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Western Furniture Evolution Through the Renaissance


For a major span of human existence, furniture has been rudimentary, for the most part.  Early humans used whatever natural materials they found for seating and tables: tree stumps and flat rocks, for example. Over time, of course, our anthropological ancestors began to fashion more elaborate pieces of furniture to accommodate the many new activities (and need for rest and leisure) they developed as well.  Still, it was probably not until the fall of the Roman Empire that the people of Europe began to cultivate the Rentan furniture as we know it today.

This development happened, of course, amidst a major arts and culture resurgence you might know as The Renaissance.

The ITALIAN Renaissance

The major emergence of “Renaissance” sensibilities happened in Italy after the turn of the 15th century.  This was the beginning of a major cultural shift that would blanket the whole of Europe.  While there might have been a swell of affluence, it was the growth—and empowerment—of the middle class which improved demand for homes and quality furniture.  Of course, the middle class could not afford opulent dwellings, so while there was more demand, this demand was for simple designs that offered practical function.

During this period we start to see the development of things like stucco.  The marriage coffer known as the casson (or “hope chest”) became quite the notable craftsman staple at this time, as well did the Italian “sgabello” chair which featured an octagonal seat with solid boards, all resting on three legs.

The FRENCH Renaissance

Following the surge in Italy, this Mediterranean neighbor was among the first to take the influences and development its own artisanal furniture.  The French Renaissance, though, came only after Louis XII visited Italy and returned home to cultivate more designs like he had seen on his trip.  This actually became known as the Gothic period, a time which saw the incorporation of mixed spiritual iconography; which led into another period just after the beginning of the reign of Francis I.  Francis I actually employed Italian artists and craftsmen in his Fountainbleau factories; a practice which continued into the 16th century.

The SPANISH Renaissance

Lesser known than its predecessors, the Spanish Renaissance introduced a style of home décor known as Mudejar.  Moors brought these sensibilities from Spain, translating it through various other local European styles while also incorporating oriental embellishments. The period is mostly celebrated for gilded, metallic, richly-carved cabinetry.


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