Coming to grips with these three famous mid 18th century furniture designers can be a nightmare where their names are bandied around a great deal within the antiques world. There are also many revivals of their styles which are still manufactured today. However, there are ways to approach these differing styles with a certain amount of working knowledge about what to expect.
If we start with Thomas Chippendale, chairs designed by him were usually made of mahogany and quite square set, with highly carved splats on the back. Chippendale incorporated many influences into his basic designs from the French Rococo, the Gothic and his famous fretted ‘Chinese Chippendale’. The legs perhaps are the most recognisable part of his chair designs in that they generally have heavy cabriole legs with carvings on the knees and ball and claw feet, although he also used a plainer squared leg.
George Hepplewhite designed a much lighter chair which was heavily influenced by Robert Adam’s classical revival. The legs of Hepplewhite’s chairs were squared and tapering to a narrow point, rather than the curving cabriole used by Chippendale. Also there is less heavy carving on his chairs and backs can be shield shaped or oval, with classic motifs and spokes rising upwards from the centre.
Thomas Sheraton’s designs are much straighter and rectilinear; although still have some of the classical characteristics of Hepplewhite. The legs are generally tapered which again, like Hepplewhite, differentiates from the heavier Chippendale cabriole leg. Sheraton’s designs moved away from heavy carving altogether to the much straighter neo-classical lines where he used inlay or painted motifs.
A little knowledge will go a long way when buying antique dining chairs and any gaps will be filled in by knowledgeable antique dealers in Lancashire, Cumbria and across the country.
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