A Primer on Antique Furniture Part 4: Elizabethan Era Furniture
The Elizabethan era produced one of the most well-respected and influential leaders of England’s rich history – Queen Elizabeth I – and with her came an elegant and sophisticated furniture style that can still be seen in households across the world today.
The Elizabethan style emerged as a transition from the designs of the English Renaissance and developed between the years of 1558 and 1603. While the era is best remembered for its fusion of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, its furniture exuded many of the same characteristics and developed into what we now know as Elizabethan era furniture.
Elizabethan furniture was inspired by both the Gothic and Renaissance styles, most notably those that emerged in Holland, Germany, and the Flemish lands at the time. Greek influences also influenced the furniture in the form of intricate ornamentation and designs that seemed to appear on every piece constructed during the era. The need to leave a personal mark on an object after construction was paramount to most furniture makers and developed a culture where painstaking labor became the norm. As a result, Elizabethan furniture became a revered art form that attracted those with exquisite taste in furniture.
As you may imagine, complex ornamentation and motifs were one of the most defining characteristics of Elizabethan furniture. In fact, it was extremely rare for any area of the furniture to be void of some form of decoration. Fruit and floral designs – particularly grape and vine leafs – were very popular, as well as masks, grotesques and lozenge ornamentation. The pieces themselves were crafted from hardwood, with oak being the overwhelming choice for most furniture makers. Some of the finer examples were constructed using walnut for its lighter and thinner composition, but for the most part they were intended solely for decorative purposes. Oak items – such as tables and cupboards – were usually seen in more lived-in areas that could handle the wear-and-tear of everyday life.
Elizabethan Palace Furniture
While there isn’t much record left of Elizabethan palace furniture, there are a few things that we do know about it. Taking the ornamentation trend of the time and running with it, palace furniture evolved into something new by adding skillful joinery work, marble of various colors, and tapestries made of gold or silk. Intricate images were also painted on many of the chairs and tables as a way of enhancing the beauty of a particular piece.
While original pieces from the era are extraordinarily rare and reserved only for museums or the wealthiest collectors, antique reproduction furniture from the Elizabethan era encompasses all of the same characteristics that made it so popular at the time. When shopping for your home, be sure to always choose a piece that is constructed of real hardwood and not MDF, particleboard, or plywood. Reputable furniture makers like Laurel Crown only use high quality woods for their antique reproduction pieces and create work that is built to last for many years. Before heading out and buying the first thing you see, make sure to do your research and verify the dealer you are working with is building you a quality reproduction.