Zinc in 18th and 19th Century Decorative Arts: Unveiling the Industrial Charm

Zinc, a versatile and readily available metal, played a significant role in the decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries. Its broad use during this period coincides with advancements in metal processing techniques and the growth of the Industrial Revolution, which brought about a democratisation of decorative objects.

In the realm of decorative arts, zinc was appreciated for its malleability and resistance to corrosion. It was also lighter than other popular metals like iron or bronze, making it an ideal choice for a range of objects, from furniture and sculptures to architectural elements. Its affordability compared to precious metals made it accessible to a wider audience, leading to its widespread use.

In the 18th century, zinc was often used to create small decorative items like buttons, medallions, and toys. But it was during the 19th century that its use became more prevalent and diverse. With improvements in casting methods, zinc was utilised to manufacture larger items such as statues, clocks, and ornaments. It also found a special place in architecture as a popular material for roof cladding, weather vanes, and decorative moldings because of its durability and resistance to weathering.

A significant application of zinc during this period was in the production of ‘zincography’ prints. This method, which involves etching a design onto a zinc plate, was a cheaper and more accessible alternative to traditional lithography, contributing to the wider dissemination of artistic images.

One of the unique decorative uses of zinc in the 19th century was the creation of ‘zinc furniture’. These pieces, characterized by their metallic sheen and industrial aesthetic, were especially popular in America and France. While the French used zinc in the construction of bistro tables, American designers incorporated it into garden furniture and cabinets, combining it with other materials like wood for contrast.

In summary, the use of zinc in the decorative arts of the 18th and 19th centuries reflects the industrial growth and technological advancements of the period. Its versatility, durability, and affordability made it a popular choice for both utilitarian and decorative objects, leaving a distinct mark on the aesthetics of the time.


Price Filter - slider
Materials Filter
Techniques Filter