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What is Regency furniture?

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Regency Period Furniture (1800 – 1830)

Furniture styles often bear the name of the historical periods in which they occur. For English furniture, this often means naming a style after the king or queen on the throne at the time. With the Regency Period of furniture, the naming convention only partially applies and reveals the complicated political atmosphere of England at the time.

In 1811, the Prince of Wales assumed rule of the country, not as a king, but rather as an acting monarch while his father suffered a long bout of mental illness. His official title during this time was Regent, hence the name Regency Period. Prince George held the position for nine years until his father died, leaving him the throne.

Officially known as King George IV from his coronation in 1820 until his death in 1830, his rule both marked the time period for the Regency Period style, but also helped to influence the aesthetics through his preferences and commissioned projects.

Classical Influence

Unlike prior periods, borrowing elements from Roman and Greek furniture, designers of the Regency Period often tried to recreate the actual furniture pieces found in the museums, vaults, and artwork of the time. The introduction of Egyptian artifacts also sparked a desire to bring those elements into the Regency Period style.

Thematic motifs of ancient gods, sphinxes, lions, and griffins ornamented many pieces. Additionally, a revival of Eastern influence from China and Japan inspired the use of bamboo, wood carved to resemble bamboo, and lacquered finishes.

Style

While all these cultural and historic influences helped determine the furniture of the Regency Period, the style itself used ornamentation for its elegance, rather than rich carvings and curved lines exhibited in earlier periods of furniture design. The woodworking of the pieces generally exhibited plain lines and surfaces with slender legs and right angles. In many ways, this helped highlight the ornamentation by providing a simplistic background to avoid distraction.

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