Victorian Antiques

rachelAntiques of the Victorian era are those that were made during the reign of England’s Queen Victoria – July 20, 1837 through January 22, 1901. This is not to say that all items termed “Victorian” were made in Britain. Perhaps the number of American made Victorian pieces is due not only to the emigration of ideas but to the emigration of many Brits to Canada and the States during the latter half of Victoria’s reign. Queen Victoria ruled during a time of peace and prosperity as well as the age of Romanticism and Industrialization. Many different types of decorative arts were produced during this era.

Victorian furniture was influenced by the Gothic Revival, French Rococo, and Renaissance Revival/Neo-Renaissance movements. Gothic Revival is associated with Romanticism, and its architecture includes castle-like features and pointed arches. French Rococo (or Late Baroque) is a highly ornamental style marked by fluid curves, asymmetry, and lively design. Renaissance Revival was a new way of presenting Elegant Recycler Vic para 2 03112013elements of the Baroque and Gothic styles. All of these influences are more ornate than modern design. Today minimalism, utility, and cost have overtaken form. This is – perhaps – the reason Victorian furniture has lost popularity. Also the sizes of pieces tend to be the opposite of what modern homeowners prefer. Buffets, cabinets, and dressers tend to be huge and made of heavy materials such as hardwoods with marble tops. At the other end of the spectrum, chairs and sofas are smaller than their overstuffed descendants. Those who are interested in a bit less ornament may like Eastlake pieces which were produced from 1870-90; the Eastlake design is more geometrical with less depth of carving. The chair pictured here is from the Eastlake period. Those who like modern design but want to add a Victorian focal piece always have the option of adding a contemporary fabric to chairs and sofas.

Elegant Recycler Vic para 3 03112013Glass from the Victorian era is also ornate, whether its pattern was blown, created by mold, painted by hand, or etched. Many pieces are colorful too – soft pastels, deep reds, blues and greens, vibrant cranberry, sunny yellow. During this time hundreds of different patterns of glass were produced in the US alone. Some pieces were simply decorative; others were to be used on dressers or dining tables. Table settings were formal and ornate among the upper class, with special serving dishes for different types of food. Glass pulls even adorned some furniture of the time. In France and England, Millefiori glass was popular. Millefiori means “thousand flowers” in Italian and is made by combining a mosaic of beads of glass. Examples are still being made today using this technique that has roots in the 8th century. Some of the most beautiful examples are from the Victorian era. Victorian glass can add some lovely color to the dreariest of rooms, and today pieces can be found at reasonable prices.

Elegant Recycler Vic para 4 03112013Victorian Trade Cards are popular these days. They are less ornate, and really are beautiful art. One side has a lithographed picture and the other typically is an advertisement. Sometimes the ad and picture are together – think business card/advertising/art. Scenes with people, landscapes, flowers and sale products are popular subjects. The art itself as well as the products for sale provide clues about the people, dress, and culture of the time. American Victorian trade cards were popular in the last part of the nineteenth century. Values range from a few dollars to hundreds for rare examples.

Those who want to add some Victorian flare to a contemporary home or to decorate a Victorian home can easily find pieces in brick and mortar antiques stores and online. Read descriptions carefully. If an item is said to be Victorian “style,” it is probably not authentic. Instead it is a piece made after Victoria’s reign in the style of authentic pieces. If the Victorian look is all that’s needed, these will do fine. Just know what you are buying. Victorian antiques can add beauty and style to any home.

Rachel Glenn is part owner of Rachel’s Attic Antiques and Collectibles in Dandridge, Tennessee and has been dealing in antiques and collectibles for twelve years and selling online for nine years.