To people in Lancashire, the antique chests made by Thomas Chippendale are masterpieces of the cabinetmaker’s art; yet Chippendale himself died penniless, betrayed by the wealthy clients he strove to please.
This, and many other facts about the great man’s life, was laid bare in the BBC Four documentary series Carved With Love: The Genius Of British Woodwork, which began a repeat run on Saturday 9th March.
First broadcast in early January, Episode One: The Extraordinary Thomas Chippendale took viewers through the great man’s life and career, beginning with his modest start at the family business in Otley, Yorkshire, from which just one telling object has survived: a simple, robust antique chest in oak, typical of vernacular Yorkshire furniture of the time.
Talented and ambitious, the young Chippendale set his sights for London and the new wealthy middle-classes who would become his future clients. With lavish close-ups of antique mahogany partners desks , antique cabinets and other Chippendale pieces, the programme shifted smoothly through the design principles of the famous Gentleman’s and Cabinetmaker’s Director, stopping to examine an intriguing antique desk that doubled as a gentleman’s wash stand. Viewers in Cumbria also saw how antique marquetry furniture was created in Chippendale’s workshops, and how his craft is being kept alive in America as well as England.
Authentic Chippendale furniture is rare – and very expensive. However, antique dealers in Lancashire often have Victorian dining chairs and other pieces in Chippendale Revival style; still attractive and much more affordable.
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