Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Chairs That Go Bump in the Night, Part 2: More Gothic Furniture

Are you ready for more Gothic fashions for your home?

Of course, every well-appointed castle home needs a Gothic Flower Stand. As the accompanying text says, “Among the various decorations of modern apartments we can reckon none, perhaps, more pleasing than a flower-stand: it diversifies and enlivens the appearance of almost any room; and the odoriferous perfume proceeding from the flowers, and the beautiful appearance of their variegated hues, tend at once to delight and charm the senses. There is no style more appropriate for this sort of decoration than the gothic: its crockets, finials, foliage, pendants, &c. all flowing and pliable, seem to be a continuation of nature; while its open and fanciful traceries contribute to the lightness of the effect.” The text goes on to say that it cannot be determined if flower stands are “of any great antiquity”, but that any well-appointed modern home should have one...and now we know the Regency origin of this very popular Victorian style. (Ackermann’s Repository, August 1826)

The preoccupation with finding some link to the ancient past in the descriptions of furniture is noteworthy and more than a little amusing; somehow, linking the day’s furniture to the past somehow made it better (as we saw a few weeks back with the Gothic pianoforte.) In the text accompanying this illustration of Candelabras from September 1826’s Repository (which look like an ancestor of the floor lamp) the anonymous author discusses at length their use in Roman household d├ęcor and how they lend themselves to Gothic styling for modern “elegant furniture.” Gotta say, though, that the candelabra at right, complete with two tiers of flying buttresses, is just a tad on the silly side...

And speaking of Gothic pianofortes...another example, this time of an upright pianoforte complete with coverings of crimson silk to set off the brass and rosewood. The music stand, with its candles, is a re-imagining of an example found at King’s College in Cambridge, and the chair includes a screw seat that can be raised up and down at the convenience of the pianist.

The description of a Gothic Sofa in the November 1826 Repository is worth, I think, quoting in full: “The annexed plate represents a sofa in the Gothic style. This piece of furniture is comparatively of modern date, and undoubtedly of Eastern origin; but in adapting it to European customs, it has been found necessary to vary the decoration in some degree from that of the original model.

“In the Oriental countries a sofa is but little elevated from the floor, and consists of soft cushions covered with silk and other costly materials. Two of these are generally piled upon one another, and a third is placed against the wall to recline upon. These cushions are thus ranged round an apartment, and the heat of the climate renders them indispensible, either for public meetings or private assemblies. They are also well calculated for the sitting posture of the Eastern nations, which requires an easy couch. As none of these conveniences are adapted to the climate and customs of Europeans, the artist has been obliged to make some change from the original; so that the modern sofa presents quite a different appearance from its Oriental original: it nevertheless possesses a comfort which entitles it to rank among useful furniture. From its flowing and easy form, it is more calculated for the Italian than the Gothic style: the latter character has nevertheless been attempted to be given in the present design, which is composed from the best authorities in the florid style.”

And finally,  January 1827’s issue brings a Gothic upright moveable (see the little wheels?) Looking-glass, with a description containing familiar text about a looking-glass of this size being a luxury unknown to “our ancestors” but admirably adapted to the florid style...

Any favorites this time around? I just keep thinking of the poor maids who job it would be to keep this furniture dusted and polished...!

1 comment:

AardFish said...

Thanks very much for the illustrations of Gothic (or really Gothick) furniture from Ackermann's Repository - I've been trying to find these Repository items for ages, but no luck until I accidentally came on them tonight! I am a total junkie for all Gothic Revival stuff, but my Other Half isn't keen on the Strawberry Hill type - he says they make him think of bad horror films! Did you know these designs were most probably by Charles Pugin, father of the more famous AWN Pugin, who designed the Houses of Parliament in London? Pugin Junior also designed furniture in this style for Windsor Castle at the request of William IV (the Regent's brother, the former Duke of Clarence), but he later disowned all of it when he became more seriously acquainted with real medieval furniture. Sadly, his masterpiece for William IV, the Great Sideboard, was destroyed in the Windsor Castle fire of 1992.