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George I and George II, Palladian and Early Georgian

Time Period

Roughly 1714-1760, as so many dates in furniture, these are a bit fuzzy.



George II Side Chair


History

Queen Anne died without issue. Before her death, Parliament had declared Sophia of the Palatinate heir presumptive to the English throne. There were approximately 50 individuals closer to the throne than Sophia, but they were all Roman Catholic, the Act of Settlement of 1701 prohibited Catholics from inheriting the English throne. Sophia was Anne’s closest living Protestant relative. Sophia died before Anne, therefore her son, George (who was then the Elector of Hanover) inherited the throne upon Anne’s death in 1714.


George I, although supported by Parliament, was not especially loved by all of his English Subjects. He was fluent in several languages, but unfortunately, English was not one of them until later in is reign. He was considered too German for England and was widely ridiculed in the press and in private.


He held reign of both Great Britain and Hanover and spent about a fifth of his time in Germany. He held absolute power over the Hanoverians, but was a Constitutional Monarch in Great Britain. He was an adept politician and with the help of Henry Walpole, his PM, he strengthened the political system in Great Britain, laying the groundwork for the Government we see today. He died in 1727 in Hanover (where he is buried), and for the first time in a hundred years or more, the transition to his heir, his son George II, was uneventful.


George I Arm Chair

George II’s 33 year reign was begun by his refusal to attend his father’s funeral in Germany, which garnered wide support from his English subjects. Although he was also Elector of Hanover, he was an English King, his reign was relatively uneventful, but saw expansion of colonial interests around the world, the complete suppression of the Catholic claims to the throne and the concrete establishment of the Ministers and Parliament into a functional and efficient Constitutional Monarchy. The Middle Classes continued to expand with the burgeoning economy.


Influences

George I and George II furniture can be broken down into two basic categories. Palladian and Transitional.


Kent Pier Table

The Palladian Movement, championed by the architect William Kent, produced luxurious and massive pieces heavily influenced by Roman archaeology. Wide usage of gilt and gilding, incorporation of classical elements. The furniture and decorations were not publicly available and most were designed for a place as part of redecoration of palaces and estates of the very wealthy.



Kent Pier Table


As for run of the mill George I and II antiques, the biggest influence on design was the reduced availability of native walnut and the increased availability of mahogany from the New World. The reddish, tightly grained hardwood would become the most prized wood for creation of all English and American furniture for the next 100 years. Stylistically, the elements of the Queen Anne period, the cabriole leg, pad foot, etc, were expanded and developed on producing fabulous things like the hairy paw foot, the ball and claw foot and elaborately carved legs. For this reason, I like to consider George I and II (non-Palladian) furniture a transition between the introduction of these elements and the fully blown exuberance one sees in the Rococo.


Characteristics

Palladian...lots of gilt, inclusion of classical elements including busts, acanthus and architectural elements. Most often, because they were generally designed to be place specific, we tend to see pier tables, large mirrors, bookcases, things that are not easily moved. Chairs and other seating pieces exist, with wide usage of gilt.


Kent Mirror

George I and II...we look for more developed themes and elements coming from Queen Anne executed in mahogany. Chairs are more solid looking and feeling, with all sorts of variance on the legs and feet including but not limited to elaborate shells on the knees, variations in foot design ranging from hairy paw, lions paw to ball and claw.


Pier tables and mirrors, influenced by the Palladian movement, tend to have a massive feel, but are executed in mahogany as opposed to gilding.


To be honest, we do not see a whole lot of GI and GII furniture. If we do, its an odd chair or pier table in a well curated collection. Personally, I love the heaviness of the style, the elements are strongly carved and unapologetic in use of heavily figured wood and solid construction.

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