What Are the Characteristics of Gothic Antiques?

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  • Written By: B. Koch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Gothic antiques were produced in Europe during the Middle Ages. They can be identified by their straight, rigid, and massive style as well as their woodcarving. Most of this furniture was made with oak, as this wood was widely available and high quality.

The years between 1300 and 1500 were known as the Gothic, or medieval, period in Europe. The style was a break from the Romanesque style, which was based on the classical style of the Romans. While classical art and architecture was very formulaic and structured, Gothic art featured less structured features, which some scholars considered unrefined. The art and architecture of the Gothic period also influenced the furniture that was made at the time, which still exists as Gothic antiques.

These antiques typically feature large, thick pieces of wood and create dominating pieces of furniture. Gothic antiques focus on the vertical and the horizontal, with very few curves or graceful edges. Although the underlying framework of this type of furniture is often based on straight lines and 90 degree angles, carvings were often used to decorate the work.


Carvings used in the Gothic architecture most likely inspired the practice of decorating pieces of furniture with ornate woodcarvings. These carvings were typically natural in style, and included depictions of flowers and animals. Leaves and flora such as grape leaves, cress leaves, and maple leaves were used. Sometimes these carvings would be painted with color for added interest. It is not uncommon, however, for this paint to have worn away on Gothic antiques that are purchased today.

Woods used to build Gothic furniture varied between regions depending on what was most accessible. Oak was especially popular as it was easily accessible, especially in northern Europe. Walnut was also used, particularly in France.

The Catholic Church was the predominant institution in medieval Europe. Accordingly, many Gothic antiques that are found today were originally created for ecclesiastical purposes. Church furniture as well as screens and altars are common examples of these antiques.

The secular Gothic antiques that are seen today were often owned by the wealthy as they had the income to afford elaborate, well made furnishings. These antiques include chairs and tables and very frequently include chests or trunks. These items were quite versatile as they could be used for storage and transport as well as for seating.


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