Furniture in the English Baroque Period
By: Kevin Murphy
The introduction of the Baroque style in England during the Restoration period had became popular throughout Europe in influencing art, architecture, music and in particular furniture. The Baroque style originated in Italy but the origin of the word 'baroque' is unclear but is thought to be from the Portugese 'barocco' or deformed pearl. The beginnings of the baroque furniture period started with the Dutch and French craftsmen known for their techniques in veneering, gilding, marquetry and use of lacquer with many having immigrated to England for the furniture trade. Furniture pieces produced in France were known for their elaborate and ornamented styles thatwere made for French king Louis XIV becoming representative of the ‘Louis XIV’ style for the Baroque period which would become popular in Englands grand country houses.
One aspect of the Baroque style was the influence and support by the Catholic Church which was to counter the Protestant Reformation and as a result introduced religious ideas and themes with drama, motion, exuberance and symmetry into the Baroque style.
Design elements of the Baroque period were the use of twisted columns with curves to give a more dramatic effect with cabinets, armoires and tall furniture with four legs thus being the only part of the furniture to make contact with the floor. Also incorporated into the furniture were the use of mouldings for use on pedestals and drawers with inspirations in wood carvings in particular by Grinling Gibbons.
Adding to the elaborate designs were the use of inlays or thin wood, ivory or metal pieces of various colours into the design. Gilded finishes featuring gold leaf would become a new design
trend in the 18th century especially for the very wealthy. Eventually the golden decorations were to be found in household items such as doorknobs.
The first example of the influences of Baroque can be found in this Table and Candle Stands produced around 1670. The curved, spiral turned legs and its pedestal feet were a common feature in Baroque era tables.
This particular furniture piece demonstrates the use marquetry or the application of a variety of veneers to wood products. The Restoration period which would last until 1690 during the period of Charles II would see the use of fine details for floral designs, birds, cupids and leaf motifs on tables this size.
This era brought new techniques in the construction of bookcases and cabinetry particularly with the use of oak and walnut woods. Oak could be found as it grew locally but walnut was imported from either France or Virginia and the finished products could be heavy in weight. The cabinetswith their marquetry, carving and fine details became very popular with some furniture having Heraldic crests and monograms of peoples initials as an additional style feature.
By the 1730’s the Baroque period in England with its elaborate ornamentalism gave way to the less elaborate classical Georgian period.