Furniture History: the Baroque Style

During the 17th century Europe, a new artistic school takes precedent in all areas of creation: the Baroque. The main characteristic of Baroque art (and furniture) is the exaggeration of emotion in what is produced. In other words, this is a style where clear detail is used to produce opulence, exuberance, drama and grandeur.

Rembrandt Harmensz. The Abduction of Europa

This artistic view translates into paintings, sculpture, music and furniture making in the use of vibrant colors, dark shadows, intense light and great drama motifs

In furniture, large wardrobes, heavy cupboards and cabinets with twisted columns and intricate moldings were produced. In Baroque design, the details are related to the whole, meaning that each detail contributes to the harmonious movement of the overall design.

Commode by André Charles Boulle (1710)

It was in this period that European countries like England, Holland and Portugal were establishing intense trade routes with the far east and other areas of the world. Commercial relations with distant lands multiplied and led to the exchange of ideas, designs and furniture products.

An Asian influence swept over Europe in the 17th century and a taste for Chinese styled furniture was deeply established. Asian decorative techniques were being widely imitated through Europe while lacquered furniture and domestic goods were imported from the East where Asian artisans were now working with the designs their European contacts had given them.

It is this rich cultural and artistic exchange combined with the exuberance characteristic of the Baroque that makes this period so interesting to look at.

Italian Baroque-era cabinet of curiosities, circa 1635

Indeed, the use of maritime motifs in all art, architecture and furniture pieces is frequent in those countries that dominated the seas and trade routes at this point (think Portugal, Holland and England, once more).

Fruit of this contact with distant lands was the use of heavy tropical woods in furniture making, which was then to be worked on to produce opulent furniture with an Oriental flavor.


Source of information: Encyclopedia Britannica