BIEDERMEIER – APPLIED ARTS AND FAMILY FIRST
Today we will take a look at the history of German-speaking countries in the first half of the 19th century, more specifically the 1815-1848 era. This era is today known as the Biedermeier period. The people of this era had begun to take a deep breath and relax that Napoleonic wars are coming to an end, only to be later hit by the though autocratic Metternich absolutism period. What did the townspeople do to make the most out of a bad situation? They were decorating the interiors of their homes with porcelain, upholstered furniture, portraits and still-life paintings, as well as decorating themselves with massive or subtle jewels, which were often hiding small objects inside, symbolising a personal memory. Townspeople would also listen to symphonic music or went to theatres to watch nation thematic plays. Together, let’s go back to the period which is now known as Biedermeier.
The Idyll of the Family Fireplace
After the period of cruel bloody Napoleonic wars (1803-1815), the residents of a destroyed countryside of then German-speaking nations were in large numbers moving cities, which seemed to promise a better living, and most importantly safe haven. This major change was often done by the whole extended family, which is how the creation of such large social units became the first of its time. Politically exhausted individuals were backing away from the social scene, spending their time around the family fireplace, with the common themes being peace, quiet and stability. People were spending their time by making music, writing, sewing, or painting, whether this was in a close family circle, or social clubs.
Moreover, their dwellings, homeowners would equip with functional furniture, porcelain and vases, which thanks to the manufacturing industry the majority of different social classes could afford. Simplicity and elegance – that was the thought behind the Biedermeier style.
What is the Meaning of the word Biedermeier?
The term Biedermeier was first used in the year of 1848 in the Munich magazine ‘Fliegende Blätter’ (loosely translated as flying pages) – until then the era was known as the ‘Bourgeois Empire’. The term Biedermeier was used by the German writer Joseph Victor von Scheffel, who wrote humorous poems about sirs Biederman and Bummelmayer. Out of these fictional characters, he later put together just one – Gottlieb Biedermeier, which he later used to write humorous poems about. To understand the concept, it’s worthy of noting that the word ‘bieder’ refers to an ‘honourable, honest, good, but also conservative, naïve and a little bit foolish small-town person’. ‘Meier’ is also a surname that used to be so common in German-speaking lands, that every other person had it. Combining those terms, von Scheffel aimed to caricature the simplicity and bourgeoise of the small-town residents, who often came from country-sides and were not interested in getting to know more than what directly concerned them.
The Beauty Lies in Simplicity
Because family and households were the priorities, the Biedermeier style was typical for the applied arts. Portable serving tables, showcases, predecessors of today’s sofas, infamous chairs made of bentwood, also known as ‘thonets’, as well as glass or porcelain sets, jars, cups, decanters, wine glasses, and vases were used for both decorative and practical purposes.
Some of the techniques used were the Guilloché method (fine line decorative, often ornamental graving), Filigree (tiny lines, drawings or curls), or Cloisonné (decorating metalwork). Very common were also crosses, hollow opening medallions, rich pendant necklaces, decorated with pearls, garnets or other precious stones. Moreover, ‘Demi Parure’ sets, which were jewels meant to be worn at special occasions and social gatherings were favoured too. These were mostly earrings, brooches, necklaces, but for specially tuned sets also consisted of bracelets and headbands. Commemorative rings and massive bracelets were also highly popular.
Have you also been Lured in by the Biedermeier style?
If the Biedermeier art or lifestyle is close to your heart, in our store you can choose from a large variety of beautiful Biedermeier antiquities. If you then sit down with a book in your favourite armchair and listen to the rhythms of fireplace clock and the music of Franz Schubert with your favourite drink in an antique decanter or porcelain, you will be immediately taken back to the times when the household peace infiltrated the soul.
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