Italian Renaissance Furniture: Coming Full Circle

By: Carly Hill, Staff Writer • Apr 19, 2012 • 0 Comments

The Renaissance was a movement that began in Italy and lasted a long time – beginning at the end of the 13th century and lasting into the 16th century.  This movement influenced everything about Italian life and furniture was no exception.

Regarding Renaissance furniture, you can break it down into five phases.

Early Renaissance

15th century Italian furniture can be described with one word.  BIG.  An article from describes the furniture as “large, imposing, magnificent, richly decorative and ornate, majestic, fit for kings, heavily drawing on the antique tradition of Roman architecture, sculpture, and sarcophagi” (stone coffins).

Furniture makers weren’t complete copy cats of the Roman style though.  They simply used the Roman style as inspiration.  Much like today, Italians at this time were rediscovering antiques and getting inspired by them.  The gothic style of furniture and architecture was put to rest during this time.

Grotesque and Fantasy

In the 1490’s, a new style emerged – one with motifs of foreign origin.  The style was derived from Islamic, Arabesque, Moorish, and northern Europena gothic traditions.  The days of traditionalism were over and furniture style was outside the box .


Grotesque and fantasy style paved the way for mannerism – which, essentially, was an exaggeration the human form.  These over the top human forms were displayed by artists like Michelangelo and also made their way into furniture. 

The High Renaissance

High Renaissance style furniture was present at the same time as mannerism style furniture.  High Renaissance attempted to copy Roman furniture and architecture – inspired by the art of Raphael.  Furniture was plainer and more serious.  In a way, style had come full circle since the start of the renaissance, once again returning to the more Roman style.

Today’s featured piece is a Victorian Walnut interpretation of an Italian Renaissance Collector’s cabinet.  As described by Thomas Livingston Antiques, this piece “features two hinged doors opening to reveal multiple small mirrored drawers and arched mirrors on back of hinged doors, compartment at top open on hinges, long drawer at base, iron handles at sides, drawers lined with marbleized paper, old repairs.”  For more information, or to purchase this piece, click here.

Stop by the blog on Saturday to learn about Italian Renaissance art.  Until then, Happy Latiquing!