What Style Is It?
For several years furniture styles have been associated with the reign of different monarchs or designers. We are use to names like Queen Ann or Chippendale to refer to certain furniture styles. In recent years this means of identification has changed. Art historians and curators have begun to recognize that furniture is better defined by periods of art. There were three major art styles that influenced 18th and 19th century furniture prior to the industrial revolution the baroque, rococo, and neoclassical. This is a more specific way of identifying different styles because sometimes different designers names coexist in the same art period. Hepplewhite, Adam, and Sheraton is an example of this. They were all designers of the same period producing very similar designs yet we have said this is Sheraton or this is Hepplewhite
Art, architecture, music, mathematics, and engineering all had a rebirth with the beginning of the renaissance. It was a new way of looking and understanding of life. This was due in part to the combination of science and theology. The perfection of geometry was considered to be a reflection of the perfection of God. All of the arts and sciences had geometry as their heart and soul. The results was a unified system of design for all the arts that was to last for almost 400 years. In architecture if geometry was it’s soul the orders of architecture was it’s heart.
Renaissance architects looked to Roman buildings and found the wonderful rhythm of geometry and that columns supported everything. They found that every part of the column and entablature was proportionally related to the whole. This was like poetry in stone. With windows, niches, doors and columns they could create metered patterns just like music or poetry.
In the preface of Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director, 1754, he says that to excel in this work one must understand the orders. The first five plates are of the five orders of architecture, Tuscan, Dorick, Ionick, Corinthian, and Composite. These are the same orders the renaissance architects like Serlio, Palladio, and others had set fourth 200 years before. Each of these men interpreted them a little differently because they had seen different originals. They also added pedestals to the columns.
As the renaissance gave way to the baroque the system of proportional design remained the same. In the baroque as the renaissance symmetry was dominate but wall began to be curved and filled with ornament almost like sculpture. In fact painting, sculpture, and architecture were often combined for very dramatic effect.