The name cabriole comes from the French word cabrioler and means to leap like a goat. The leg itself originated in ancient China and Greece, but came into fashion in the early 18th century during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14). Hence the merry quip ‘Queen Anne’s legs’ which never sounded altogether complimentary. The convex and concave shape of the leg, the upper part bowing outwards and the lower bowing inwards made it somewhat bandy in appearance and the claw or hoof placed on a ball at the foot of the leg gave it an animalistic quality. However, despite its bandy rather bizarre appearance, this style was to form the basis for 18th century antique furniture, particularly dining chairs.
By the time of Queen Anne’s death, the formal dining chair was becoming an integral part of the upper class dining room. The chair was very comfortable and had a broad often upholstered or tapestry seat and a high back, and coupled with the cabriole legs, it had a very stable quality. Early in Queen Anne’s reign, these chairs were made of walnut, but shortages of this wood meant that imported mahogany was increasingly used. Early Georgian examples of the chair were similar to their walnut Queen Anne predecessors but later designs followed the extravagances of the French rococo and the cabriole leg through its usage by furniture makers such as Thomas Chippendale remained fashionable throughout this period.
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