Jacobean is a term used to cover all English style furniture from the reign of King James I to King James II. However, throughout this span of time Jacobean furniture showed markedly different influences. The earliest Jacobean furniture was influenced mainly by Elizabethan (1603 -1688) styled furniture. Commonwealth Style (1649-1660) marks the middle of the Jacobean Period, when the furniture was of simpler design and undecorated. The late Jacobean Period is that of the Carolean period, named for King Charles II. In this period the furniture was influenced by Flemish Baroque design.
Early English Jacobean furniture was widely copied by the colonial Americans, although the furniture was more primitive, due to the fact that there were fewer skilled furniture makers living in America at the time. In true patriotic form, American colonists renamed their Jacobean reproductions to that of “Early American” furniture.
Jacobean furniture was very sturdy, massive in size, notoriously uncomfortable, and made to last. The furniture pieces that were produced consisted mainly of chests, cupboards, trestle tables, wainscot chairs, and gate legged circular tables. Brewster and Carver chairs (made with numerous spindles filling their straight frames) were also produced, their names taken from two distinguished American Colonists of the period.
Oak and pine were the most popular woods of choice. Chairs would often have split spindles, bulbous Spanish carved feet, and rush seats. Chests, large cupboards, and trestle tables were embellished with Flemish scrolls, ornately carved panels, and ornamental twists. These design elements made the massive Jacobean pieces appear very formal and stately.
As a rule, Jacobean furniture construction was simple. It was assembled with mortise and tenon joints, held together with pegs. The majority of lines are square and rectangular, most with flat-fronted surfaces. The art of inlay and veneering added a wonderful ornate look, especially in cupboards and cabinets. Many pieces were painted, which further added to the style of the piece.
Upholstering materials used for Jacobean chairs and settees were of very fine quality and ornate. Materials such as silk, tapestries, crewelwork, linen, velvet, and even leather were used on various types of chairs.
Jacobean period furniture can mainly be found in the auction houses of England. Being built to last, many pieces have not only survived, but are still in good condition. Although centuries old, Jacobean furniture is still well sought after, and continues to provide an elegant option in home decor. There are many furniture makers today that have copied and reproduced fine quality Jacobean styled furniture, and made it affordable to own.
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