Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Identify Renaissance Revival Style Furniture

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Image by Hannah Manning via Materials Unlimited
Renaissance Revival style furniture is the masculine counterpart to the feminine, French-inspired Rococo Revival style of the mid 19th century.  Instead of drawing from forms found in nature like the Rococo Revival style before it, Renaissance Revival takes design queues from the very unnatural, very square architectural world. True Renaissance Revival style furniture features heavy rectilinear designs incorporating architectural-like moldings, heavy carvings, and even columns. The furniture style also imitates forms found in the architectural orders of ancient Greece – the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders.

Image by Hannah Manning via
Materials Unlimited
Popular between 1860 and 1890 at the very height of the American Victorian Period, the Renaissance Revival style played into the social gender roles of the era. Where Rococo Revival style furniture is delicate, light in form, and curvy like a woman's body, Renaissance Revival style furniture is heavy, broad, and built on an often grandiose scale.  It's no wonder that Rococo Revival furniture was often selected for the most feminine of room within the Victorian home, the parlor.  And, while the woman of the home would converse with her guests on a Louis XV style curvy settee, the man of the house would sleep in a bed fit for giants and dine a table even Paul Bunyan would envy.

Image by Hannah Manning via
Materials Unlimited

So, what's the easiest way to identify Renaissance Revival style furniture? Here are five things to look for:

1). Oversized  scale
2). Architectural moldings, cornices, pediments,
          or columns
3). Flat, applied carvings, cartouches, or veneers
4). Dark heavy wood (most often walnut)
5). Square or rectilinear shape

             Buffalo History and Architecture
             Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks          
             University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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