Biedermeier furniture, that golden blend of burled wood and inlays on simple shapes, sometimes ebonized or accented with fine veneering, was politically correct in its day -- after the Council of Vienna in 1815 until 1848.
Cabinetmakers in Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Copenhagen sold the smaller-scaled pieces to fill the apartments of a growing middle class. Craftsmanship was paramount, according to Prague-based antiques dealer Oldrich Hejtmanek, even though most pieces were destined not for a castle but for ordinary people who wanted furnishings that reflected their growing prosperity.
"A lot was produced and a lot was destroyed in subsequent wars," says Angus Wilkie, who has collected Biedermeier since college and wrote a book in 1987 on the style he describes as "contemporary in spirit with a pure architectural quality."
Now serious collectors and devotees of design have a new book, with 265 color photos in its 192 pages (Abrams, $49.50). "Biedermeier to Bauhaus," written originally in German by Sigrid Sangl, reveals the style by locating pieces in town houses, artists' studios, rural retreats and cottages. Sangl, a curator at the Bavarian National Museum since 1992, enlisted the photography team of Barbara and Rene Stoeltie to record Biedermeier as it is displayed across Germany today. They followed a trail from the Baltic to the Alps, from Dresden to Dusseldorf, and the book includes maps and a list of places to visit.
One quality of Biedermeier is its ability to blend well with other styles. In Sangl's book, rooms are pictured that range from the Renaissance and Baroque to the mid-century modern lines of the Bauhaus. Accompanying each photo is a scholarly discussion of the place in terms of history and design.
Biedermeier has been relatively rare in the United States, even in reproduction pieces.
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