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Simplifying Regency Style

In her 1983 book, Period Design & Furnishing, Judith and Martin Miller present a wonderful overview of historical furniture design along with stunning photographs of both extant homes as well as contemporary recreations. This book is fascinating, not only to the Janeite hoping to better understand the nuances of fashion during the eras Jane lived through (Georgian, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier) but also to the author seeking to set her stage, the miniature artist attempting to capture a moment in time and the home decorator feathering her nest in a style reminiscent of days gone by.

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The Miller’s book, Period Design & Furnishing.

Quoting from the chapter, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier, we find a lovely description of Regency taste and how it differentiated from the preceding Georgian Era:

“Life in the English Regency period, which in its broadest sense stretched from the late 1790s  until the late 1830s, was more intimate and informal than previously. Rooms, often with a bay window, were smaller and had lower ceilings, and the arrangement of furniture was much more casual. Instead of being ranged around the room, pieces were grouped close to the fireplace. Family and friends would gather around a circular table to talk or play cards. Interiors were better lit than before: the new, efficient oil lamps enabled several people to share a table fore reading or writing.

A sample Regency dining room from Ackermann's Repository, 1816.
A sample Regency dining room from Ackermann’s Repository, 1816.

Regency rooms were on the whole light and graceful with fairly plain walls in a clear pale color. There would be a narrow frieze, and the ceiling was usually plain or decorated with a small central garland with a chandelier hanging from it. Fabric was used in abundance– swathed and draped over valances and sometimes festooned between the legs of chairs. Continue reading Simplifying Regency Style

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Furnishing Fashionably: Ackermann’s Repository, 1816

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackermann’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields.  In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature. Along with articles on current events, stories and helpful tips, the magazine was famous for its studies of women’s fashion and architecture, including home furnishings. The following plates are from 1816. These beautiful illustrations give a good example of society interior decorating from the era when Jane Austen was writing Persuasion. No doubt it is the style of opulence to which Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot would like to become accustomed to. Glancing through the pages gives the modern reader a delightful context in which to set the staging of their favorite scenes. Furniture Plate 2: Chimney Piece of Mona Marble. (Series 2,Vol 1: Jan – June 1816) Furniture Plate 8: Drawing Room Window Curtains (Series 2,Vol 1: Jan – June 1816) Furniture Plate 14: French Sofa Bed (Series 2,Vol 1: Jan – June 1816) Furniture Plate 20: A French Bed (Series 2,Vol 1: Jan – June 1816) Furniture Plate 26: Grecian Furniture (Series 2,Vol 1: Jan – June 1816) Furniture Plate 32: Dining Room (Series 2,Vol 1: Jan – June 1816) Furniture Plate 8: Dining Room (Series 2 Vol 2 was July – Dec 1816) Furniture (more…)
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Egyptian Revival architecture

Egyptian Revival is an architectural style that uses the motifs and imagery of ancient Egypt. It is attributed generally to the public awareness of ancient Egyptian monuments generated by Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt and Admiral Nelson’s defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Napoleon took a scientific expedition with him to Egypt. Publication of the expedition’s work, the Description de l’Égypte, began in 1809 and was published as a series through 1826. However, works of art and architecture (such as funerary monuments) in the Egyptian style had been made or built occasionally on the European continent and the British Isles since the time of the Renaissance.

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Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk

The most important example is probably Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s obelisk in the Piazza Navona in Rome. Bernini’s obelisk influenced the obelisk constructed as a family funeral memorial by Sir Edward Lovatt Pierce for the Allen family at Stillorgan in Ireland in 1717, one of several Egyptian obelisks erected in Ireland during the early 18th century. Others may be found at Belan, County Kildare and Dangan, County Meath. The Casteltown Folly in County Kildare is probably the best known, albeit the least Egyptian styled, of these obelisks.

Egyptian buildings had also been built as garden follies. The most elaborate was probably the one built by Frederick I, Duke of Württemberg in the gardens of the Château de Montbéliard. It included an Egyptian bridge across which guests walked to reach an island with an elaborate Egyptian-influenced bath house. The building featured a billiards room and a “bagnio”. It was designed by the duke’s court architect, Jean Baptiste Kleber.
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Rural Residences: Designs for Cottages, Small Villas and Other Buildings

One of the services Ackerman’s Repository of the Arts provided for it’s readers (both at the time of publication and today) was the inclusion of colored fashion plates depicting not only the styles prevalent in Women’s wear, but also in home fashion. Under normal circumstances, each issue would include at least one depiction of home furnishings (drapery, furniture, fire places, etc.) However, in 1816, a new series was designed, entitled Architectural Hints. When this series concluded in 1817, these illustrations were published together in 1818, in a separate book in titled “Rural Residences Consisting of a Series of Designs for Cottages, Small Villas and Other Ornamental Buildings”. The drawings included in this series delightfully depict country living and might have been drawn straight from the pages of Sense and Sensibility, with their cottages, vicarage, and even out buildings.

“I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them. And I protest, if I had any money to spare, I should buy a little land and build one myself, within a short distance of London, where I might drive myself down at any time, and collect a few friends about me and be happy. I advise everybody who is going to build, to build a cottage.”
―Robert Ferrars, Sense and Sensibility

Enjoy the following drawings and blueprints from Ackerman’s 1816 run. Detailed articles for each drawing can be found in the pages of Ackerman’s Repository, now available from Google Books. Right click on each image and choose “view image” for a full size view.

Continue reading Rural Residences: Designs for Cottages, Small Villas and Other Buildings

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Carlton House Table & Chair

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackerman’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields.In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature. The following excerpt from the April, 1814 edition displays a table and chair set designed for the Prince of Wales‘ Carlton House.

 An early 19th century sketch of the entrance front of Carlton House in London.
An early 19th century sketch of the entrance front of Carlton House in London.

Though no where near as extravagant as the the Royal Palace at Brighton, Carlton House remained an icon of the Prince’s particular sense of style. The glowing terms in the following passage can only be seen as ironic in light of Jane Austen’s own personal struggle with the Prince. In 1815, she would be “invited” to dedicate her upcoming novel, Emma, to him, a figure whom she claimed to loathe. Along with this “invitation” came the opportunity for a personal tour of Carlton House, guided by none other than the Prince’s own librarian, James Stanier Clarke.

This began a series of correspondence between Austen and Clarke. He appeared fascinated by his brush with fame (possibly even painting her portrait) while she later lampooned his topical suggestions for her future novels in her “Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters”.

Fashionable Furniture
We know that a people become enlightened by the cultivation of  the arts, and that they become great in the progress of that cultivation. That a just knowledge of the useful and a correct taste for the ornamental go hand in hand with this general improvement, the dullest observer may be satisfied by looking around him. We now acknowledge, that it is alone the pencil of the artist which can trace the universal hieroglyphic; understood alike by all, his enthusiasm communicates itself to all alike, and prepares the mind for cultivation. A national improvement is thus produced by the arts, and the arts are supported in their respectability by the calls which the improving public taste makes for their assistance; they are inseparable in their progress, and mutually depend on each other for support. In the construction of the domestic furniture of our dwellings we see and feel the benefit of all this. To the credit of our higher classes who encourage, and of our manufacturing artists who produce, we now universally quit the overcharged magnificence of former ages, and seek the purer models of simplicity and tasteful ornament in every article of daily call. Continue reading Carlton House Table & Chair

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Fashionable Furniture: The Library Table

“How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
-Pride and Prejudice

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackerman’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields. In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature.

Many of the English fashion plates that remain from the Regency era are from Ackermann’s and while a wide assortment of topics were covered in each issue, fasshionable furniture was also highlighted. The following library table, from the January, 1814 issue, is suggested as the perfect piece for smaller homes and city apartments. Jane Austen spent time in London in 1814, with her brother Henry (his wife, Eliza, had passed away the previous year) Perhaps she wrote parts of her upcoming novel, Emma (1815) at a desk like this one, while staying at his home in Henrietta street.

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The Lady’s Drawing Table

  Elinor sat down to her lady’s drawing table as soon as he was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the general concerns of the family; and if, by this conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much solicitude on her account. -Sense and Sensibility Fashionable Furniture from The Repository of Arts by Rudolph Ackermann, February, 1814 The very elegant and tasteful article represented in the annexed engraving, is intended to serve the double purpose of usefulness and pleasure. In the first, it is convenient as a breakfast or as a sofa-table; it also forms a convenient writing or drawing-table, with drawers for paper, colours, pencil, &c. For the second, a sliding board for the games of chess, drafts, backgammon, &c. which slides under the desk. It is very light, goes upon castors, and is particularly pleasant to sit before, as there is sufficient accommodation for the knees by its projecting top. The chair is contrived for study or repose. Its sweeping form is calculated to afford rest to the invalid; and the arms are sufficiently low to allow it to be used at the writing or reading-desk. It is lighter than its form would indicate, and it is easily moved, being placed upon traversing castors. (more…)
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Library Window Curtains

“You will wonder,” said she, “what has been fixing my eye so long; but I was looking after some window-curtains, which Lady Alicia and Mrs Frankland were telling me of last night. They described the drawing-room window-curtains of one of the houses on this side of the way, and this part of the street, as being the handsomest and best hung of any in Bath, but could not recollect the exact number, and I have been trying to find out which it could be; but I confess I can see no curtains hereabouts that answer their description.”
Persuasion

Palladian Window Curtains

It is a common defect in building, attributable to the tax upon windows, that a sufficient number of them are not introduced for the purposes of cheerfulness; and there are many rooms lighted by so few, and the dimensions of them so small, that not only an insufficient supply of light is admitted, but the windows are too narrow, and their dressing too circumscribed to form the proportions suited to the apartments. The annexed plate represents a window of this kind, with the added architectural finishings, by which is is so increased as to have the proportions of a Palladian or Venetian one, and a design for a curtain so suitable to it is introduced in a style adapted to a library or eating room. It is a design very applicable to some rooms which have but one window in each. The following curtain and drapery illustrations were also provided by Ackermann’s Repository from 1809 to 1812. Continue reading Library Window Curtains