The style known today as Biedermeier was popular in the early 19th century throughout most of Northern Europe, particularly in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, as well as Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Officially, Biedermeier was only produced between 1810 and 1835. Revival periods include 1860, late 19th Century and again in the 1920s. Most of the furniture from that era remain anonymous and dateless, in character with the modest craftsmen who created the style. But the impact of its unfussy style and clean lines is still felt today.

Many assume that Biedermeier is the name of a celebrated cabinetmaker of the time, but the name is more commonly attributed to a satirical cartoon popular in early 19th century Europe. The cartoon characters of the Biedermeier family symbolized the rich indolent German bourgeois of the day. They were depicted as fat, overdressed, nouveau-riche comfortably surrounded with the new streamlined, highly polished furniture, then in vogue. "Bieder" in German means plain and "Meier" was one of the most common German surnames of the time.

The name was applied to the style when it again regained popularity 60 or 70 years later, never having been identified as its own period of style prior to that. It was perhaps due to the sense of comfort the furniture afforded. But to assume that this furniture was ever Middle Class is erroneous. The style of furniture would not have existed in the average home of its day. The veneering techniques and cabinetmaking skills required to execute furniture of this style were costly and thus only affordable for the very privileged. Hence, the notion of butchers and shopkeepers furnishing their homes with this type of furniture is a misconception.

Extracted from Karl Kemp Antiques


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