Antique furniture has always represented an element that can be associated with a certain prestige. There are those who love modern style and do not take them into much consideration, but in the vast majority of cases these are elements that are very successful precisely because they represent objects of value, whose price is anything but negligible. Whether it’s collectors or antique dealers, or just us enthusiasts, the real value of antiques is almost unique.
The antique furniture belonging to a historical period fall fully into the category of antiques, as they represent that specific period. However, not all of us are experts in art history, therefore it is not always easy to identify them or, at least, to be able to say exactly what age they belong to. This situation leads to the risk of buying antique furniture that is not such, rather than copies , not knowing its real value.
In general, for this type of operation it is always good to contact an expert, however, since the appraisal could be very expensive, we want to share some information with you so that you can at least get an idea of how to evaluate these objects and avoid any nasty surprises. :
- Antique furniture: recognize the age of belonging
- Antique furniture from the Baroque, Rococo and Louis XVI
- Antique furniture Directory and Empire
- Antique furniture from the Renaissance, the seventeenth century and the Restoration
- Louis Philippe antique furniture
- Antique Napoleon III furniture
- Authentic antiques and copies: the golden rules
Antique furniture: recognizing the age to which it belongs
Assuming that in order to define antique furniture, it must date back to before 1840 – a time when the mechanization of tools took over and the mass production of the various parts of the furniture began, as well as the reproduction of those belonging to previous periods -, and it is useful to be able to recognize the main traits attributable to each historical-artistic movement (at least to know if a piece of furniture of that type existed or not in a given period).
To get to make a first estimate – and then turn to a professional who can precisely define its value -, let’s proceed to orient ourselves between styles and historical periods. Going in order of importance, we find the Rococo, Baroque and Louis XVI movement at the head, followed by the period of the Directory and the Empire.
The first three are considered “timeless” eras, during which the accuracy and taste in the realization of the furniture have led to estimate, to date, a very high value, considering them highly valuable, as well as always in fashion. Consequently, the price of these antiques is higher than those originating from different periods.
Then there is another category of antiquesand are those belonging to periods such as: the Renaissance , the seventeenth century, the Restoration, Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III. In this case, it is antique furniture that acquires particular value only at certain times, following a passing fashion, while for the rest of the time it can be found at relatively low prices. We could therefore ask ourselves: “how does a piece of furniture related to one of these eras become fashionable
“There are several factors that justify the change: on the one hand, it certainly influences the fact that over the years the price of that piece of furniture has remained low, allowing many people to have access to its purchase. Furthermore, it is easily available and, finally, they are objects that have lines and shapes that are easily adaptable to different furnishing contexts, a factor that allows them to be included even in homes with a modern or minimal design.
As an alternative to Italian antiques, over time, foreign styles have also appeared on this panorama which, thanks to the fact that they adapt perfectly to modern taste – and consequently to the furnishing of contemporary homes – are highly sought after. This category includes English, French and Spanish antiques. Antique furniture from the Baroque, Rococo and Louis XVI
The Baroque era saw valuable creations: imposing, majestic and richly decorated furniture, adaptable to equally prestigious environments, capable of enhancing its elegance. The antiques belonging to this movement are characterized by curved and sinuous lines, are mainly made of ebony wood and enriched with marble and inlays.
Evolution of the Baroque style, the Rococohe gave us creations that can be considered, in all respects, more valuable than those of the previous period. This aspect is mainly due to the fact that it is rarer to find furniture, which is why the prices are very high. Don’t be fooled: the market is full of copies in this sense. Characteristic of the Rococo are the elegant, refined and asymmetrical decorations that are declined in more curved furniture legs, tables and chairs, rich in carvings and bronze applications in the upper part. In addition, there are polychrome marbles and inlays in materials such as ivory and mother-of-pearl or with contrasting colors, generally lighter and brighter than those used in the Baroque. Finally, an opening to the use of rosewood and cherry wood – alongside the use of ebony.
The antique furniture in Louis XVI style are very refined and are distinguished by the progressive abandonment of the curves in favor of the simplicity of linear and geometric shapes. It is inspired by classicism and favors symmetry, with furniture in oak, walnut, ash and mahogany, as well as ebony wood. Typical of this style is also the use of marbles that are widely used as furniture shelves. Antique furniture Directory and Empire
Of lesser importance compared to the contemporary scene – but equally valuable, rare and always trendy – are the antique furniture belonging to the Directory era., elements of value and high prices as much as the previous ones. They stand out for their classic and austere appearance, with simplified decorative lines and motifs. In this sense, the inlays give way to painted decorations and metallic encrustations. Due to the difficult historical period (following the French Revolution), there is an impoverishment of materials for which the use of precious woods is gradually abandoned in favor of the light woods of fruit trees (such as lemon).
Like the antiques of the Directory are positioned those of the Empire, the period immediately following. The characters of solemnity and severity remain intact that make this furniture a perfect element for professional environments such as law firms or notaries, but not adaptable to the current taste for furniture. Despite this, the prices are high and the beauty and elegance are undisputed.
There are several copies on the market, so you need to be very careful. Antique furniture from the Renaissance, the seventeenth century and the Restoration
Renaissance, the seventeenth century and the Restoration are epochs that, to date, are enjoying considerable success. The prices of these antiques have grown over time precisely because they are highly sought after, however the market is full of copies and it is therefore important to know how to recognize the authentic ones.
Very rare are the antique furniture of the Early Renaissance , while it is easier to come across later pieces. To identify them, it is necessary to look for rounded shapes and refined decorations, as well as elements that refer to capitals, architraves and columns. Walnut wood is used which takes on dark colors following operations such as oiling and waxing and is enriched with incrustations in mother-of-pearl or bone, or with inlays. The focus is on symmetry and, as far as decorations are concerned, the main inspiration is mythology and classical antiquity. Typical 17th century
antiquesthey are the chests of drawers carved with a knife while the low tables did not yet exist. Wardrobes less than 2m high are more valuable than tall and imposing ones; the same is true, of course, for those that feature carved mirrors or diamond-point invoices as opposed to smooth-paneled furniture.
The antique furniture of the Restoration period , which has always been considered a too “heavy” style, has only recently met with favor. It is difficult to find originals as they converge several shots and, in general, confusion and insecurities, which is why the copies are many and it is not easy to distinguish them. To purchase these furniture, we recommend that you contact a trusted antique dealer and always ask for the certificate of authenticityof the object. Louis Philippe antique furniture
If you like antiques originating from the Louis Philippe era , the advice is to hurry up to buy them as the prices, still accessible today – they are in fact the first pieces made through a mechanized production, therefore less artisanal -, are expected to increase shortly following the growing interest received.
These are antique furniture capable of creating a romantic atmosphere, discreet but characterized by a certain practicality, made again with dark woods such as walnut and rosewood that stand out from the light woods used for the interiors or the inlays. The decorations take up themes related to nature (acanthus leaves or shells) sometimes stylized (for subjects such as, for example, dolphins and swans) and are enriched by a less refined workmanship.
Tables with round or oval tops are widespread, while the chairs and armchairs are equipped with many padding. Being rather solid furniture, we recommend the purchase of small pieces, just to make the most of their value and avoid that they are excessive. Antique Napoleon III furnitureFor years considered unsuitable for furnishing homes, today Napoleon III
style antiques are again well received. Antiques that appeared too dark and serious, despite the undoubted elegance, are now reconsidered thanks to the versatility that allows them to be easily integrated into many furnishing contexts. The consequence of this revenge is a natural increase in prices but the good news is that copies are practically non-existent, given the difficulty of reproducing them.
Distinctive features: excess of neo-Gothic, oriental and neo-Renaissance elements; a sort of return of past styles and eclecticism. Luxurious furniture, made with dark-toned woods such as walnut and ebony (in imitation of antique Renaissance furniture), very decorated and cared for in the rich details made of stucco and multicolored semiprecious stones, with a refined and refined look. Low tables and desks are widespread, for example decorated in gold and black. Authentic antiques and copies: the golden rules
Once the stylistic canons and structural characteristics of the period of origin of the various antique furniture have been identified, it is important to evaluate a series of other factors, able to speak for themselves about the authenticity or otherwise of the piece in front of us. Of course, in this article we will give you some basic notions, which should be accompanied by the opinion of a trusted expert.
It is important to ask the seller how many and what kind of interventions and restorations the furniture has actually undergone: if the percentage of parts replaced exceeds 33%, then it is not a good piece.
Another fundamental factor is the knowledge of wood: knowing how to distinguish the types according to color, grain, texture, etc. it can help not a little in identifying the age of belonging and quality, parallel to the value.
The patina is a determining element as, following oiling and waxing over time, a piece of furniture takes on a particular color, naturally non-uniform, also due to wear.
Check drawers and lock, in particular the presence of hardware: asymmetrical and different screws are synonymous with authenticity, as they were produced by hand.
As for the applications, make sure they are in good condition. In 1700 mainly brass and gilded bronze were used (in the finest antique furniture), in addition to gold leaf.
Observe if the surface is excessively damaged , as forgeries tend to intentionally exaggerate the fakes, so as to make them appear older than they actually are.
Furthermore, pay attention to the presence of the typical holes caused by woodworms : also in this case, it is possible to understand from the direction of the network of tunnels whether they have been caused in a natural or artificial way. Finally, the feet of the antique furniturethey are an important indicator, as from their style it is possible to date the entire complement.
Looking at all these aspects, you can get an idea of the authenticity or otherwise of the antiques that you will find in front of you. Of course, we repeat that these are only basic indications and it is not always easy to understand the differences, sometimes even minimal ones. For this reason, the ideal is to contact a trusted antique dealer or an expert who will accompany you between fairs and markets, to find the original antiques that are most suitable for the furnishing of your home.