The key to understanding American Empire furniture is to look for three things: Prominent Greek and Roman motifs Heavy visual weight to communicate strength and stability Lots of ornamentation to communicate prosperity Let's take a deeper look at the ideas of strength and prosperity in furniture. Try it risk-free No obligation, cancel anytime. Want to learn more?
Select a subject to preview related courses: Exaggerated features helped communicate a sense of prosperity and grandeur Lesson Summary When France transitioned from a republic to empire under Napoleon, the emperor adopted a new style that strongly evoked the Roman Empire, known as Empire style.
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I am a student I am a teacher. Unlock Your Education See for yourself why 30 million people use Study. Become a Member Already a member? What teachers are saying about Study. Earning College Credit Did you know… We have over college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1, colleges and universities. The scale used ranged from large and grand to small and petite. Carved details gave dimension and interest.
Carved decoration in the form of scallop shells, leaves and flowers, particularly roses, and acanthus further add to the ornamentation of this style of furniture. Legs and feet of this form are cabriole or scrolling. Other than what might be needed structurally, it is often difficult to find a straight element in Rococo Revival furniture. The use of marble for tabletops was quite popular, but expect to find the corners shaped to conform to the overall scrolling form.
To accomplish all this carving, walnut, rosewood, and mahogany were common choices. When lesser woods were used, they were often painted to reflect these more expensive woods. Some cast-iron elements can be found on furniture from this period, especially if it was cast as scrolls. The style began in France and England, but eventually migrated to America where it evolved into two other furniture styles, Naturalistic and Renaissance Revival. This sub-category of the Victorian era is probably the most feminine-influenced style.
- The French Empire, American Republic, and Chairs!
- A primer on furniture styles!
It also makes use of the new machine-turned spools and spiral profiles that were fast becoming popular with furniture makers. New technology advancements allowed more machined parts to be generated. By adding flowers, either carved or painted, the furniture pieces of this era had a softness to them. Chair backs tend to be high and narrow, having a slight back tilt. Legs vary from straight to baluster-turned forms to spindle turned.
This period of furniture design saw more usage of needlework upholstery and decoratively painted surfaces. However, this furniture style is not austere; it is adorned with ovals, arches, applied medallions, wreaths, garlands, urns and other Victorian flourishes. As the period aged, more ornamentation became present on the finished furniture styles. Furniture of this time was made from more expensive woods, such as ebony or rosewood. Walnut was popular around the s. Other dark woods were featured, often to contrast the lighter ornaments. Expect to find straight legs or fluted and slightly tapered legs.
This furniture period takes the scrolling effects of the Rococo Revival designs and adds more flowers and fruits to the styles. More detail is spent on the leaves—so much that one can tell if they are to represent grape, rose or oak leaves. Technology advances enhanced this design style, as manufacturers developed a way of laminating woods together. This layered effect was achieved by gluing thin layers together, with the grains running at right angles on each new layer.
The thick panels created were then steamed in molds to create the illusion of carving. The woods used as a basis for the heavy ornamentation were mahogany, walnut and some rosewood. Upholstery of this period is often tufted, eliminating any large flat surface. The name of John Henry Belter is often connected with this period, for it was when he did some of his best design work. John and Joseph W.
Meeks also enjoyed success with laminated furniture. Original labels bearing these names are sometimes found on furniture pieces from this period, giving further provenance. Furniture made in this style period reflects how cabinetmakers interpreted 16th- and 17th-century designs. Their motifs range from curvilinear and florid early in the period to angular and almost severe by the end of the period. Dark woods, such as mahogany and walnut, were primary with some use of rosewood and ebony. Walnut veneer panels were a real favorite in the s designs. Upholstery, usually of a more generous nature, was also often incorporated into this design style.
Ornamentation and high relief carving included flowers, fruits, game, classical busts, acanthus scrolls, strapwork, tassels and masks. Architectural motifs, such as pilasters, columns, pediments, balusters and brackets, are another prominent design feature. Legs are usually cabriole or have substantial turned profiles. It is characterized by elements reminiscent of Greek architecture, such as pilasters, flutes, column, acanthus, foliate scrolls, Greek key motifs and anthemion high-relief carving.
This style originated with the French, but was embraced by American furniture manufacturers. Woods are dark and often ebonized. Ornamentation may be gilded or bronzed. Legs tend to be curved to scrolled or cloven hoof feet. This design style is named for Charles Locke Eastlake, who wrote a popular book in called Hints on Household Taste. It was originally published in London. One of his principles was the relationship between function, form and craftsmanship. Shapes of furniture from this style tend to be more rectangular. Ornamentation was created through the use of brackets, grooves, chamfers and geometric designs.
American furniture manufacturers were enthusiastic about this style, since it was so easy to adapt for mass production. Woods used were again dark, but more native woods, such as oak, maple and pine, were incorporated. Legs and chair backs are straighter, often with incised decoration. Art Furniture , The style embraces both straight and angular with some pieces that are much more fluid, reflecting several earlier design periods.
This era saw the wide usage of turned moldings and dark woods, but this time stained to imitate ebony and lacquer. The growing Oriental influence is seen in furniture from this period, including the use of bamboo, which was imported and included in the designs. Legs tend to be straight; feet tend to be small.
And, for those desiring the look, good quality modern furniture is also made in this style. Their furniture designs often overlapped into architectural and interior design, including rugs, textiles and other accessories. Finishes were natural, fumed or painted. Hardware was often made in copper. Legs are straight and feet are small, if present at all, as they were often a simple extension of the leg. Some inlay of natural materials was used, such as silver, copper and abalone shells.
Just as the Art Nouveau period is known for women with long hair, flowers and curves, so is Art Nouveau furniture. The Paris Exposition of introduced furniture styles reflecting what was happening in the rest of the design world, such as jewelry and silver. This style of furniture was not warmly embraced, as the sweeping lines were not very conducive to mass production.
The few manufacturers that did interpret it for their factories found interest to be slight in America. The French held it in higher esteem. Legs tend to be sweeping or cabriole. Lines are crisp, with some use of controlled curves. The Chrysler Building in New York City remains among the finest example of Art Deco architecture and those same straight lines and gentle curves are found in furniture.
Makers used expensive materials, such as veneers, lacquered woods, glass and steel. The cocktail table first enters the furniture scene during this period. Upholstery can be vinyl or smooth fabrics. Legs are straight or slightly tapered; chair backs tend to be either low or extremely high. Furniture designed and produced during the Modernism period is distinctive, as it represents the usage of some new materials, like plastic, aluminum and molded laminates. The Bauhaus and also the Museum of Modern Art heavily influenced some designers. In , the museum organized competitions for domestic furnishings.
Designers Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames won first prize for their designs. A new chair design combined the back, seat and arms together as one unit.