Georgian Furniture History

A quick guide to Georgian furniture history

The early Georgian period kept with the styles that had come from the Queen Anne period and continued in popularity, but underwent modifications of its own.

The most important change that occurred was the replacement of walnut by mahogany. Mahogany had first been observed on a voyage in 1595 by the carpenter on board Sir Walter Raleigh’s ship. It was admired as one of the many wonders of the Indies and on very rare occasions used. In the early/mid part of the 18th century, mahogany rapidly won favour among cabinet makers due to it being very strong, long lasting and having close grained wood; the rich dark red colour was well sought after. The lifting of taxes on mahogany imports by Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole in the mid-18th century was the start of the mahogany revolution. It was the start of fantastic British furniture.

Carving of the highest quality was used in seating furniture, a carved eagle’s head or sometimes scroll form was favoured for the termination of the arms. Furniture was ornate, with lavish carving and golden ornamentation; it was sculpture like and could just as easily have been carved out of stone as of wood. Motifs used were the lion mask, the satyr or human mask, the acanthus, the claw and ball foot, the scroll foot and the paw foot. It was the start of fantastic British furniture. The Palladian-style furniture made much use of elaborate pediments, masks and sphinxes. As the Georgian period progressed, Britain had a wealthier and more knowledgeable lower upper class that wanted the trimmings that came with wealth. This is the real boom for the English Cabinetmaker.

The age of the great designers had started. Chippendale, Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton helped create masterpieces that are being recreated up to the present day. They sold publications of their designs and the first of Chippendale’s sold for the large sum of £2. 8s. As the Georgian period progressed so did the furniture. It formed a distinct contrast with that of the earlier period as a new simplicity and severity of form was sought. In general, curved lines became straight, ornament was abundant and sometimes intricate, but of a less robust character and was usually painted inlaid or applied in low relief.

Georgian Antiques

Georgian antiques have survived in large numbers due to the quality of the craftsmanship and timbers used, they have mellowed with age and matured with beauty and will sit happily in the smallest home to largest mansion and will be admired by all.

Georgian Furniture Facts

Monarchs: George I, George II, George III

Dates: 1714-1811

Important Developments: 1756–1763: Seven Years War with France Rococo style influential. Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole – gives tax exemption for Jamaican mahogany (Age of the Designer). 1775–1782: American War of Independence Neo–classical style influential Regency Period.

Materials: Mahogany begins to supplant walnut as a fashionable wood. Popularity of satinwood Popularity of rosewood (1800 -1840).