The Gothick Revival
The Gothick style, or Gothic Revival, was an 18th century reinterpretation of medieval Gothic architecture that began in Englandcirca 1740. Unlike 16th and 17th century manifestations of the Gothic style, which was to suggest the Apostolic Succession of the Anglican Church, the 18th century version was purely decorative, was not strictly copied, and was often blended with exotic elements. Objects of typical Georgian form were applied with tracery, arches, crockets, and pinnacles. Here we share a few early 19th century Neo-Gothic pieces from the Carlton Hobbs collection.
A pair of card tables circa 1800 (figure 1) have been designed in the manner of Horace Walpole’s furnishings for his London villa, Strawberry Hill. The house was built in 1678 but was modified by Walpole between 1747 and 1792 with Gothic architectural elements including towers and battlements, fan vaulting, ogival and lancet arches, and tracery, some of which can be seen in figure 2, in a photograph circa 1863. The card tables, when opened, have clover-shaped tops above an arcaded frieze with trefoil designs in the spandrels. The whole rests on cluster column legs, which are an imaginative reading of a gothic element, rather than the more usual square or shaped plinth base. Walpole (1717-1797) was an English politician, man of letters and art historian who wrote extensively about the Georgian social and political atmosphere and published his works from a printing press at Strawberry Hill.
A Regency library table (seen below), circa 1825, is composed of massive sextagonal legs with arched moldings which seem, in a way, like Gothic towers rising up to form the lobed corners of the rectangular top. The legs are joined by wide and shallow arches, forming open spandrels of quatrefoil design at the corners. Though the table uses medieval architectural devices, they are restrained and the temptation to over-embellish the frieze with wild tracery and and crockets has been resisted. In 1827Ackermann’s Repository proclaimed that, “The Gothic style… is the most appropriate for a library,” and the present table provides a chic example of that credo.
Finally, an example of Danish Neo-Gothic design can be seen in a pair of armchairs to a design by celebrated architect and designer Gustav Friedrich Hetsch (figure 4). They correspond with a drawing in Hetsch’s hand, now in the collection of the Danish Museum of Applied Art in Copenhagen (figure 5), which shows the design of the chairs and represent the only piece of Neo-Gothic furniture that can with certainty be attributed to Hetsch. The backrest contains a central pierced quatrefoil, flanked by two pierced half-quatrefoils. These Gothic motifs are combined with a more classical shape and design elements such as acanthus leaves and lion masks.