Aesthetics Wiki

Victorian is a visual aesthetic that comprises the various fashions and trends in British culture that emerged and developed in the United Kingdom and the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), which is known as the Victorian Era.

The issue and aesthetics of social class often come into play with the Victorian aesthetic, with both visual signs and fictional works discussing the differences between the poor, the working class, the landed gentry, and the bourgeoisie. The conflict between urbanism and a good quality of life is another common point of discussion, as the Industrial Revolution was at its highest peak during this time.

The Victorian era is highly popular in historical aesthetics because of its large influence in fiction. Many popular fictional works, such as the Sherlock Holmes series, Charles Dickens' books, the invention of children's literature, and the Bronte sisters' books are seen as timeless, with many people being fascinated by the period because of it. Because of the popularity of these original works, many writers that did not live during this era made fictional works that take place in the period and became popular itself.

Likewise, many people are into Victorianism because it is one of the most popular, and thus, accessible, historic fashions; the corsets, wide skirts, and different dressing rituals are very fascinating to modern people, and many articles have been written explaining these practices.

Please note that there are many modern interpretations of the Victorian Era; this means that the emphasis will be on the stereotypes of this historical period, often not being historically accurate.

The aesthetic heavily influenced Lolita, Steampunk, and Victorian Goth.


Victorian-inspired collage-like mood board, by apollonarium

Victorian-inspired collage-like mood board, by apollonarium

Victorian visual includes more elegance and vintage vibes, displaying things such as:

  • Victorian Homes
  • Statues
  • Tea & Teacups
  • Candles
  • Detailed Paintings
  • Old Lettering
  • Pocket Watches
  • Old Devices

The Victorian era and the Belle Époque are notorious as being eras or revivals. The main revivals were: Neoclassicism (which revives the aesthetic of Ancient Greece, the Etruscan civilization and Ancient Rome; see Hellenic), the Gothic Revival (which revives the aesthetic of late medieval churches, cathedrals and castles from Western Europe), and the Rococo Revival (which revives the aesthetic of Rococo, a style that dominated the 1st half of the 18th century, highly associated with the court of Louis XV; this is what most people picture when they think of Victorian objects and furniture). Some more obscure revivals were the Romanesque Revival (which revives the aesthetic of late 10th-13th century churches, cathedrals and castles, characterized by thick masonry, massive columns and round arches), the Renaissance Revival (which revives the aesthetic of the 15th and 16th century Renaissance), the Egyptian Revival (which revives the aesthetic of Ancient Egypt) and the Moorish Revival (which revives the aesthetic of the Islamic world). There were revivals of some regional styles, like the Louis XVI style in France and Belgium, the first form of French Neoclassicism, softer and more delicate compared to the Empire style. Despite all these reboots, there were also some original styles: Eclecticism (which mixes styles of the past in an harmonious way, usually the ones based on Classical Antiquity; Beaux Arts architecture is a very good example of this; this is what most people picture when they think of Victorian architecture), and, towards the end of the period, Art Nouveau (a style characterized mainly by curvy lines and the use of motifs based on plants).


Interior of All Saints, London, by William Butterfield, 1850–1859

Interior of All Saints, London, by William Butterfield, 1850–1859, an example of Gothic Revival/Neo-Gothic architecture

When it comes to architecture and design, the Victorian era is best known as an era of revivalism. The main styles were Neoclassicism, the Gothic Revival, the Rococo Revival, and Eclecticism (which mixed elements, rules and proportions from multiple aesthetics together). However, this doesn't mean that it was a period of stilistic stagnation. Architects needed creativity for adapting styles of the past to new types of buildings, like stations and factories.

The most famous revivalist style of the Victorian period is the Gothic Revival. Britain was the place where this revival appeared first and where it manifested the most. During the mid-18th century, with the rise of Romanticism, an increased interest and awareness of the Middle Ages among influential antiquarians created a more appreciative approach for medieval art, including medieval church and castle architecture. At the beginning of the 19th century, the draughtsman John Carter saw Gothic architecture, with its pointed arches, as Englad's 'National Architecture'. At that time, France recently experiencing a violent revolution, followed by a militarist empire under Napoleon, and Carter wanted to fuse the Gothic with Englishness. From a historically accurate point of view, this association is inaccurate since Gothic architecture first appeared in France, with the Church of St Denis in 1145. Another admirer was Augustus Welby Pugin, who, among other things, collaborated with Charles Barry at rebuilding the House of Parliment in London, in the Perpendicular Gothic style. In France, Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc restored many prominent medieval landmarks in France, including those which had been damaged or abandoned during the French Revolution. His major restoration projects included Notre-Dame de Paris, the Basilica of Saint Denis, Mont Saint-Michel, Sainte-Chapelle, and the medieval walls of the city of Carcassonne.

The idea that architecture might represent the glory of kingdoms can be traced to the dawn of civilisation, but the notion that architecture can bear the stamp of national character is a modern idea, that appeared in 18th century historical thinking. As the map of Europe was in constant change, architecture was used to grant the aura of a glorious past to even the most recent nations. In addition to the credo of universal Classicism, two new, and often contradictory, attitudes on historical styles existed in the early 19th century. Pluralism promoted the simultaneous use of multiples of style, while Revivalism held that a single historical model was appropriate for modern architecture. Associations between styles and building types appeared, for example: Egyptian for prisons, Gothic for churches, or Renaissance Revival for banks and exchanges. These choices were the result of other associations: the pharaohs with death and eternity, the Middle Ages with Christianity, or the Medici family with the rise of banking and modern commerce.

Besides revivals, because of the Industrial Revolution and the new technologies it brought, new types of buildings have appeared. By 1850 iron was quite present in dailylife at every scale, from mass-produced decorative architectural details and objects of apartment buildings and commercial buildings to train sheds. A well-known 19th century glass and iron building is the Crystal Palace from Hyde Park (London), built in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition, having an appearance similar with a greenhouse. Its scale was daunting.


Side cabinet, by Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley, circa 1870

Louis XVI Revival/Neo-Louis XVI side cabinet, by Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley, c.1870, rosewood, walnut, padauk, hornbeam, veneered oak, gilt and chased bronze, oil paint

From furniture to architecture, the Victorian era was a period of historical revivals. The same styles popular in architecture were also popular in design. Multiple palaces, houses and apartment buildings had rooms in certain styles, and so the owners bought furniture that fit with where it was placed in their dwelling. For example, if someone would have a Rococo Revival living-room, they would buy furniture, clocks, tableware and other Rococo Revival objects to fit with that room. Much of the furniture was based on Neoclassicism from the 2nd half of the 18th century, Rococo from the 1st half of the 18th century, Baroque from the 17th century, another styles from the past. In the case of Gothic Revival designs, little medieval furniture had survived, so cabinet-makers and designers drew on the architectural details of Gothic churches and cathedrals, using pointed arches (aka ogives), and even window tracery in their work. Some of the Victorian remakes were more decorated and complex compared to their historic sources of inspiration.

Despite revivalism being so prevalent, this doesn't mean that there was no originality in these works. Architects, cabinet-makers other craftsmen, especially during the second half of the 19th century, created mixes of styles, by extracting and interpreting elements specific to certain eras and areas. This practice is known as eclecticism. This stylistic development occurred during a period when the competition of World's Fairs motivated many countries to invent new industrial methods of creation.

When it comes to materials, many Victorian objects are made of silver, bronze, brass or gilt bronze. This is why one of the colours which is really associated with this aesthetic is gold. During the 19th century, upper class and wealthy families liked to decorate their homes with porcelain figurines, which were usually really colorful, and to put grandious sets comprised of two candlesticks and a clock between them, on their fireplaces. Usually, there were also wall mirrors with gilt frames above these fireplaces.

Fine art[]

Note: This section refers only to fine art (painting and sculpture). For architecture and design see the sections upper on the page
The Birth of Venus, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1879, oil on canvas

The Birth of Venus, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1879, oil on canvas. This Academic panting shows the characteristics of Academic art: a very high degree of naturalism (aka hyper realism), and the depiction of a moment from the past, in this case the Birth of Venus (a Greco-Roman myth)

Gothic Revival or Neo-Gothic clock, by Baullier et Fils, circa 1830-1850, patinated and gilt bronze

Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Nouveau were not limited only to fine art (paintings and sculptures). They also manifested in the decorative arts (architecture, furniture, ceramics, metalworks, fashion etc). This bronze Gothic Revival/Neo-Gothic clock is an example of Romanticism in design, taking inspiration from Gothic architecture of the Late Middle Ages, which Romantic writers admired

The most art popular during the Victorian era was Academic art. This is what was taught in official European art schools. Paintings of this type are hyper realistic, the picture plane treated as a window onto a scene, and often depict important moments: scenes from Greco-Roman mythology, Christianity or just historic moments. Some Victorian era painters that were seen as the greatest at their time were: Ernest Meissonier, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Alexandre Cabanel, and Lawrence Alma-Tadema. A sub genre of Victorian Academic was Orientalism, which consisted of depictions of life in the Islamic world. These paintings often depicted European women in eroticized islamic contexts.

At the beginning of the Victorian period, Neoclassicism (circa 1750-1850) was the dominant movement. Inspired by the excavations of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum from 1748, a renewed interest in the arts of Greco-Roman antiquity occurred. It was popular mainly in the 2nd half of the 18th century, and the first decades of the 19th. The style also manifested in architecture and decorative arts, many buildings that look like white Ancient Greek or Roman temples being Neoclassical. Just like ancient art, Neoclassical paintings and sculptures are characterised by calmness and restraint, being focused on heroic themes, expressing noble notions like noble sacrifice.

Still at the beginning of the Victorian era, Romanticism (circa 1790-1880) focused on imagination and emotions. It grew from a disillusionment with the Enlightenment's values of reason and order after the 1789 French Revolution. It emerged partly as a reaction against Neoclassicism, and emphasised passion, sentiments and individuality over detachment and rationality. Romantics also appreciated the power of nature, like how it can be seen in Caspar David Friedrich's paintings, some artworks being similar with present-day aesthetics like Dark Paradise or Dark Naturalism. In architecture and decorative arts, the movement gave birth to the Gothic Revival style, a certain nostalgia for the Middle Ages appearing in the 1820s and 1830s. The Gothic Revival appeared before the Victorian period, in the mid 18th century, in houses of a number of wealthy and politically influential antiquarians, at the beginning in England. An early example is Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, London, by Horace Walpole, begun in 1749. German Romantic writers and architects were the first that promoted the Gothic style as a expression of the national character. This was a form of rebellion against Neoclassicism, the status quo style at the beginning of the 19th century. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (usually known simply as just Goethe), a German Romantic poet, was an admirer of the Gothic style of medieval cathedral. In music, the movement is best known though the works of Frédéric Chopin, like Douze études, Op 25: No 1 in A-Flat Major "Aeolian Harp"; Nocturnes, Op. 9: No. 1 in B-Flat Minor; or Nocturne Op. 9: No. 2.

Later, in the mid-19th century, Realism (circa 1830-1890) appeared. Compared to artworks from until this period, artists depicted nobles and historic scenes, completely ignoring the poor and their lives. Particularly in France after the 1848 Revolution, several young artists wanted to paint reality directly as they saw it, often showing the social inequality of the Victorian period. Realists reacted against the perceived excesses and self-indulgence of Neoclassicism and Romanticism, and the artificiality of academic art. The most iconic Realist artworks are the ones that show peasants working.

Out of all the art movements of the Victorian era, Impressionism (circa 1865-1885) is the most famous one today. Back then, it was obscure and Impressionist paintings were mocked by art critics. Evolving partly from Realism and partly from Dutch and English landscapists, the Impressionists aimed to break away from the dominance and rigidity of the official art academies. The style is relatively easily reicognoscible through its rapid sketchy strokes. The main subjects of Impressionist paintings are landscapes and everyday scenes, featuring ordinary people. Many artists of this movement painted in the open air.

Later, Post-Impressionism (circa 1885-1910) emerged, still an obscure movement at its time. It encompasses several styles used by artists who followed Impressionism and explored new, colourful approaches. Painters explored optical effects and sometimes analyzed the structure of objects, each having an unique approach.

At the very end of the Victorian period, Art Nouveau (circa 1890-1910) appeared. It was an art and design movement, that had different versions in multiple countries. It was an attempt of creating a new style that fit the vibe of the late 19th-very early 20th century. Compared to Realism, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Art Nouveau also manifested in design and architecture, besides painting and sculpture. The style is known best for the use of sinuous whiplash lines and motifs based on plants and insects. The taste of Europeans for Japanese art was one of the key factors that led to the emergence of the movement. Multiple artists who worked in this style had collections of Japanese art in their homes, being basically weebs. Art Nouveau posters were particularly influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, featuring blank colours and faded earthy colours, like olive green, and also visible outlines.

Home decor[]

Archive photo of the main salon of the House of Ion Mincu (Arthur Verona Street no

Archive photo of the main salon of the House of Ion Mincu (Arthur Verona Street no. 19), Bucharest, Romania, late 19th century-very early 20th century

Victorian homes were cluttered and full of knick-knacks.

  • antique clocks
  • velvet covered sofas and chairs
  • dark, heavy curtains
  • candlesticks
  • ruffles, bows, and lace on fabric items
  • sepia photographs
  • William Morris wallpaper
  • fireplaces
  • gas lamps
  • silver bowls and urns
  • porcelain objects
  • taxidermy animals
  • "exotic" items from Africa, India, Japan, and China


Note: Victorian fashion was often changing (e.g. the fashionable female silhouette completely changed from the 1850s to the 1870s). Hence, it is impossible to give one particular Victorian look, and instead, one can choose to follow the fashion of a particular part of the Victorian era, or mix and match.

Men's Fashion[]


  • Frock Coats
  • Vests
  • Waistcoats
  • Boots
  • Bow Ties
  • Gloves
  • Top Hats
  • Pocket Watches

Women's Fashion[]


  • Bertha Neckline
  • Pagoda Sleeves
  • V-Shaped Bodice


  • Boots
  • Narrow and Heelless Shoes
  • Engageantes
  • Gloves
  • Hats
    • Hats were an important part of Victorian fashion. For women, type of hat changed throughout the 1830s-1890s. In the 1830s, Poke Bonnets were popular. Toward the end of the Victorian era, women favored large, extravagant hats with silk flowers, ribbons, and exotic plumes.
  • Boned Corsets
  • Bustles/Tournure
  • Petticoats



  • Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • anything by Charles Dickens
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte
  • Little Women by Lousia May Alcott
  • Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco
  • The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Claire
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte


  • Ammonite (2020)
  • Anna Karenina (2012)
  • Around the World in 80 Days (1956) (2004)
  • Colette (2018)
  • Crimson Peak (2015)
  • Dracula (1992)
  • Enola Holmes (2020)
  • Feast of All Saints (2001)
  • Little Women (1994)
  • Mystère à la Tour Eiffel (2015)
  • Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
  • The Happy Prince (2018)
  • The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Stage Works[]

  • A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  • Pirates of Penzance by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert


  • Belgravia (2020)
  • Daniel Deronda (2002)
  • Dead Still (2020-)
  • Dickinson (2019-)
  • Gentleman Jack (2019)
  • Murdoch Mysteries (2008-)
  • Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)
  • Radioactive (2019)
  • Vanity Fair (2018)


After WW1, styles of the previous eras, including the aesthetics of the Victorian period, were seen as "dated" or "passé". The complex ornaments of all the 19th century styles were replaced by geometric shapes and abstracted motifs, or just simple blank surfaces, in Art Deco, Bauhaus and mid-century design.

Despite using simpler and angular shapes, many Art Deco buildings, especially those from the 1920s, are elegant and refined. After all, Art Deco was a style of luxury, refinement and modernity. Still during the interwar period, at the Bauhaus, a German art school, designs characterized by a lack of ornamentation and Modernity were created, all with a machine aesthetic. Today, for us they look basic and maybe ordinary, but at the time when they were created, these designs were revolutionary.

Comparing the aesthetics of the 19th century with those of the 20th, you may find Modernist designs bland or banal. However, just because an outfit, an artwork or a design is simple, it doesn't necessarily mean that its worse than a more ornate one. Minimalism and Maximalism can be done well or poorly. Each style is beautiful in its own unique way.


Later, during the late 2000s, the 2010s and the 2020, due to the interest for vintage stuff and the appreciation of young generation for styles of the past, new objects were and are produced in styles of the Victorian era. This present-day revival was particularly popular in frames and porcelain, since most frames and tableware that try to look "vintage" or "old" are Neo-Rococo, one of the most important styles of the Victorian period. Some music videos or high-fashion outfits also make references to the era. Usually, when people think of the 19th century today, they think of it as a dark and gloomy period, like Dark Academia, with people dressed in black and stuff. In reality, a big of Victorian fashion was actually in light and bright colours, especially in France when fashion designers made tributes to the Rococo style.

During the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, multiple Victorian-inspired aesthetics appeared, the most famous being Steampunk. Some present-dat artists also take inspiration from the art of the mid and late 19th century.


External links to help get a better understanding of this aesthetic.