Floral carving on antique furniture has been popular for many centuries and some of the finest antique pieces showcase beautiful, detailed flower designs. Floral motifs like the Rosette, Fleur-de-Lis, Palmette and Acanthus are a pleasure to the eye and add a delicate touch to carved furniture.
Our furniture, made during the colonial era in India, often features elaborate floral and foliate designs and are richly decorated with different types of vegetation from the natural world.
In this blog we are highlighting floral motifs that appear on a number of antique pieces from our collection.
Dutch colonial cupboard with floral carving on the door panels and the apron.
One of the most beautiful classical carvings on wood for furniture is the lily in French (Fleur-de-Lys). There is a debate on what this wood carving actually depicts. Is it the French Lily or does it mimic the flower of the Iris? Others say it is not even a floral motif. Although the Fleur-de-Lis has cropped up in architecture, arts, flags and heraldry all over Europe, it is especially linked to France and to the French monarchy. Not only the beauty of the form, but also the symbols and meaning layers that have been stacked over the centuries are captivating.
In furniture, Fleur-de-Lis you can often find as a decorative applique on the frieze or a door panel of a cupboard.
Border of Rosettes on the apron of a British colonial walnut sofa.
A rosette is a round, stylized flower design, used to decorate furniture. The rosette derives from the natural shape of the botanical rosette, formed by leaves radiating out from the stem of a plant and visible even after the flowers have withered. This flower motif is often carved in wood to create a decorative ornament for furniture to form a decorative border or at the intersection of two materials.
Acanthus leaf carving on British colonial rosewood cabinet on stand.
The acanthus leaf was first used by the Greeks in the 5th century BCE on temple roof ornaments, on wall friezes and on the capital of the Corinthian Column. It is a stylized ornamental motif based on a characteristic Mediterranean plant with jagged leaves, Acanthus spinosus. The acanthus leaf has been a popular motif in carved furniture decoration since the Renaissance. It is most frequently found in mahogany furniture from 1730 and remained popular through the Victorian era till late 18th century.
The acanthus leaf design was also used to ornament cabriole legs in furniture. The example to the left shows a cabriole leg of a British colonial table accented at the curve with hand-carved acanthus and then swoops down to more acanthus detail at the scrolled end of the leg.
Flame Palmette on British colonial console table.
The palmette is a motif which, in its most characteristic expression, resembles the fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree. It has a far-reaching history, originating in ancient Egypt with a subsequent development through the art of most of Eurasia, often in forms that bear relatively little resemblance to the original. Flame palmettes are different from regular palmettes in that, traditionally palmettes tended to have sharply splaying leaves. From the 4th century BCE however, the end of the leaves tend to turn in, forming what is called the "flame palmette" design.
British colonial rosewood sideboard carved and pierced.
Absolutely stunning work can be found on cabinets that are fully carved with floral motifs, like the example above. The Indian craftsman lavished his imagination on the doors of this rosewood cabinet that are intricately pierced and carved with an intertwining floral design and have a rosette at centre. The flowers and leaves are exquisite and the lines which form the design are very delicate. The frieze and base feature a border of acanthus carving. Bearing in mind that rosewood is a hard material, such work requires skill of the highest calibre and a considerable amount of time.
Beautifully carved floral decoration on antique furniture is a pleasure to the eye and at The Past Perfect Collection we are lucky to have many exceptional antiques in our collection that feature extremely skilful carvings of flowers. Each one is unique and a testament to the skill of the craftsmen and artisans from past centuries.