Antique Victorian Furniture
Victorian furniture, from Rocco Revival to Eastlake, all strived towards elegance and beauty. The use of rich veneers, inlaid marquetry and mother of pearl, decorative metal mounts, ebonizing, and gilt incising all contributed to lavish decorative style of Victorian Furniture.
During the course of the entire Victorian era, there was a continued desire to emulate the finest of European taste and culture. This resulted in a succession of revivals during the Victorian era, 1830-1901. While Rococo Revival, Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival lasted a number of years and enjoyed great popularity among the wealthy and socially prominent, some styles lasted only a brief period of time.
The Rococo Revival style was immensely popular from the 1850s to 1900. The Rococo Revival furniture made by well-established manufacturers such as John Henry Belter, Joseph Meeks and Sons, and Alexander Roux was the most recognized, respected and sought after. These Victorian era cabinetmakers were based in New York City, specializing in a new manufacturing process that produced beautiful laminated rosewood furniture. They perfected the process of laminating thin sheets of wood, and through the use of steam, molded them into the desired shape. The result was especially strong plywood-like planks that could be pierced with ornate, naturalistic carvings. This process allowed for the creation of the fantastically carved rosewood pieces found in the parlour rooms of the financial giants of the time, and in the White House.
The Renaissance Revival style emerged about 1850 on the East Coast and lasted until near the end of the century. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, which at that time was considered the “furniture metropolis of the world”, Renaissance Revival furniture was designed by well known manufacturers like Berkey and Gay Furniture Company and Pottier and Stymus Manufacturing Co. A walnut bedroom suite with burl veneer designed by Berkey and Gay won a medal at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Renaissance Revival was a French inspired movement, and its elegant style produced refined and beautiful pieces coveted internationally.
The Eastlake style came to America by the 1870s, however Charles Eastlake himself was already well known through his book, Hints on Household Taste. Although furniture manufacturers all had their own interpretations of Eastlake style during the Victorian era, it generally meant clean lined massive rectangular pieces decorated with geometric carved designs, incising, ball-and-spindle spandrels and undeniably masculine details. The American Eastlake style is the most recognized variant of the Aesthetic Movement, which rejected revivalism, and was instead influenced by the arts of Japan and the principle of promoting morality and honesty in craftsmanship.