Monday, August 8, 2022

History : Middle Ages

In contrast to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, there is comparatively little evidence of furniture from the 5th to the 15th century. Very few extant pieces survive, and evidence in literature is also scarce. It is likely that the style of furniture prevalent in late antiquity persisted throughout the middle ages. For example, a throne similar to that of Zeus is depicted in a sixth-century diptych, while the Bayeux tapestry shows Edward the Confessor and Harold seated on seats similar to the Roman sella curulis. The furniture of the Middle Ages was usually heavy, oak, and ornamented with carved designs.

The Hellenistic influence upon Byzantine furniture can be seen through the use of acanthus leaves, palmettes, bay and olive leaves as ornaments. Oriental influences manifest through rosettes, arabesques and the geometric stylisation of certain vegetal motifs. Christianity brings symbols in Byzantine ornamentation: the pigeon, fishes, the lamb and vines. The furniture from Byzantine houses and palaces was usually luxurious, highly decorated and finely ornamented. Stone, marble, metal, wood and ivory are used. Surfaces and ornaments are gilded, painted plychrome, plated with sheets of gold, emailed in bright colors, and covered in precious stones. The variety of Byzantine furniture is pretty big: tables with square, rectangle or round top, sumptuous decorated, made of wood sometimes inlaid, with bronze, ivory or silver ornaments; chairs with high backs and with wool blankets or animal furs, with coloured pillows, and then banks and stools; wardrobes were used only for storing books; cloths and valuable objects were kept in chests, with iron locks; the form of beds imitated the Roman ones, but have different designs of legs.

The main ornament of Gothic furniture and all applied arts is the ogive. The geometric rosette accompanies the ogive many times, having a big variety of forms. Architectural elements are used at furniture, at the beginning with purely decorative reasons, but later as structure elements. Besides the ogive, the main ornaments are: acanthus leaves, ivy, oak leaves, haulms, clovers, fleurs-de-lis, knights with shields, heads with crowns and characters from the Bible. Chests are the main type of Gothic furniture used by the majority of the population. Usually, the locks and escutcheon of chests have also an ornamental scope, being finely made.

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