Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Regency Furniture

The ugliest piano ever.
A look through Ackermann's furniture prints reveals a style no one has endeavored to keep alive. When we think of 19th century furniture, almost everyone thinks of high Victorian style: a room jam-packed with curvy, velvet-upholstered seating, flowery carpets, four kinds of wallpaper, massive drapery on windows, doors, and mantelpieces, tables, bookcases, and whatnots laden with innumerable bric-a-brac, huge framed pictures hanging from the ceiling rail, and a potted palm desperately reaching for the little sunlight that is allowed into the room.

During Regency times, we have a whole different set of influences. Neoclassical, or French Empire style drew from the model of classical civilizations. Architect Robert Adam went gung-ho for classical in the last quarter of the 18th century, which is why most of American public buildings look like they should be in ancient Rome. Napoleon appropriated the look (along with much of Europe), which developed into what was called French Empire. Light colors were preferred for walls and drapery. Gone was the dark wood of Georgian furniture, and replaced with light-colored woods or painted finishes.Although chairs were often light-weight, in the klismos style, most furniture was heavy and monumental. Stationary pieces were often ornamented with pillar-like legs or carved human or mythical figures. Some of the curves of Rococo style remained, especially in the daybed, still called a recamier, after the painting of Mme. Recamier reclining on one. Mme. Recamier reclined a lot. But all in all, big and straight was the look of the day.
Another hideous piano.

Bottom line -- I can't see anyone going out to buy Ackermann's furniture, even on a big clearance sale. I wonder where it all went.  Years ago, I, with no shame, retrieved a huge chair from neighborhood trash day. It was in awful shape, with rotted upholstery fabric. I tore it all off and found it was stuffed with bags and bags of chaff and many rusted springs. I showed it to an upholsterer who told me to hang on to it, as it was a German chair from the mid-1800s. I've still got it up in the barn, waiting for lots of work. It's just massive. There are lots of similar chairs out there, although I haven't found one quite like it.

Don't you wish everyone had saved these sofas (said no one ever)? Look what some Russians bought! And Hortense de Beauharnais (Empress Josephine's daughter)!

Thanks to 1stdibs for wonderful antique furniture pics!

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