Rare Victorian - Why Victorian Antique Furniture Gets A Bad Rap

Why Victorian Antique Furniture Gets A Bad Rap

bad rap Why Victorian Antique Furniture Gets A Bad Rap

bad rap Why Victorian Antique Furniture Gets A Bad Rap

Holy Moly.  Now I know why people who aren’t fans of Victorian antique furniture look at pieces from the period and condemn it’s over-the-topness.  Technically this piece is probably very late Victorian Renaissance Revival style.

This sofa is part of a set that Fontaine’s will be selling on the 18th and it is a Victorian-hater’s nightmare.  I love RJ Horner items, whose carved furniture this resembles, but even I would not be able to put this one in my home.  It is so overwrought it even has two-tier tables integrated on either side of the sofa.  No need to buy end tables – they’re included!

The set is probably incredible to see in person and it will make quite a statement in a fine home somewhere.

Expected sale range is $15,000 to $25,000.  More detail images at the listing.

So how do you like the set?

bad rap set Why Victorian Antique Furniture Gets A Bad Rap

Share on
  • John Hopper - October 18, 2008

    I have not seen anything this hideous for a while, and the Victorians could certainly do hideous, by our standards, and very often by their own.

    It seems a shame that so much good Victorian furniture was thrown on bonfires during the 1960s and 1970s, and this survived. There’s something wrong there somewhere.

    However, it is a good historical piece. It fits in well with the Design Reform movements principles, as it is a fine example of the staggeringly awful, so perhaps it does serve a purpose.

  • RareVictorian - October 18, 2008

    John, I think the fabric doesn’t even help it any, compounding the issue.

  • John Hopper - October 18, 2008

    That’s very true. The fabric is not doing anything to help, though I think with the best will in the world, and the best fabric, this set of furniture would be difficult to sell. Let’s just say, my partner saw the piece and went ‘omg!’

    Maybe if you had a Venetian palazzo with polished marble floors, you might get away with it. Here in the UK, I don’t think anyone would have a room large enough.

    But with all that said, it would be an incredible piece of furniture to see up close and a real experience to sit on with a cup of coffee, though you might look a little lost hugging your cup while sitting up one end of the chair, to make use of those handy side tables!

  • james conrad - October 18, 2008

    So how do you like the set?

    uhhhhh, noooooooo. It doesnt do much for me, a good example of the “more is better” design school which was common during the victorian age.

  • misslilybart - October 18, 2008

    I’m not entirely convinced that “the Victorians” are the ones to blame for this…. interesting suite of furniture. My gut tells me that it is probably Continental and 20th century, and my head agrees, for a bunch of reasons. Were it actually Victorian, though, it would certainly (As John Hopper mentions) serve as a textbook example of just what the design reformers were working to eliminate from the decorative arts vocabulary… too bad they weren’t more successful in their efforts!

  • RareVictorian - October 18, 2008

    For reference here’s how I got to Renaissance Revival:

    17th century Italian “Real” Renaissance bench with putti, cabochons, etc.


    Victorian Details book describes a resurgence of RR in 1880s-1920:

    “By the 1880s, Renaissance-style had become old fashioned. Everyone had a Centennial set in their bedroom and Jelliff-related sofas in their parlor. And the rich were on to something else.

    But in the late 1890s wealthy New Yorkers came back to Renaissance-style along with Gothic-revival, Elizabethan-revival and every other form of expensive European furniture treasure that could be reproduced. And these were Diamond-Jim-Brady reproductions — huge, ornate pieces that would have made their ancestors quake with envy.”

    This is describing the peak “RJ Horner years” of the late 1800s/turn of the century in New York to a tee.

    I agree this one is quite possibly European.

  • woodwright - October 18, 2008

    This set clearly illustrates a philosophy of mine as a custom cabinetmaker. “The best workmanship in the world cannot make a bad design look good. While even mediocre workmanship will make a great design look great.” The design is at least as important if not more important than the work itself – do whatever it takes to to get it right. This applies to virtually anything made.
    Clearly there is a ton of work in this set – carving is very time consuming and the workmanship looks fine. But it is heavy, clunky and gaudy and would not appeal to very many buyers. I doubt seriously if the realized price will come close to it’s estimate. Although it must have appealed to someone at one point to have been designed and sold (and I’m sure it wasn’t cheap either when new because of the work involved) – but tastes have changed for sure. woodwright

  • james conrad - October 19, 2008

    Well, it closed at 21k plus BP which is alot better than i thought it would do. Another thing, if MLB is correct that it’s 20th century and european then i say it did very very well.

  • Sam Samis - June 20, 2014

    It’s very easy in the present age of mid-century-everything to look down your nose at a piece like this. Is it overwrought, well, yes of course. But in the right setting–a quite gargantuan space, it could work as a statement piece. If I owned it, I’d trim off the side tables and the wood trim on the back, leave the carved base and I think it would work.

  • Lisa - July 12, 2017

    I think it’s all very awesome! I would LOVE to be able to afford something like this.

Leave a reply