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What Is Neoclassical Furniture?

The uncovering of Pompeii sparked the creation of neoclassical furniture.
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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2014
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Neoclassical furniture is a style of furniture that gained popularity in the mid-1700s and into the 1800s. Many countries followed the neoclassical design during that time period, each one giving the style a different name. As a result, in England neoclassical furniture is referred to as Late Georgian, in France it is called Louis XVI style, and in the United States it is called the Federal or Empire style. It is also called Grecian or Etruscan style in some places.

Interestingly, neoclassical furniture came about as a result of the excitement fostered when ruins were uncovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii in the mid-1700s. The people at that time became enthralled with the ancient civilizations of Rome and Greece. They even began to model their furniture after the furnishings that were used in these ancient cities. Thus, neoclassicism began.

In neoclassical furniture, form is ultimately the most important factor. The furniture should be considered orderly, with more tidy lines and fewer swirls and curves. There is still plenty of ornate detail, as was common in previous furniture styles, however. The detail in neoclassical furniture comes from delicate painting and precise carving. In addition, wood can be inlaid with other pieces of wood, gold foil, or other materials.

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Popular pieces of neoclassical furniture include the chaise lounge, similar to the one in which Cleopatra was so often depicted relaxing; fire screens; chairs; sofas; footstools; tables; and bookcases. Many times, room accessories are often used to carry out the theme in a room as well. These often include statutes and fountains, as both are reminiscent of ancient Greece or Rome.

While antique pieces of furniture can be quite expensive, there are less expensive reproductions available. In some cases, the furniture may merely suggest the style of ancient Greece or Rome. The more similar a piece of furniture is to an antique, however, the more expensive it will become.

In most cases, it is best to purchase original pieces of neoclassical furniture from reputable antique dealers, or at least be able to spot a reproduction. This may be done through a thorough study of the neoclassic style. For example, a consumer can look for the crafter's stamp on the bottom of a piece of furniture. She may also look for other signs that the furniture is a reproduction, such as the use of nails instead of joints to hold the furniture together. In addition, neoclassical furniture is often comprised of satinwood or mahogany, other woods may raise questions as to the furniture's authenticity.

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