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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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What defines an antique as being of the Gothic style?
Gothic antiques are characterized by their dramatic and ornate design elements, which often include pointed arches, intricate tracery, and religious motifs. These pieces typically date back to the period between the 12th and 16th centuries, reflecting the architecture and art of the time. The use of dark woods, such as oak, and the emphasis on vertical lines and height are also distinctive features of Gothic-style antiques.
How can I identify Gothic antique furniture?
To identify Gothic antique furniture, look for the signature pointed arches, heavy carving, and religious or heraldic motifs. Furniture from this period often features vertical lines that create a sense of height and grandeur. The wood is usually dark, with oak being particularly prevalent. Additionally, the joinery is often visible, with dovetail joints being a common element. These characteristics help distinguish Gothic pieces from other antique styles.
Are there specific materials commonly used in Gothic antiques?
Yes, Gothic antiques are often made from dark, durable woods like oak, which was abundant in Europe during the Gothic period. This choice of material not only provided the necessary strength for the elaborate carvings and structural designs but also contributed to the dark, somber aesthetic typical of the style. In addition to wood, Gothic antiques may also feature wrought iron, stained glass, and stone elements, especially in architectural salvage pieces.
What types of Gothic antiques are most sought after by collectors?
Collectors often seek Gothic antiques that are emblematic of the style's architectural influence, such as furniture with pointed arches and tracery, carved wooden panels, and ecclesiastical items like altarpieces and religious statues. Stained glass windows and metalwork, including candlesticks and chandeliers with Gothic motifs, are also highly prized. The rarity and condition of these items can significantly influence their desirability and value among collectors.
How does the value of Gothic antiques compare to other antique styles?
The value of Gothic antiques can vary widely based on factors such as age, provenance, craftsmanship, and condition. Generally, well-preserved Gothic pieces with intricate detailing and historical significance can command high prices in the market. Compared to other antique styles, Gothic antiques may appeal to a niche group of collectors, which can both increase value for rare items and limit the market for more common pieces. It's important to consult with an expert or appraiser for an accurate valuation.