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2. Design History of the Metamorphic Library Chair


The form and functionality of the Regency period Metamorphic Library Chair owes much to the eighteenth century discovery of classical artefacts in Italy and Greece, the mechanical furniture of the French courts and a growing military demand for „flat- pack‟ furniture. This chapter examines these design influences and how the results were brought together by a small number of London-based specialist cabinet-makers between 1800 and 1820 to create a catalyst for innovation in the furniture trade.


2.1 The Origins of Neo-classical Design


The transition towards the neo-classical form in England had started during the reign of George III following the archaeological excavations of Herculaneum in 1738 and Pompeii ten years later. Before this, English furniture decoration had been dominated by the scrollwork and shell motifs of Rococo. The Palladian movement of the eighteenth century was already having an impact on architecture and the discovery of wall paintings in Pompeii was hastening the transition toward a new decorative style. Robert Adam, having returned from his Grand Tour of France and Italy in 1758, had already established himself as a Palladian architect when he decided to adapt and incorporate some of the lighter classical motifs into his designs. The honeysuckle swags and oval paterae worked well alongside the classic urns and delicate ribbons but his patterns failed to comply with the classical proportions dictated by Palladianism. Other architects objected to Adam‟s departure from the strict Palladian rules but, together with his younger brother James, Robert Adam continued to develop the style. In 1773 the brothers published the first edition of „The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam‟ (The Works) in which they claimed to have recaptured „the beautiful spirit of antiquity ... by means of a series of delicate ornaments and mouldings‟.


By simplifying and combining Greek, Roman and Byzantine decorative elements the Adam brothers had created a new classical or neo-classical style and they became extremely popular. Soon they were employed to modify and build new homes for the British aristocracy and rising merchant classes. Robert Adam was a perfectionist, designing everything himself from the facade of a building to the plaster mouldings of the ceilings and the shape of the furniture. In 1759 he employed Thomas


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