The Classical Appeal of Regency Period Furniture: Looking Back to the Romans and Greeks


Regency period furniture designers drew extensively from ancient Rome and Greece, and the resulting classical designs of Regency furniture continue to hold wide appeal today.

While Georgian neo-classical furniture drew inspiration from Rome and Greece, in the Regency period furniture we can see much more direct appropriation of classical designs. Rather than just incorporating some of the ideas and elements of ancient designs, Regency period designers often set out to almost re-create ancient pieces.

Regency furniture that is not a direct copy of the furniture of ancient Rome, Greece or Egypt usually at least incorporated their elemental original classical forms and motifs.

Symbols which are prominent in ancient designs –sphinxes, winged griffins and chimera as well as lyres, laurel wreaths, acanthus leaves are recurring features of Regency furniture.

Monopodiums with lion’s and leopard’s heads and feet which originated in Rome, were also revived by influential designers such as Thomas Hope, who was an avid collector of Roman and Greek antiquities.

Other features of Regency furniture with their origins in classical design include Corinthian columns, ancient Greek sabre legs and the scrolled ends seen on sofas and day beds.

The Prince Regent

The Prince Regent was both a patron of the arts and architecture and a keen collector of classical art and furniture.

Throughout his reign as Prince Regent, when his father George III was deemed unfit to rule, and after his coronation as King George IV, he championed Regency Classicism, spending huge amounts on his lavish residences and other grand buildings, and commissioning many of the era’s great furniture designers in the process. The culmination of this passion for the arts is the magnificent fantasy, The Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

The Regency period was a time of great extravagance, and the Prince Regent’s dedication to beauty in classical forms influenced fashionable society to follow suit.

The important furniture designers of the time,Thomas Hope, Louis Le Gaigneur, George Smith and Henry Holland being amongst the most prominent, created many exquisitely elegant pieces in classical forms.

Luxurious materials were de rigueur: as well as mahogany, rosewood began to be used and items often featured gilded and ormolu embellishments.

He may have been berated for his exuberant spending during his lifetime, but we can thank the Prince Regent now for his legacy of beautiful classical furniture.

*Image on the left:

A possibly unique mahogany barometer in the form of a viola. Executed in highly figured mahogany and with a silvered dial.  This type of barometer was commonly made in the shape of a banjo,  this example is the only one seen by us in this form.