Indulge yourself: live life elegantly like a Bridgerton
NEW YORK – Today, March 25, fans of the Netflix series Bridgerton rejoice as the long-awaited second season of the show, produced by Shonda Rhimes and based on Julia Quinn’s book series, goes live. The plot is drawn from book two, The Viscount Who Loved Me, which follows eldest son Lord Anthony Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey) in his quest to find a suitable wife among the ranks of the ton, a compression of “le bon ton” — French for “the good tone” and the era’s term for the fashionable and favored. As with the first season, English Regency style will be on full display in the sumptuous early 19th-century settings.
It’s not possible to acquire exactly what you see on screen because the Bridgerton production team built or made almost every carpet, drapery, furnishing and work of decorative art, in part because the actual English Regency palette is too muted and sedate for the spirit of a frothy, fictional romantic series. But a determined person can get reasonably close to recreating that spectacular long-ago world that never was. What follows is a collection of splendid objects sold via LiveAuctioneers that would delight anyone who is besotted with Bridgerton.
The Sustaining Brew
The universal lubricant of the Bridgerton universe is tea. Yes, alcohol exists, and the Bridgerton men enjoy a tipple in the comfort of their well-appointed studies and clubs, but tea’s the thing. Paying a call on other members of the ton? Tea. Visiting a tony clothing boutique to view the latest fashions? Tea. Time to start the day? Tea. Staying in with the family? Tea. Reading Lady Whistledown’s latest pamphlet and hanging on her every word as she spills the tea? Tea. Of course, tea. Always tea. It’s so central to the show that the Republic of Tea just released an official line of Bridgerton teas to sip as you watch season two.
The tea ritual traditionally requires two equally opulent sets of equipment: A silver tea service and also porcelain tea cups and saucers. In May 2020, Abell Auction, based in Los Angeles, sold an 1817 silver tea set made in London and consisting of a teapot, creamer and open sugar bowl as well as a silver-plated sugar and a second teapot. The first three pieces together weighed 44 troy ounces. The group sold for $850 plus the buyer’s premium.
A canny bidder could have found its match in a mixed group of six teacups and saucers produced between 1810 and 1828, sporting gilded details and floral motifs. It sold for CA$225 (roughly $177) in August 2020 at A.H. Wilkens Auctions & Appraisals in Toronto, Canada.
A Stitch in Time Saves Face
Among Regency England’s moneyed elites, etiquette and propriety was all. Showing signs of boredom or contempt was dangerous, and yet, socializing can be exhausting. One of the few tasks upper-class women were allowed to perform while talking to family and friends was embroidery. It’s impossible to know how many of our ancestors deflected or masked their annoyance with tedious people and drab conversations by simultaneously busying their hands and minds with a needle and thread, but it must have been a godsend. Scenes that depict Bridgerton women embroidering appear in both seasons of the show.
The early 19th century presented well-heeled women with a range of elaborate, luxurious sewing-specific storage units. Back in November 2014, Thomaston Place Auction Galleries of Thomaston, Maine offered a charming casket-form Regency sewing box decorated with embossed red leather, gilt brass fittings and lion paw feet. It also had a silver placket on top engraved with the words, “MS, Jany. 21, 1816.” The sewing box sold for $650 plus the buyer’s premium.
Well-Bred = Well-Read
As you meditate on the perfectly assembled backgrounds of Bridgerton, something might jump out at you: bookcases and bookshelves, laden with tomes. Granted, when the characters are shown reading, they almost always have Lady Whistledown’s publication in hand, but most of those spectacular Bridgerton mansions have books, and plenty of them.
Several gorgeous English Regency bookcases have sold through LiveAuctioneers, but a standout is an 84in-tall mahogany breakfront example offered in August 2017 at Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery in Atlanta. It realized $3,000 plus the buyer’s premium.
Ready for My Closeup
A fair number of Bridgerton’s social events happen at night, indoors, in an era well before the advent of electrification. These grand dances and soirees simply couldn’t happen without extremely liberal use of candelabra and mirrors. The first maintains the light source, and the second amplifies it. (The fact that mirrors show you what you look like clad in your impeccable evening wear is a happy bonus.) Members of the ton who wished to host such events needed both, and neither came cheap.
Nor are they cheap now, but they can be just as beautiful as they were 200 years ago, when they were new. A matched pair of English Regency giltwood mirrors, each measuring 67in high and having elaborately carved frames, sold in March 2015 for $3,750 plus the buyer’s premium at Ahlers & Ogletree.
Also offered at Ahlers & Ogletree in November 2017 was a circa-1810-1820 girandole mirror, a type of mirror with candleabra arms positioned near the reflective surface. This particular example measured 56in high and had four candle arms, each festooned with hanging crystals. It achieved $4,500 plus the buyer’s premium.
Chandeliers also worked as amplifiers and spreaders of light. A scene from the season debuting today shows Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) and boxer Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) conversing in a gentleman’s club lit by girandole mirrors, candelabra and massive chandeliers fitted with lit candles. A notable example of the form appeared at Neal Auction Company in November 2012. Dating to circa 1820 and attributed to John Blades, the 64in-tall gilt bronze and cut crystal 10-light chandelier achieved $90,000 plus the buyer’s premium against an estimate of $25,000-$35,000.
Do You Want to Play a Game?
Obviously, the PlayStation and the Xbox Series X could not be part of the world of Bridgerton, but games definitely are. A scene from the new season of the show pictures siblings Eloise and Benedict Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie and Luke Thompson) playing chess in the family manse.
An English Regency inlaid rosewood reversible games table, with a chess board on one side, a cribbage board on the other, and a tooled leather backgammon board in its interior, achieved $1,300 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2018 at CRN Auctions, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It also had brass paw feet on casters and shaped drop leaves.
In The Round
The MVM – most valuable material – of the English Regency period is mahogany. If it’s a beautiful piece of English furniture that dates to between 1811 and 1820 and isn’t completely covered with a layer of gold leaf, it’s almost certainly made from mahogany.
The LiveAuctioneers archives are full of English Regency mahogany furnishings, but a round tilt-top table offered at David Skinner Antiques of Charleston, South Carolina in May 2020 stands out for being described, specifically, as a breakfast table. Interesting things can happen in Bridgerton at breakfast, or in the hours before. The table sold for $1,500 plus the buyer’s premium.
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
The last episode of Bridgerton season one revealed a huge secret that the books don’t mention until much later: the true identity of Lady Whistledown. We at LiveAuctioneers know who it is, and in all likelihood, so do you, but as of late March 2022, virtually every character on the show is in the dark, Queen Charlotte included (much to her irritation).
We won’t share that plot point here, even though it’s no longer a spoiler. Instead, we’ll focus on a piece of furniture familiar to Lady Whistledown and other figures from Bridgerton: the writing desk. The mysterious person whose piercing opinions consistently roil the ton shapes them with a quill before relaying the manuscript to the printer. Lady Whistledown seizes whatever private time that comes, and can’t be fussy about the surface on which pen meets paper. But a rectangular-top English Regency desk (above), fitted with an embossed leather writing area, bronze handles, an ebonized support frame and paw feet reflects the power and importance of Whistledown’s prose. Offered in August 2021 at Amero Auctions of Sarasota, Florida, it achieved $5,000 plus the buyer’s premium.
Visit Netflix online for additional information about Bridgerton.