A Brief History of Italian Renaissance Furniture
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A Brief History of Italian Renaissance Furniture

The Italians are known world over for their high quality furniture mostly leather based with refined wood finishing.

The Italians are known world over for their high quality furniture mostly leather based with refined wood finishing. In contemporary furniture showrooms, Italian furniture are usually of unique quality and the shop attendants will proudly announce to you that, “This is Italian leather” which denotes its quality. Renaissance painting, sculpture, and architecture developed in Italy before 1425, but Italian furniture design in the 15th century tended to be simple and functional. Since then, Italian furniture has passed through series of innovations over the years and the result has been a tremendous improvement that has placed Italian furniture and arts in the fore front of the furniture industry.

The first innovation in Italian Renaissance furniture was the ‘Cassone’, a chest with intricate and elaborately carved surface with gilded decorations or painted finishing. It is believed that the design was inspired by the Roman sarcophagi (an ancient stone or marble coffin, often decorated with sculpture and inscription) and the chest designs were based on conventional models. Early examples of Italian chests had designs of scenes illustrating the international Gothic romance and ‘Le Roman de la Rose’.

The Italian renaissance furniture featured great imaginative carvings and the use of variety of forms with diverse application of ornaments to achieve greater and more beautiful furniture than their predecessors. The use of walnut (1500s) in place of oak which had been in use over the centuries was an improvement in the furniture industry. More sophisticated and portable folding chairs were revived, with seats of tapestry or leather. As the years rolled by, Italians began to develop the leather industry greatly, primarily to provide more quality leather for the manufacture of exquisite furniture. New solid-backed side chairs were developed that had carved backs and, instead of legs, solid carved panels as supports. The panels created enough space for carvings or relief paintings.

By the end of the 15th Century, Italian furniture had advanced and overcame most of the early limitations discovered in their early furniture. Interiors in 15th-century paintings, such as those in the Birth of the Virgin (1485-1494, Santa Maria Novella, Florence) by Domenico Ghirlandaio and the Dream of St. Ursula (1490-1495, Accademia, Venice) by Vittore Carpaccio, suggest the restraint of Italian furniture design before the High Renaissance at the end of the 15th century. By the early 16th Century, Italian furniture had become a standard to reckon with in Europe and all over the world. Up till the present day, Italian furniture is still enjoying a great deal of goodwill accumulated by their predecessors.

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Comments (1)

Italian design is world renowned. I went to a Bugatti exhibit many years ago and was amazed at the furniture design of Carlo Bugatti.

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