Furnishing the Eighteenth Century : What Furniture Can Tell Us about the European and American Past book cover
1st Edition

Furnishing the Eighteenth Century
What Furniture Can Tell Us about the European and American Past

ISBN 9780415884792
Published July 6, 2010 by Routledge
256 Pages

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Book Description

Furnishing the Eighteenth Century provides an illuminating, interdisciplinary look into European and American furniture during the century that connoisseurs and collectors consider its golden age. Lavishly illustrated, this lively collection of essays by historians, art historians, and literary scholars examines the ways furniture of this period reflects the global contacts and social rituals developed in eighteenth-century Europe and America.   Drawing on literature, painting, account books and death inventories, this diverse compilation explores how and why eighteenth-century men and women on both sides of the Atlantic purchased and used furniture. Ultimately, these essays make the past come alive, showing us what made desks, tables and chairs deeply meaningful in their own time and historically informative today.

Contributors: Donna Bohanan, Natacha Coquery, Madeleine Dobie, Dena Goodman, Mimi Hellman, David Jaffee, Ann Smart Martin, Kathryn Norberg, Chaela Pastore, David Porter, Mary Salzman, Carolyn Sargentson

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Dena Goodman and Kathryn Norberg

Part 1: Mapping Meaning Globally

1. Orientalism, Colonialism, and Furniture in Eighteenth-Century France

Madeleine Dobie, Columbia University

2. Luxury Markets in Saint Domingue: Mahogany as a Case Study

Chaela Pastore, California State University, San Marcos

3. "A Wanton Chase in a Foreign Place": Hogarth and the Gendering of Exoticism in the Eighteenth-Century Interior

David Porter, University of Michigan

Part 2: Diffusion

4. Fashion, Business, Diffusion: An Upholsterer’s Shop in Eighteenth-Century Paris

Translated by Kathryn Norberg & Dena Goodman

Natacha Coquery, Université de Tours

5. Sideboards, Side Chairs, and Globes: Changing Modes of Furnishing Provincial Culture in the Early Republic, 1790-1820

David Jaffee, University of North Florida

Part 3: Social Meaning and Social Power

6. Color Schemes and Decorative Tastes in the Noble Houses of Seventeenth-Century Dauphiné

Donna Bohanon, Auburn University

7. Tea Tables Overturned: Rituals of Power and Place in Colonial America

Ann Smart Martin, University of Wisconsin-Madison

8. Goddess of Taste: Courtesans and their Furniture in the Late Eighteenth Century

Kathryn Norberg

9. Decoration and Enlightened Spectatorship

Mary Salzman, Stanford University

Part 4: Hidden Meanings: Psychology and Security

10. The Joy of Sets: The Uses of Seriality in the French Interior

Mimi Hellman, Skidmore College

11. The Secretaire and the Integration of the Eighteenth-Century Self

Dena Goodman

12. Looking at Furniture Inside Out: Strategies for Concealment and Secrecy in Eighteenth-Century French Furniture

Carolyn Sargentson, Victoria and Albert Museum

Notes on Contributors


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Dena Goodman is Professor of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment and Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters, and the editor of Marie-Antoinette: Writings on the Body of a Queen (Routledge). 

Kathryn Norberg teaches history at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Rich and Poor in Grenoble and the coeditor (with Sara Melzer) of From the Royal to the Republican Body: Incorporating the Political in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century France.


"The twelve essays that constitute this collection provide ample new, thoughtful, and frequently surprising revelations about what eighteenth-century furniture said to a broad range of makers, users, and audiences."Enfilade, newsletter for Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture

"There have been few attempts to make the history of furniture above all a form of cultural and social history ... all of these essays add to our stock of knowledge about furniture's importance." H-France review

"This book contains meticulous archival scholarship in abundance, attention to detail in a series of wonderful close observations, but most of all, in individual essays and as a project as a whole, a wonderful panorama of the imaginative routes taken by recent scholarship on the decorative arts. At many points I was both inspired by the imaginative range and humbled by the work rate of cultural historians of the decorative, enough to shame us complacent historians of the two-dimensional image. The answer to the skeptic’s question, 'Can the settee speak?' is, on the basis of the work presented in this volume, a resounding yes."Mark Ledbury, Eighteenth-Century Life

"The book would make a really interesting addition to any design-related library, especially for a reader who appreciates in-depth essays." – Style Court blog: www.stylecourt.blogspot.com