Overview of periods and styles
Overview of Periods and Styles
(Select the image to enlarge the timeline.)
Prior to the 20th century, the decorative arts were influenced and largely controlled by royalty. In practice, while countries like Great Britain were economically stable and governed over a number of countries, stylistic preferences came most often from the European continent, especially France and Italy. Those stylistic preferences were influenced by the events of the time. For example, excavations of ancient sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum sparked intense interest in the decorative arts of those cultures and were defined as the Classical style. 18th century artisans adapted the style of the excavated decorative items they saw into the Neo-Classical style.
Each monarch would have a different artistic interpretation of the style which reflected cultural preferences. With some practice, we can often infer the country of origin of a particular antique based on that cultural bias. English and American stylistic interpretations are generally more reserved that the French, Italians, or Germans. It is customary to refer to a style like Neo-classical by the name of the Monarch. Thus the English Neo-classical style is referred to as late Georgian. Since the United States was a colony of Great Britain, we frequently refer to decorative styles referencing the monarch accredited to their influence, hence the ever-popular term for mid to late 19th century antiques as Victorian.
One of the things that beginning antique enthusiasts encounter is that the various styles not only overlap as one gains popularity and the other wanes, but increasingly as the 19th century progresses, there is more than one decorative art style popular at the same as the timeline shows. The dates of popularity are not exact, they are guidelines since some countries adopted styles at different times.
Finally, some areas of decorative art, experience longer periods of popularity because their inherent form lends itself more readily to a particular style. Cameos, for example continue in popularity as archeologically inspired, while other forms, like furniture, continue to move into newer styles. Furniture, in turn, does not lend itself easily to forms like Art Nouveau, since Art Nouveau styles are frequently asymmetrical and furniture generally needs symmetry to be stable.
The timeline is an excerpt from Estate Jewelry, 1760 to 1960 by Diana Sanders Cinamon, offered by Schiffer Publishing.