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Kent, William

William Kent, like many others of the early Georgian period, made his Grand Tour to Rome and there embraced the Italianate architectural ideas of Andrea Palladio, the highly influential Italian architect of the 16th century, called Palladianism. This style of architecture adhered to principles of classical Roman architecture based on mathematical proportions rather than the rich ornamental style also characteristic of the Renaissance.

The original architects of the Palladian style made no designs for furniture, being more interested in the overall layout of buildings, grounds, and gardens. Furniture was a mere addition and had to be in line with the other elements. Therefore, Kent set about creating a style of furniture that would complement the Palladian architecture of great homes and their interiors, enhance their architectural symmetry, and work with their existing windows, doors, chimney pieces, and cornices. The "Kentian" furniture that resulted was sculptural, often of monumental size, and heavily adorned with lavish carving and golden ornamentation such as pediments, masks, and sphinxes. As a result, Palladian style furniture stood apart from most other early Georgian furniture in that it was designed and made for a small, very wealthy class of people and appeared only in their great country homes, mansions, and palaces.
Politician and writer Horace Walpole once said that William Kent "was a painter, an architect, and the father of modern gardening. In the first character he was below mediocrity; in the second, he was a restorer of the science; in the last, an original, and the inventor of an art that realizes painting and improves nature. Mahomet imagined an elysium, Kent created many." In his own age, Kent's fame and popularity were so great that he was employed to give designs for all things, even for ladies' birthday dresses, of which he could know nothing and which he decorated with the five classical orders of architecture.


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