The Germans are not a fashionable people and their furniture, and art generally, does not always receive the attention it deserves.
Prior to the emergence of the European renaissance in the 15th century German furniture had been steeped in the Gothic tradition and Gothic elements continued to exert some influence after the Renaissance had fully penetrated Germany in the 16th century, or specifically around 1550, under the leadership of Albrecht Durer. The other main difference between German Renaissance furniture and its counterparts in Italy and France was the freer style of carving, German carved furniture being of a more robust, less delicate nature, than the painfully careful work seen in Italian Renaissance furniture.
German Cabinet, 1560, by Hieronymus Wolf.
Marquetry of walnut, plum, maple, birch and other woods, carved boxwood drawer fronts and pine carcase.
As early as the 1550s the grandest cabinets and cupboards in Europe were being made in Augsburg, and by the 1590s they were regarded as highly important diplomatic gifts, fit for kings. The furniture of Augsburg, which had been a cabinet making centre since around 1322, was extraordinarily dazzling and showy, employing the most advanced and never-before matched techniques, but was meant largely for display than use.
Augsburg Cabinet, 1560.
Oak carcase, with ash-lined drawers, boxwood carving and inlay of various woods.
On the exterior of two outer doors there are battle scenes based on engravings by the Swiss artist Jost Amman (1539-1591). The fronts of the internal drawers consist of reliefs in carved boxwood. These reliefs depict moral themes based on engravings by the German printmaker Virgil Solis (1514-1562).
German furniture of the period normally termed "Baroque" in 17th century Europe became distinguished by its use of marquetry treatment of furniture, especially on cabinets. German cabinetmakers made innumerable tables, chests, cupboards, and cabinets, with very elaborate and finely wrought marquetry decoration. On chests as well is to be seen some use of architectural type forms.
German cabinet making at this time was renowned throughout Europe, particularly the centre of Augsburg, and it the fashion among European royalty to order custom pieces from Germany continued unabated.
During the time of the dominance of Rococo styled designs the city of Dresden distinguished itself by the production of many very specialised and unique items such as writing cabinets and bureaus, usually done in exquisitely beautiful and complex form. The workshops of Martin Schnell, early eighteenth century, are noteworthy in this regard, especially for painted furniture.
Marquetry Cabinet, 1715.
Marquetry of tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl, brass, copper and silver, on an oak carcase, with gilt-copper mounts and drawers lined with printed paper.
German rococo furniture was characterised by the popularity of lacquer work with chairs and tables decorated with scarlet, embellished with gold, and crowned with ormolu mounts being important works of the era.
The furniture makers Abraham Roentgen and his son David, in their Neuwied workshop, were influential designers having some impact on the course of French furniture. David Roentgen in particular was noted for his combining of Rococo styles with native German traditions, and his chests, bureaus, and cabinets were much sought after in fashionable European circles.
The neoclassic period of furniture in Europe that arose in the early nineteenth century, was, in Germany, known as Biedermeier furniture and it remains today popular among antique collectors.
Modern German Furniture
Recycled Plastic Chair, 1996.
Germany today is the third largest manufacturer of furniture in the world and German contemporary designs, particularly in upholstered furniture, dominate some markets. Much of the impetus for the modern German furniture industry can be traced back to the early 20th century Bauhaus furniture movement.