Relevant categories: Cabinets and Chests
(Above photo - French Empire Cabinet - Antique Commode Kingwood 1850 )
Antique commodes refer to a chest of drawers, which were first introduced in France at the end of the 17th Century. People in their homes used them to store personal items under lock and key. The earliest commodes had pairs of doors as well as marble tops. One of the earliest makers of commodes is Andre-Charles Boulle. He and his contemporaries made the commodes-Tombeau, which resembled sarcophagi.
Most of the initial commodes featured heavy forms with gently curved outlines, slightly convex or bombe sides, and serpentine fronts. Most of these furniture pieces featured cabriole legs, parquetry and marquetry veneers, eastern-style japanning on the legs and carcass, and ormolu or gilded fittings protecting the vertical edges. The gilded bronze followed the curved outlines and disguised drawer edges.
(Above photo - French Empire Bombe Commode - Antique Chest of Drawers Walnut 1900 )
When Louis XV was French Emperor, furniture makers used elegant rococo curves and flamboyant ormolu surface ornamentation. During the reign of Louis XVI, the commodes had more restrained decorations, with the carcass featuring rectangular lines and legs having slight curves. At that time, commodes had breakfronts as well as rectangular parquetry and marquetry panels. Later on, the pieces of furniture had round straight, reeded, tapering legs. In the 19th Century, the commode was more subdued, transforming from a decorative to a more functional piece of furniture.
Even though furniture makers across Europe copied the commode, their creations were less delicate, emphasizing functionality over elegance. Good examples are the Venetian furniture makers who made commodes with extreme bombe outlines and lacquered or gaily-painted decorations. However, in England, some more graceful versions of the commode emerged, especially in the latter part of the 18th Century. Thus, the English commode was a curved chest or low cupboard. It is captured by Thomas Chippendale in his Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Directory of 1754 and had minimal ormolu decorations. These chests had low cupboards and decorated serpentine fronts. A commode may also refer to a cupboard with a chamber pot and a night table.
(Above photo - Empire Commode in Rosewood French Chest of Drawers )
Antique commodes come in the form of a low chest of drawers or cabinets, having elaborate decorations. It was meant to stand next to the wall and was wider than it was tall. Thus, it provided additional storage for items whether one wanted to use the cabinets, drawers, or expansive top. Besides, the marble top was perfect for displaying various things, including art pieces, statues, etc. It was not uncommon for the commode to be paired with a mirror. Mostly, a room would have a matching pair of commodes to enhance the interior decor.
The commode was so valuable that by the mid 18th Century, it was almost indispensable in royal, aristocratic, and humble homes. With time, it morphed into the chest of drawers, which is a popular storage option. It is no wonder that people still find this humble piece of furniture to be extremely useful.
(Above photo - French Chest of Drawers - Antique Kingwood Bombe Commode )
Antique commodes might have emerged centuries ago, but they are still popular with most collectors. You can find some attractive commodes in our antique shop. Call us today for a deal.
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