In our designer furniture auctions, we often sell late Gothic and Renaissance Spanish models, including chests and writing desks with or without cover, as well as Italian chests of that period and different models with aesthetic influences in furniture’s design.
Baroque and the 18th Century in France
The 17th Century began with a classicist sobriety inherited from the taste of the late 16th Century, which strongly influenced during the early decades. As the century advanced, the taste for ornamentation, typical of the Baroque style, contributed to more colourful pieces, variety of materials and the Solomonic columns, which enriched the palatial furniture works (in the case of the richest, even made in pairs.)
The pieces of furniture known as “bargueños”, in the Iberian Peninsula, are a widespread sample; they were made with different polychrome and gilt varieties and often with carved bone applications. In the same field we can find cabinets, desks or Flemish or Neapolitan chests, which are often more striking due to their plates in red tortoiseshell, their ivory plaques on the drawers, their paintings or their gilt bronze applications.
However, the century was also restrained, specially in Spain; a good sample of this are the tables with lyre-shaped legs or turned legs, with robust surfaces; the friar’s chairs (with seats and backrests generally made of cordovan leather); or the squares and mirrors frames (polychrome and/or gilt).
Beginning of marquetry in furniture decoration
The French styles of the Louises also appeared in that century, when the austerity of Louis XIII gave way to the radiant solemnity of Louis XIV and Versailles. Charles Boulle greatly contributed to decorative furniture of that period. He introduced the famous marquetry that bears his name, which consisted in creating rich compositions on surfaces by combining tortoiseshell and brass. In the 18th Century, luxury, comfort, flair and sophistication reached the furniture.
The alternation of Regency, Louis XV, Louis XVI and Directory styles (including their own transitions) involved the incorporation of really fine plastic languages, typically French and which had a deep and amazing significance until the 20th Century. Typologies and decorative details in carved wood, such as rockeries, flowers, panoplies, garlands, birds, angels or “chinnoiseries”, along with “cabriolé” lines of the Louis XV style, and the most organized and soft of the Louis XVI. All of them had and they still have a great significance in furniture up to the present time.
The United Kingdom and Spain
A parallel but different evolution took place in England, where the sobriety of William and Mary and Queen Anne styles led to the Rococo sophistication of Chippendale. At the end of the Century predominated the Neo-Classical styles of Adam and Hepplewhite. While in France there were the “Louises”, in England were the “Georges” (George I, George II and George III), who ruled during almost the whole 18th Century and who created the “Georgian” period, which includes, among others, the aforementioned 18th Century styles.
In the rest of the European countries, and even in America, there was a parallel evolution, with English or French influences, together with the obvious local singularities. In Spain, the 18th Century was marked by the reign of the Borbons (Philip V, Ferdinand VI, Charles III and Charles IV). There was a connection with the above-said styles, but Spanish styles also had their own features and were very influential in Latin America. The concept of “High Time”, widely mentioned in the field of antiques and of historical furniture in general, and in which Balclis auction house is specialised, ends in the 18th Century.
The 19th Century
The styles became more international in the 19th Century and the evolution in France, from the Borbon Empire and Restoration (Charles X and Louis Philip) to Napoleon III, had a major influence on European tastes.
The own line of the English aesthetics was also influenced by parallel trends, which began with Regency furniture, continued with the William IV style and finished with the Victorian style in the second half of the century. A constant feature in the furniture of that period —as well as in silver, porcelain, ivory, fans… and in the most of decorative arts— was the historicist taste for the styles from the past.
Neo-Gothic, Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Mudéjar… were some of the styles in vogue during that period, which recalled aesthetics from other periods and places. However, the recovery of the 18th Century French styles during the second half of the 19th Century was probably the most successful, with an amazing revival of the furniture with Boulle marquetry and the Louis XV and Louis XVI taste. There are usually good examples of these features in all Balclis sales.
In Spain there were mainly French influences. The Ferdinand, Mary Christine Regency and Elizabethan periods corresponded to the French styles, from Empire style to Napoleon III style.
From Art Nouveau to Art Déco
In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the historicist styles come to an end with the emergence of Art Nouveau (Modernism in Spain, with the most noteworthy Catalan Modernisme). The influence of the Japanese aesthetics and the obsession to reproduce all of the aspects of Nature, brought to furniture a new smoothness, variety and freedom, dominated by the coup-de-fuet line (or “latiguillo”). In Nancy, in Brussels, in Paris, in Turin, in St. Petersburg or in Barcelona, we can still see several architectural samples of that style, as well as a large amount of antique furniture, both in museums and in private collections.
Art Déco was the opposite of the Art Nouveau’s sweetness and excessive curves, and it was a success in the Paris great exhibition in 1925. Thereafter, a taste for fine and elegant furniture, but of great visual force, prevailed. Volumes and decorations were at that time of geometric shapes and pure lines and those plated with fine woods and lacquered in Oriental style were a huge success. Art Déco can be considered as the last of the great historical styles, which already coexisted with the origins of design.