Queen Victoria’s reign lasted many years and the era that bears her name spans from the early 1800’s through the turn of the century. Styles changed during that period so saying you like Victorian era furniture actually covers a number of different furniture styles. For this post I’ll focus on the French Rococo Revival style. Both the earlier Rococo and the later Rococo Revival styles are easily identified by their organic carving including leaf and berry shapes. While Rococo furniture designs were asymmetric, the later Rococo Revival designs were almost always symmetric. Below is an ornately carved Victorian era Rococo Revival parlor set composed of medallion back settee with its matching gentleman’s and woman’s chairs.
This set is made of carved rosewood with ceramic casters and has been painstakingly re-upholstered at some point prior to me acquiring them. Shown below is the “medallion” that gives the settee its name. Note the rosewood color/grain patterns and the heavy but graceful carving.
The carving on either side of the medallion is “pierced” carving which means that there is a carved opening completely through the piece of wood. As you can see from the direction of the wood grain, these pieces of furniture are constructed of multiple pieces of wood glued together and carved as if they were a single piece of wood. Based on the overall design, I estimate that these pieces were made in the United States in 1855-1865. It would be extremely expensive to purchase the rosewood necessary to create this set today. If you bought exactly the amount of rosewood you needed and made no mistakes during construction, your material cost alone would be in the thousands of (US) dollars. However, it’s very cost effective to purchase antique furniture instead because, as mentioned above, antiques are typically far less expensive than the modern day cost of materials. And, there is the added benefit that you don’t have to be a carver or woodworker to own some beautifully crafted furniture.
The parlor set shown above and the side chairs shown below are Rococo Revival style but from slightly different periods of the Victorian era.
While the parlor set was made 1855-1865, the chairs were made 1830-1840. As you can see below, the chairs are more exquisitely carved and are visually lighter (and thus are probably French made).
The seat pan is also shaped differently. The parlor chairs have a round seat while the side chairs have a shield shaped seat.
Otherwise there are many obvious similarities. These pieces have symmetric floral carving, finger molding, and modified cabriole legs. Despite being made many years apart and the wood color being slightly different, these furniture sets are made out of the same type of rosewood which is beautiful and lends itself to carving. (In case you’re wondering about the name, rosewood is actually brown/black in color but smells like roses when it’s cut.)
Rococo Revival furniture was typically used in the parlor (which we in the United States would call a formal living room or sitting room today). Some bedroom sets and dining sets were also made, but these are somewhat rare. The Rococo Revival pieces in my collection will be used for a parlor area in my new home, however you are not limited to this. Antique furniture of similar style sits well next to each other, so be eclectic. Hopefully this short post has given you some food for thought and piqued your interest in antique furniture. Until next week, enjoy the journey towards elegance!