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by Archaeology Newsroom

The impact of Greek furniture design on European furniture up until the end of the nineteenth century

The fecundity of Greek art is characteristic of every phase of the evolution of universal art. The values and principles of Greek art are present in the entire spectrum of European artistry and whether prevalent or present in a more subtle way they are expressed through the social structure of each civilization.

Furniture is a barometer, very sensitive to financial, social and cultural changes. Only a few pieces of furniture have survived from ancient Greece, therefore, most of our knowledge of the subject derives from their representation on pottery. The careful study of these handmade, everyday objects, which have been designed to serve human needs, reveals the eternal values of their art. The furniture of Romans, compared to those of ancient Greeks, are lighter and blunter in form and as a result they appear deprived of volume and structural stability. During the Renaissance, furniture is designed according to the classical ratio of proportions, with a firm flow of form and an elegant curvature, resembling that of the ancient Greek creators, and with such a clever combination of the parts so as to form a harmonious whole. Baroque furniture is a vehicle of the classicizing tendency, which expresses the special social and political circumstances pertaining to that period.

During the eighteenth century the pursuit of classical prototypes is also apparent in furniture design. The “Louis XVI” and “Adam- style” furniture, in France and England respectively, also led the rest of Europe to neo-classicism. Neo-classicism, in the Napoleon style “Empire”, served the purpose of propaganda and demostrated the prestige of the new regime. The difference between Greek art and the art of the nineteenth century is that the latter approaches classical art visually and appropriates some of its virtues and values.

The varied, revived style of the ninteteenth century is greatly affected by two new factors, the development of technology and the social movement of the reformist William Morris. In a combination of these factors lie the foundations for the design principles of the twentieth century. The philosophy of these principles aims at the revival of the anthropocentric ideal in art.