Call for Papers: Furnishing Elite Interiors, Old and New

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on March 20, 2011

Between the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’: Furnishing the Elite Interior 1740-1940
European Social Science History Conference (ESSHC), Glasgow, 11-14 April 2012

Proposals due by 1 May 2011

This ESSHC session examines European and North American market practice in order to address class difference and identification in the lust for the ‘new’ of the eighteenth-century elites and the desire for the ‘old’ amongst the aspirant middle classes thereafter. As Thomas Chippendale asserted in 1762, ‘The Title-Page has already called the following Work, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director, as being calculated to assist the one in the Choice, and the other in the Execution of the Designs; which are so contrived, that if no one Drawing should singly answer the Gentleman’s Taste, there will yet be found a Variety of Hints, sufficient to construct a new one’. This suggests that furnishing the elite interior could be a collaborative process between patron and cabinetmaker/upholder, as witnessed in the demand for increasingly novel styles of furniture capable of integration into the new architect-designed interiors of the later eighteenth century.

For the nouveaux riches, or those like the Wynns of Nostell Priory and the Lascelles family of Harewood House whose wealth increased dramatically as the century progressed, taste (and thus class identity) was best expressed through the acquisition of fine art, furniture and other items to fill their new town and country houses. Once such families became part of the Establishment, with associated titles and influence, their original consumption practices became the model for the next generation of arrivisti and their ‘new’ objects became the desirable ‘antiques’ of the nineteenth century. (more…)