Named ‘Victorian’ in reference to Queen Victoria who was the reigning Queen between 1837 and 1901, the Victorian period saw a number of design movements. There is a mixture of styles amongst Victorian antiques and something to suit everyone’s taste; there were dramatic changes during the sixty-four-year period among the arts and this contributed to the vast selection of Victorian antiques now available.
The Victorian era is sometimes separated into three stages, the Romantic period 1837-1860, the Grand period 1860-1885 and the Aesthetic period 1885-1901. The design movements included, but were not limited to, the Gothic Revival, Rococo and the Renaissance Revival. The Art Nouveau, and the Arts and Crafts movements surfaced towards the end of the Victorian era, as did the Aesthetic movement. Victorian décor is mainly associated with intricate, elaborate detailing and carvings, with textiles featuring heavy designs and rich colours; colours were generally deep blues, rich reds and strong greens.
The Gothic revival, although it began in the 18th C was a prominent design influence of the Victorian period, the Houses of Parliament built during the Victorian era in the 1830’s and designed by Pugin and Barry are a typical representation of the gothic influences of the time. With it’s pointed and arched details and stained glass, the architecture, furniture and jewellery took on an altogether darker theme.
The French Rococo design movement again began earlier than the Victorian era but revived in the 19th C, and peaked in its influence between the 1840’s to the mid 1860’s. Also known as French Style, it focused on asymmetry, the Rococo design of furniture was very visually appealing, more often than not free standing and graceful. The Rococo movement was more focused on jewellery, ceramics and furniture as opposed to architecture. With an emphasis on natural motifs, carved forms and curves and scrolls, it was considered very glamorous and luxurious in Britain and was one of the most popular design movements of the Victorian period.
Towards the latter part of the 19th C namely 1890’s onwards, the Art Nouveau movement that was inspired by nature emerged, with a concentration on natural forms and fluidity, this trend tended to focus on harmonising with the natural environment. Art Nouveau encompassed architectural design, interiors, jewellery and furniture and was considered an encompassing design movement. Jewellery from this period was largely led by Paris and Brussels designers, with French designer Rene’ Lalique being a particular influential designer, the iconic incorporation of the dragonfly is a famous piece of jewellery from this time.
The Arts and Crafts movement from 1880 onwards favoured traditional craftsmanship, with an emphasis on simplicity; folk, medieval and romantic styles were popular. The artist William Morris was an influential figure in this design movement.
During the Aesthetic movement between 1885 and 1901, a number of characteristics were associated with the style of furniture produced, such as blue and white porcelain, an Oriental/Far East influence, painted or stained wood with gilt highlights and the incorporation of nature within the designs. A notable aesthetic interior designer of the time was James Abbott McNeil Whistler.
Victorian Furniture, Jewellery and Silver
Furniture during the Victorian period was generally heavy, dark and elaborately carved, drawing upon the Gothic influences. A chaise longue is a typical item of furniture from this period, as is a sideboard. Prominent wood furniture designers of the time included George Hunzinger, Merklen Brothers and Allen and Brother. French style furniture will often feature cabriole legs, scrolls and curves, with upholstery being generally heavy and made using fabrics such as velvet. A gold gilt wood mirror is representative of the Victorian’s penchant for excessive and grand designs.
Jewellery from this time was largely influenced by Queen Victoria’s personal style and circumstance, it increased in popularity during this era, mainly due to the mass production associated with the Industrial Revolution, jewellery was very much a status symbol of the time. Towards the latter part of the Victorian period antique jewellery took on a darker theme alongside the death of Prince Albert, with black onyx, and darker gemstones being used in the designs.
Victorian silver was considered very valuable, there was an increase in silver plated goods; the value being determined on how much silver was in the mix. Silver from this period tended to include elaborate designs and decorative features such as birds and floral motifs.
The Victorian period of design is vast and varied and there are many beautiful items of furniture, jewellery and silver ware to choose from.