An Innovative Design of 18th-Century Mallorca

December 19 2013, 9:26am

Carlton Hobbs LLC The baroque style, which first appeared in Italy and France was manifested in Spain around the middle of the 17th century, “under the austere, severe atmosphere…of the Austrian dynasty.”¬†Over the 150-year evolution of the Baroque style in Spain, developments in furniture were defined by regional schools, social class, and the current presiding monarch. Habsburg rule ended in 1700 and, with the inauguration Philip V (r. 1700-24) and the Bourbon Dynasty, furniture began to emulate French fashions. Later, Carlos III (r. 1759-88) brought artists in to direct royal manufactories and played an important role in the advancement of the industrial arts. He had come to Spain from Naples, bringing with him the “still recent memories of the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum”¬†which led to a return to the classical in the final development of Baroque.   Carlton Hobbs LLC Three classes of furniture developed throughout the country; “first that of the court and higher nobility, which is either inspired in, or simply repeats, the models imported from France and Italy principally; then that of the bourgeoisie and the provincial nobility, which, though foreign in inspiration, undoubtedly reflects more faithfully the Spanish hand and character; and lastly the furniture of the people, which ingenuously repeats traditional times with variations affecting its exterior ornamental form…”

Figure 1 Architecturally complex palaces and houses built by the nobility and the bourgeoisie required equally ornamented furnishings, and the present set of chairs no doubt served that function in an aristocratic dining or drawing room, where furniture was placed successively along the walls or grouped around fireplaces. Examples of this can be seen in the houses of the nobility in Majorca, where the original arrangements still survive.

  Figure 2a Figure 2b The present chairs are influenced by English prototypes, however they retain both distinctly original Spanish peculiarities, and a Mallorcan overtone. Their model, of profoundly curved legs and backrests, with foliate carving, can be found on a suite of seat furniture with upholstered backs and red lacquer decoration, originally from the Palace of Dos Aguas in Valencia, and now in the Palace of Perelada in Gerona (figure 1). A more closely related group of chairs of this model, with identically carved backrests, was sold by Sotheby’s International Realty from the Palacio Quinta Patino in Estoril, Portugal, where they once stood in the dining room (figure 2). Mallorcan furniture production in the 18th century has a uniquely experimental edge. The dynamic fluidity of design of the present chairs is remarkable in being predictive of the Art Nouveau period of the early 20th century. Carlton Hobbs LLC