Victorian Vs. Neo-Gothic Furniture: The Facts

Victorian and Gothic furniture are each based upon the selective sampling of earlier styles.

Victorian Furniture

Victorian furniture started out as exclusive and available only to the very wealthy. The type of furniture that was produced was often designed as a result of the sight of a piece of furniture by a wealthy traveler.

Early Victorian furniture had no specific style to claim as its own. Much of early Victorian furniture was based upon French patterns and featured bright colors and painted scenes on panels.

As industrial development got under way, there was a great increase in wealth. The new money demanded that furniture become more readily available and affordable.

Although still craftsman-designed and assembled, furniture was produced in greater quantity. These craftsmen were not innovators with furniture. They were great travelers and brought back with them samples of the art and furniture from different lands. Many aspects of foreign furniture were copied and it was possible to buy in the style of the various countries.

Japanese furniture was very popular for many years. The black, high gloss lacquer was adopted for many articles including screens, tall boys and side boards.

Although they did copy many styles of furniture, Victorian era crafstmen did not really get involved in what was considered the Gothic or ‘church’ style of design for the home. They did copy Gothic antiques when building chapels and work and alms houses.

Neo Gothic Furniture

Neo Gothic is really a term that describes a particular fashion of the moment. For furniture to be considered Gothic it only needed to be a dark color.

The adoption of the pointed arch as a decorative motif has brought a bit more authenticity to the genre.

The perfection of the pointed arch was central to the development of the Gothic style. Up to that point construction had been on a gross scale, and the furniture in use reflected that.

Most wooden furniture was heavy and utilitarian. Within the churches and noble houses the furniture would be carved to depict epic stories or simple bucolic scenes. This carving was a reflection of the carvings that were also a central part of most public buildings.

The advent of the pointed arch enabled the construction of thinner walls, which did not have the same capacity to be carved. This soon echoed into the construction of furniture, as finer lines were demanded.

Simple pegged joints were replaced with more precisely cut ones. The perfection of the dovetail and mortise and tenon enabled craftsmen to use finer cuts of wood, and make furniture that was transportable.

Gothic furniture was still fairly basic, but it was greatly embellished with carved panels. Since the most commonly used wood was oak, most true Gothic furniture started out pale. The application of olive and linseed oils, followed by decades of wax polish, gradually gave Gothic oak the dark colors for which it is now known.

Neo Gothic furniture is a style developed for today and, while it draws on Gothic traditions, is very much a modern development of an old style.