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Regency Furniture Fit For The Prince Regent

Table Antique

The nomenclature of Regency denotes the period of decorative arts in England dating from 1800 to 1830. The period collides with the French Empire style, which is evident in the Regency appropriation of the French taste in certain arenas. The term Regency style is typified by elegant furniture. There were momentous changes in the character that Regency furniture embraced, amounting to a completely different style. This elegance was therefore newly distinct. The era was a time of excess for the aristocracy: for example, it was during this period that the Prince Regent built the ostentatious Royal Pavilion, which later became referred to as Brighton Pavilion after its sale to the town. Quintessential examples of Regency furniture can be viewed at Chatsworth House which is the suspected basis for Pemberley; the grand estate featured in the epitomisation of the Regency novel, Pride and Prejudice. The subdivisions of Regency furniture that will be explored in this post are The Egyptian Revival, The Grecian Revival, the Bergère chair, The French Taste and George Bullock.

Archaeologists encouraged the exploration of Egypt in the late eighteenth century, but it was not until the 1802 publication of Dominique Denon’s Voyages Dans la Basse et Haute Egypte that a resurgence in popularity of Egyptology became notable. This book depicted Egyptian architecture and was a catalyst for the crazed fashion for Egypt that swept over Regency England. This was therefore reflected in furniture design of the period, which is conspicuous in the above Regency Writing Table in the Egyptian manner. This particular table is supported by acanthus carved and reeded stylised figures with Egyptian heads ending on well-carved feet.

The Bergère originated in French design. In these types of Regency chairs, arm-supports are generally continuations of the legs. Often, the arm curves downward in an arc, touching the seat frame and finishing in a small scroll. Bergère armchairs typically have caned back and arms, which can be seen in the picture. These particular chairs are supported on lotus carved turned tapering front legs and well splayed back legs, ending on original castors. In Regency seat furniture, the new severity finds elucidation in the classic character of the painted decorations and the horizontal approach towards the back of the chair. This austerity is inspired by the ideal of Grecian severity, and these types of chairs were the height of fashion throughout the period.

In the1790’s, French émigrés fleeing political persecution brought a substantial amount of Louis XVI furniture to England and they were sold in abundance on the London market. Furthermore, French craftsmen absconding the French Revolution of 1789 to 1799 established their homes and businesses in England. This influx of French influence into this country is echoed in the Regency taste for French furniture. By the early 1820’s, many opulently furnished homes favoured the French taste of furniture. These French Empire armchairs evident in the picture above, having arc-en-arblette tops with inset ormolu plaques depicting different classical aquatic scenes above upholstered panelled backs with lotus carved arms, are typical of French chairs of this period.

George Bullock was a furniture-maker and designer who arrived in London in 1813 from Liverpool. He was notably commissioned for his furniture designs by Sir Walter Scott for Abbotsford House between 1816 and 1818. Characteristic of his eccentric style is the magnificence of the octagon. Most of the floral decoration evident in his work was inspired from British plants. His designs are so central to the history of British furniture because they somewhat prefigure Victorian taste. The above Centre table circa 1820 is in the manner of George Bullock exemplifies his approach; it possesses octagonal top crossbanded in oak, strung in red & green stained holly and inlaid with ebony scrolled, stylised lotus leaf & fleur de lys decoration.

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