Antique Periods & Styles

A glossary covering all the main antique periods, movements and styles

A brief look at everything from the Aesthetic movement to Neoclassicism and Swedish modern to Minimal and the Vienna secession.

If antique periods are used to reference an item it should actually have been made during the period indicated.

A Victorian vase, for example, should have been made between 1837 and 1901.

Most antique periods have recognisable design styles or motifs associated with them and

An item that clearly exhibits specific design characteristics reminiscent of a period or style may be described as, ‘Victorian / Art Deco / Art Nouveau Style’, but may not date from that particular period.

If nothing about an item is reminiscent of a particular period, then using the phrase Victorian / Art Deco or any other style to describe it would be incorrect.

NOTE: period terminology can be used in reference to items dated to a specific time. Those items are considered to be ‘of the period.’


Antique Styles and Periods beginning with (A)

Details for the Aesthetic Movement, the Anti-design movement, Anti-Modernism, Art Deco, Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement

  • Aesthetic Movement

    An English literary and artistic movement of the late 19th century founded on the ethos of "art for art’s sake". The group was dedicated to the ideal of beauty and rejected the idea that art should have a social or moral purpose, in contrast to the Arts and Crafts Movement

  • Anti-design movement

    A movement that emerged in Italy during the later 1960s, following Ettore Sottsass’s 1966 exhibition of furniture in Milan. The group rejected the formalist values of the neomodern design movement in Italy and sought to renew the cultural and political role of design, believing that the original aims of Modernism had become no more than a marketing tool. In contrast to Modernism, the movement was founded on a belief in the importance of an object’s social and cultural value as well as its aesthetic function. Employing all the design values rejected by Modernism, it embraced ephemerality, irony, kitsch, strong colours and distortions of scale to undermine the purely functional value of an object, and question concepts of taste, and "good design". Sottsass spearheaded the activities which were carried out in individual groups; these were to consolidate as the Memphis group in the 1980s.

  • Anti-Modernism

    A movement originating in Italy through the activities of the Italian "Anti-design" movement. By the end of the 1960s it had become an international concept as increasing numbers of designers rejected the formalist values of the Modern Movement.

  • Art Deco

    The term widely used to describe the architectural and decorative arts style that emerged in France in the 1920s. It took its name from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. Geometric forms and patterns, bright colours, sharp edges, and the use of expensive materials, such as enamel, ivory, bronze and polished stone are well known characteristics of this style, but the use of other materials such as chrome, coloured glass and Bakelite also enabled Art Deco designs to be made at low cost.

  • Art Nouveau

    A style of decorative art and architecture popular in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries which is characterized by stylised curvilinear designs and organic forms. In Germany the style was called Jugendstil. Art Nouveau developed along two distinct lines: the rectilinear style pioneered by C. R. Mackintosh and seen in the work of the members of the Vienna Secession, and the intricate curvilinear style of French and Belgian designers, such as Hector Guimard. Mackintosh’s style of Art Nouveau was to influence the Wiener Werkstatte.

  • Arts and Crafts Movement

    An English aesthetic and social movement of the later 19th century, led by John Ruskin, William Morris, C. R. Ashbee and others, which sought to revive the importance of craftsmanship in a time of increasing mechanization and mass production. The ideal of the movement was to make well designed and crafted objects available to all people, but because the objects were made by hand in workshops only wealthy patrons could afford to buy them. However, the movement did stimulate a drive for better standards in mass production at the time, while its belief that good art and design could reform society, and its practice of rejecting showy decoration to concentrate on the simplicity of an object was to have a significant influence on exponents of the Modern Movement, such as the designers associated with the German Bauhaus. The movement also influenced some 20th Century designers in Sweden, Finland and Germany to revive their own national styles.


Antique Styles and Periods beginning with (B)

Details of the Baroque, Bauhus and Biedermier periods and styles.

  • Baroque

    A term used broadly in art and literature, it primarily refers to the style of art practised widely in Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries during the Catholic Counter Reformation. It is a highly ornate style that in design and architecture is characterized by a lavish and dynamic use of materials.

  • Bauhaus

    A German school of design founded in Weimar in 1919 by Walter Gropius, an architect-designer. The Bauhaus aimed to produce prototype designs for everyday, mass-produced items. It explored the amnufacturing processes and new materials of the machine age such as stainless steel and plastics, and coordinated the skills of architects, engineers, painters, sculptors and designers. The school was closed by the Nazis in 1933, but revived in the German city of Ulm after the war and inspired industrial design in the mid-20thC.

  • Biedermeier

    A style of decorative arts popular in Germany and Austria in the 1820s to 1840s. Characterized by refined neoclassical shapes, that display a simplicity of design and clean lines, the style was popular with the emerging middle class. Austrian exponents of the Modern Movement, such as the designers associated with the Wiener Werkstatte, were influenced by Biedermeier designs.


Antique Periods & Styles beginning with (C)

Including the Celtic, Classical, Classicism, Constructivism and Cubism styles and periods.

  • Celtic style

    The artistic style of the people of Western Central Europe during the Iron Age. The highly accomplished metal work and the pottery are distinctive for their stylised, curvilinear surface decoration. Celtic motifs, with their curvaceous line patterns and stylised animal and human forms, were absorbed into English and Irish art, and were revived at the end of the 19thC by art nouveau artists, and particularly the glasgow school The style influenced Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his gang of four in the later 19th century.

  • Classical

    A term used broadly to describe a style of architecture, art and design that is created in, or that follows, the restrained style of classical antiquity and its adherence to accepted standards of form and craftsmanship.

  • Classicism

    A style of architecture, art and design that is modelled on the ideals and style of the art of ancient Greece and Rome, displaying the qualities of restraint, harmony, proportion and reason, and adhering to accepted standards of form and craftsmanship. In the 18th century the style was interpreted as the movement known as neoclassicism. The formal values of classicism have remained a constant source of inspiration for designers, particularly for those of the Modern Movement.

  • Constructivism

    A Russian movement of artists, architects and designers who abandoned fine art traditions after the 1917 Russian Revolution in order to create art to serve the new social and political order. The exponents linked their work with mass production and industry, but although they designed furnishings and objects their ideas were never put into mass production. The main artists were Alexander Rodchenko, EI Lissitzky and Kasimir Malevich. Avoiding the use of traditional art materials, they strove to make new art works by bringing different elements together, seen to strong effect in their posters created out of photomontage. The movement was to have a strong influence on groups within the Modern Movements, such as De Stiji and the Bauhaus.

  • Contemporary style

    A style of modern furniture and furnishings made after World War 2 that was lighter, more expressive and playful than that of the pre-war Modern Movement, and which reflected the greater optimism of the time. Characterized by organic shapes and greater use of colour, the exponents of the style made use of technological advances and strove to make the designs more democratically accessible, as seen in the plywood chairs of Charles Eames.

  • Cubism

    An artistic movement developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque about 1907, in which the artists rejected traditional techniques for representing three-dimensional forms on a two dimensional surface, such as canvas. Instead of using perspective and foreshortening to represent an object Picasso and Braque depicted many different aspects of it simultaneously, creating an image of differing planes that represented the object as seen from a variety of viewpoints. Cubism greatly influenced the ceramics, wallpapers and textiles of the art deco movement

D to G

Antique Styles and Periods beginning with (D, E, F & G)

Including the Danish Modern Movement, De Stijl, Deutscher Werkbund, Eclecticism, Empire style, Functionalism, Futurism, Gothic and the High-Tech styles and antique periods.

  • Danish Modern Movement

    A term used to describe the modern movement as it emerged in Denmark after 1945, which was developed by designers such as Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen Although the designers adopted many of the ideas of the German and French Modern Movements, they created works that were distinctive for their natural finishes and their traditional references.

  • De Stijl

    A group composed of architects, designers, painters, thinkers and poets founded in the Netherlands around a magazine of the same name in 1917. Under the leadership of the painter and architect Theo van Doesburg, the group aimed to break down the divisions between fine and applied arts in order to create a pure style of art, design and architecture that rejected natural forms in favour of abstract geometric forms.

  • Deutscher Werkbund

    An organization formed in Germany in 1907 to bridge the gap between industry and design. Composed of manufacturers, architects, designers and politicians, it campaigned for a style of design that it believed to be appropriate to the new industrial age, and argued for the moral and aesthetic importance of design, underlining its belief that practicality was the basis for expressing contemporary cultural values. It carried through some of the ideas of Art Nouveau and applied them to industrial design.

  • Eclecticism

    A term used to describe the practice of designers finding and incorporating ideas and influences from various styles and tastes into their work. In the 20th century it is a distinctive feature of Postmodernist design, allowing a freedom that has proved attractive to many designers.

  • Empire style

    A style of decorative arts and dress that emerged in Paris in the early 1800s, at about the time Napoleon 1 became Emperor, and spread through Continental Europe. It reflected an interest in ancient, particularly Egyptian, motifs.

  • Functionalism

    A term used broadly to refer to the principle that nothing is included in a design that does not enhance the object’s purpose. The American architect Louis Sullivan is usually cited as the founder of Functionalism with his maxim form follows function.

    The movement’s ideas were best expressed in the book Ornament and Crime (1908), by architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933). Functionalism’s impact on industrial design was particularly effected through the bauhaus school.

  • Futurism

    An Italian art movement founded in 1909 by the writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, which aimed to celebrate the machinery, speed and violence of the modern age. The paintings are characterized by a sense of movement and abstract, geometric forms. In book design the movement rejected traditional forms of typography and page design, seeking to find new forms to reflect their ideals.

  • Gothic

    A style of architecture and decorative arts, which developed in France in the mid-12th century to become the dominant style of Western Europe until the 16th century. The architecture is characterized by the use of pointed arches, rib vaults and flying buttresses in combination, while the decorative arts are distinctive for their lightness, elaborate forms and intricate surface decoration. It was a style that linked itself with the principles of Christianity and retained a strong spiritual content in its many revivals.

H to K

Antique Periods and Styles beginning with (H, I, J & K)

Including the High Tech, Industrial, Jugendstil and Kitsch styles and antique periods.

  • High-Tech style

    A style of architecture and design that emerged in the 1980s, inspired by and embracing modern technology. It is characterized by visual simplicity, elegance and the use of industrial to refer to the development in the Modern Movement when designers began using new materials, such as glass, bricks, metals and plastics in favour of traditional materials; this is sometimes called the "industrial" style.

  • Industrial style

    A term used broadly to refer to the development in the Modern Movement when designers began using new materials, such as glass, bricks, metals and plastics in favour of traditional materials. In the 1980s and 1990s the style was interchangeable with that referred to as High-Tech.

  • Jugendstil

    The name of the German and Scandinavian Art Nouveau movement, which was characterized by its use of rectilinear forms. The name came from the Jugend magazine.

  • Kitsch

    A term used to describe garish, pretentious or sentimental art and design. In the 20th century it has been seen to be the opposite of good design. Since the 1960s some designers, such as Ettore Sottsass and the Memphis group, in rejecting the Modern Movement, have deliberately incorporated kitsch elements into their work. The use of kitsch became widespread in the popular design styles of 1970s and 1980s.

M to N

Antique Periods and Styles beginning with (M & N)

Including the Minimal, Modern Movement, Neoclassicism, Neo-Functionalism, Neo-Liberty, Neomodernism and Novecento movements, styles and antique periods.

  • Minimal

    A descriptive term for designs of the Modern Movement that are characterized by a rejection of ornamentation in favour of simple elemental forms and structures.

  • Modern Movement

    A general term originally used by the architectural historian Nikolaus evsner in his influential book Pioneers of the Modem the 20th century. It was originally underpinned by a desire for a design ethos that reflected ideals of democracy and social reform, and a belief that the world of art and the manufacturing industry could be reconciled in order to provide all levels of society with well designed, mass produced goods. Early groups that were instrumental in the development of the Modern Movement include the Deutscher Werkbund in Germany before World War 1, and the De Stijl group in the Netherlands after 1917. These principles were put into practice most notably, and with the most lasting influence, at the Bauhaus in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. The movement rejected the use of historical styles and unnecessary decoration, instead adhering to the principle "form follows function". It is more or less interchangeable w1ith the term Modernism.

  • Neoclassicism

    A style of decorative arts and architecture that originated in the second half of the 18th century. With its rejection of the earlier Rococo, it marked a revival of interest in the art and design of Classical antiquity and the qualities of restraint, harmony, proportion and reason. It is distinctive for its simple geometric forms, subdued colours and restrained decoration. The term is sometimes used broadly to describe designs that are created in, or that follow, this style.

  • Neofunctionalism

    A design style of the post World War 2 period the ethos of which emphasised geometrical simplicity and the removal of unnecessary detail. As expressed through the work of Hans Gugelot it was to lead on to a new visual minimalism in design. Its proponents claimed it to be styleless or beyond style.

  • Neo-Liberty

    An Italian style of design that emerged in the late 1950s with the aim of reviving Italian Art Nouveau. Through designing furnishings, lighting and interior design, exponents of the style such as Carlo Mollino sought to apply Art Nouveau to mass produced objects and at the same time reintroduce a craft tradition to undercut the machine aesthetic of the Modern Movement.

  • Neomodernism

    An Italian design movement that emerged in the 1950s.Inspired by 1930s Rationalism, it is characterized by minimal forms, but, unlike its predecessor, it was also characterized by a new alliance with the world of contemporary fine art, organic sculpture in particular.

  • Novecento movement

    A movement founded in Italy in the late 1920s which is characterized by a simplified neoclassical style of design. Although it was influenced by the decorative arts of France and Austria, it produced designs that were more overtly nationalistic than those of its contemporary architectural movement Rationalism. The movement superseded Rationalism as the architectural style favoured by the Italian Fascists.

O to P

Antique Periods and Styles beginning with (O & P)

Including the Op Art, Pop, Purism and Pre-Raphaelites movements, styles and antique periods.

  • Op Art

    A style of abstract art of the 1960s. Through a variety of patterns it exploits optical effects to create illusions of movement and vibration. Leading exponents of the style were Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely. The style found its way into 1960s interior, fashion and graphic design.

  • Pop

    An art and design movement that developed during the 1960s responding to the general level of economic and technological optimism and finding inspiration in mass consumerism and popular culture. Rejecting Modernism, it sought to express the democratic spirit of the age, replacing Modernist values with its own aspirations of fun, change, variety, irreverence, and disposability.

  • Pre-Raphaelites

    A group of English artists and writers founded in 1848, who were united by their dislike of the academic and neoclassical art of the early 19th century. They sought to return to the values of Gothic and Early Renaissance painting. William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais were the chief painters in the group. They often painted biblical and literary subjects, and their style was characterized by strong colours and minute attention to detail. Although the original group began to disband in the 1850s, the name continued to be applied to the later pictures of Rossetti and the work of Edward Burne Jones and William Morris, who used scenes from medieval romances in his furniture designs. As a result the name became associated with a kind of romantic escapism.

  • Purism

    An artistic movement of the early 20th century, founded by Le Corbusier and the painter Amedee Ozenfant. Arising out of a rejection of Cubism, it drew inspiration from the mathematical precision of machinery. It emphasized the purity of geometric form and marked a return to the representation of recognizable objects.


Antique Periods and Styles beginning with (R)

Including the Rationalism, Retro and Rococo movements, styles and antique periods.

  • Rationalism

    The name of the Italian Modern Movement that emerged in 1926 in the work of a group of architects known as the "Group of Seven" and became popular in the 1930s. Influenced by Modernists in Germany and France it sought to make the most economic use of materials and space. For a short period the work of the movement reflected the revolutionary and socialist aims of the early Italian Fascist party, but it was to prove too radical and international in character, and was superseded by "Novecento". Rationalism was to influence Italian design in the years immediately following 1945.

  • Retro

    A term used to describe designs that imitate or adopt characteristics of earlier styles, as seen in the Sharp "QT50′ radio cassette player of 1986.

  • Rococo

    A style of architecture and design that flourished in France, southern Germany and Austria in the first half of the 18th century, which is characterized by light colours, scroll work, shell motifs and a sense of playfulness. It was to influence the French Art Nouveau movement.


Antique Periods and Styles beginning with (S)

Including the Secession, Space-age, Streamform, Streamlining, Swedish Modern and Vienna Secession movements, styles and antique periods.

  • Secession

    The name taken by several groups of artists in Germany and Austria who broke away from the official academies in the 1890s to pursue their own artistic aims and organize their own exhibitions. The first Secession was in Munich in 1892. This was followed by the Vienna Secession in 1897, and by the Berlin Secession in 1899.

  • Space-age

    A style that draws its inspiration from the field of space exploration. It was a popular style in fashion, furniture and interior design
    in the 1960s.

  • Streamform

    A decorative style used by American designers in the 1930s and 1940s. As for streamlining, streamform objects have an aerodynamic appearance, whatever their function: they tend to be shaped into a teardrop form and to have chrome highlight decoration. It was visible in architecture, the decorative arts and products.

  • Streamlining

    A form of styling that emerged in the 1930s, through the work of American designers such as Raymond Loewy. It was used to make objects vehicles, household appliances and electrical equipment appear unified and modern and to increase their consumer appeal. Streamlined objects are often characterized by an aerodynamic appearance, with blunt, rounded and smoothly finished forms, and chrome highlight decoration. The style remained popular through to the 1950s. Since this time streamlining has sometimes been used to design vehicles that create the least resistance to motion, as seen in the British 125 high speed train designed by Kenneth Grange.

  • Swedish Modern

    A tradition based yet essentially modern style, it is characterized by the use of natural materials in preference to those such as tubular steel, a material synonymous with the Modern Movement. The objects were well designed, inexpensive to manufacture and affordable for most people. This style dominated international taste in domestic interior design after World War 2.

  • Vienna Secession

    A group of painters, architects and designers in Vienna, headed by Gustav Klimt, and including Josef Hoffmann and Joseph Maria 0Ibrich, who broke away from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in 1897 to organize their own avant-garde exhibitions. They aimed to break down the divisions between architecture and the fine and decorative arts.

Besides the main antique periods there are of course, other periods in history

Art periods although along similar lines are generally historical or literary periods and rarely define a time when specific antiques were produced.

Historical periods or the periods of man can also be closely correlated but again rarely define the period of antique production.

For instance; The Egyptian Period (3100 BC to 30 BC) produced antiquities and art with a focus on the afterlife. From the Great Pyramids and tomb paintings to Tutankhamun and the Bust of Nefertiti.

Likewise the Middle Ages (500 AD to 1400 AD) produced highly collectable artefacts but in relation to antiques is more a time than a period or style.

Styles & Movements tend to be more a part of the modern age than a part of history; and the majority of antique collectors focus more on the time of styles and movements than on true antiquities from the historical periods.

Rare Coin Collecting … is possibly the one aspect of modern collecting where collectors reference the true historical period and some knowledge of Greek, Roman and Medieval history can be very helpful.