The Gothic period began in medieval times, with its fabulous architecture, art, fashion and furniture flourishing in the 16th century. In 19th century France, Gothic furniture was created with expertise renowned throughout Europe and the world.
Gothic architecture was prominently reflected by the pointed arch, but the gothic style can be identified by many different characteristics that are found in the art, architecture and furniture.
Although when many people think of the gothic style they think of dark wood, oak and walnut were most commonly used in the furniture of that time in France.
Intricate carvings in wooden furniture were popular in Gothic furniture. The French craftsmen were especially skilled in carvings, and they popularized many designs like the fleur-de-lis and grapevine leaves and grapes. Although grotesque figures and animals were sometimes carved into the handles or arms of chairs and benches, it was rare that normal looking humans were incorporated into the artwork. Foliage, rosettes, real and imaginary birds and animals and religious symbols, often painted in bright colors, were popular motifs from this period.
Colorful fabrics and cushions were commonly incorporated into benches and chairs.
Glue was not yet used to bind wood together. Grooves, notches and pegs were commonly used as joint fasteners.
Although metal clasps and locks were plain in most places around the world, on French Gothic furniture they were ornately decorated with fantastic pictorial scenes that were worked onto the metal.
Gothic furniture emphasized the vertical, and especially early in the period, the furniture was often clunky and rectilinear in form.
Some of the following popular pieces of French Gothic furniture can be purchased through antique dealers.
- Chests: One of the earliest forms of storage furniture, gothic chests commonly displayed beautiful or grotesque pictorial scenes.
- Armoires: The towering armoire, a two-doored cabinet, was a sign of prominence and wealth. Descended from the chest, the armoire held the treasured clothing, bedding and tapestries. In a modern household, the armoire is more likely to contain a widescreen television.
- Chairs and Benches: While the commoner would probably sit on a three-legged hard stool and a bench with no back, a four-legged chair and backed bench with arms were a treasured possession. Common benches include a chest under the seat.
- Tables: A sign that the nomadic phase of life was ending, the table during the Gothic period was used mostly for eating, and so coffee and end tables from this period are non-existent.
Add mystique and elegance to your home by adding a piece or two of French Gothic furniture.