Art Deco furniture, intended mainly for selected wealthy buyers, often resembled a casket made of a valuable, rare material, which making was an achievement of furniture art deriving from the best traditions of eighteenth century French Ebenistes. During this time, the richness of patterns and decorations were used which were available thanks to obtaining new, numerous kinds of wood from overseas. The most frequently used were ebony from Sulawesi, Brazilian rosewood, mahogany, amaranth, sycamore and various sets of these veneers with solid ash or maple. A specific contrast between the compact structure of some and the uneven surface of others enables an infinite number of combinations.
Fig. 1.50 Dresser from the Art Nouveau period
When the Art Nouveau period appeared in Europe, the shape of furniture was simplified. Due to the use of natural wood and perfectly matched components, furniture was considered to be products of exceptionally high quality. Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo’s (1851-1942) furniture appeared at this time, an architect and designer from the circle of arts and crafts and the founder of the association of artists and craftsmen established in 1882 under the name Century Guild.
Mackmurdo furniture designed in the 1970s combined arts and crafts trends with the style referring to Japanese art. Characteristic of this period was searching for new, cheap and technological products, especially two technologies hot-curving wood and veneering, which exerted a significant influence on the development of design... >
During the eclectic period, homage was paid to short-lived trends that were based on former historical styles. This wave of sentiments sparked interior designs in Turkish, Persian, Indian, Chinese and Japanese style. All of these stylish trends put together gradually led to the internal disintegration of Biedermeier style. In addition, they resulted in the collapse of an established furniture art, shaped on the healthy centuries’ old craft traditions. The progressing industrialisation contributed to ousting craft workshops that constituted forges of talents and a place of collaboration for artists with craftsmen. Nevertheless, the industry contributed to the creation of a separate branch of furniture making—furniture manufactured in series and packed in boxes... >
Furniture from this period is characterised by a solid built, choice of appropriate raw material and a design that meets the requirements of users. For their production, the following wood was mostly used: mahogany, walnut, birch, cherry, pear, elm, poplar, ash and oak.
Biedermeier case furniture is characterised by a similar, but greatly simplified form in relation to the analogous furniture manufactured in England at the end of the eighteenth century (Fig. 1.45). Most of the panel elements of furniture were joined using an oblique dovetail joint. The bottoms of drawers were inserted in a groove, while the face was situated in one plane with the rest of the top surface of the piece of furniture... >
The empire style in France evolved as a symbol of Napoleon I’s Empire, based on turbulent political and social changes. Empire furniture has a monumental, compact, heavy and massive form. Straight lines and mostly flat surfaces prevail here.
Case furniture was equipped with a wide, massive base that emphasised grandeur and lack of mobility. Usually, they were veneered with dark-red mahogany, which was contrasted with gilded browns and wood carved ornaments, inlay was
rarely encountered. The French empire caused the creation of new types of cabinets and bookcases, as well as new constructions which were sometimes glass-cased on three sides for china... >
In France, under the influence of archaeological discoveries in Pompeii and Herculaneum, a significant turn occurred towards antique forms. Furniture was deprived of Baroque features, structures were significantly simplified, replacing curved lines with straight elements. Chairs, though almost unchanged, compared to the previous era, were characterised mostly by grooved legs. The connection of cases and legs was strongly emphasised by the presence of a cuboid cube usually
Fig. 1.35 Drawings of chairs by Thomas Chippendale (1753) (Thomas Chippendale, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director, London 1754. The Chippendale Society)
Fig. 1.36 Chest of drawers made by Thomas Chippendale, around 1760
decorated with a sculpted rosette... >
French artists and craftsmen perfected the technique of finishing furniture by discovering a terrific black and red furniture lacquer, which imitated Chinese lacquer ideally. Designers put a lot of effort and creative passion into the aesthetics and
Fig. 1.32 Hallway cupboard, beginning of the eighteenth century
comfort of furniture for sitting: chairs, armchairs, sofas, chaise longues, etc. Finely curved legs of furniture without connectors, rounded corners and smooth lines corresponded harmoniously with delicate tapestry fabrics and wall coverings. During this period, French furniture did not have flat surfaces and straight lines. Thanks to this, the cubic case furniture was enlivened: by profiles narrowing downwards, curved legs and surfaces of hatches, doors and side walls (Fig. 1... >
The most characteristic pieces of furniture of the Baroque are those of Louis XIV, the absolutist ruler, who gave the majesty of the authority, which he represented, an appropriate exterior form. Therefore, the products manufactured in Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne founded in 1667 had an adequate aesthetic form. Their characteristic feature is, among others, using flat decorations in case furniture, called marquetry, while in skeletal furniture (such as chairs, armchairs, tables) wood carving decorations. The legs of the furniture mentioned were originally in the form of vertical, four-side beam elements tapered towards the bottom, stabilised at the bottom by connectors made of curved boards... >
1.4.1 Renaissance Furniture
When in Italy a new direction in artistic creativity appeared, which directed its inventiveness towards potential users, furniture achieved previously unencountered aesthetic and functional values. They ceased to be exclusively objects of common use and transformed into works of applied art just as attractive as sculptures or paintings. During this period, artists drew from the rich heritage of ancient culture, using woodworking techniques similar to those used by sculptors working with stone. Chairs with a cross-structure and richly decorated stools came to be widely used (Fig. 1.25).
During the Renaissance, the masters in furniture production were the Italians from Florence, Sienna, Lombardy and Venice... >
A characteristic feature of furniture in the early Middle Ages was the widespread use of wood turning techniques, including for legs, backrests, cases and connectors. Many of these elements referred to the products of Roman artisans in form and style. In the Byzantine period, furniture was incrusted with ivory and lined with rich and soft fabrics. Like the Greeks and Romans, Byzantine carpenters used support legs between which they fitted openwork or board backrests. A symbol of the significant influence of the antiquity on Byzantine work is also the throne of King Dagobert (Fig. 1.20).
In the Romanesque period, the technique of manufacturing furniture deteriorated significantly and came down to simple carpenter works, while for decorating purposes polychromy and coloured paintings on a c... >