No other piece of furniture shows the differing styles and genres of the 18th century more readily than the dining chair. With a reasonably trained eye, some of us can determine the age and the era of a chair by looking at the wood it is made from, the design of the back splats and the shape of its legs. The three most famous furniture designers of the 18th century, mainly Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton all left their mark on the dining chair. Queen Anne chairs at the beginning of the century had brought in a sense of comfort to fine dining where wide upholstered seats and high backs with the solid vase shaped splat and the carved cabriole leg often with the ball and claw foot created the ‘modern’ look to dining furniture that we see today.
By the middle of the century, Thomas Chippendale using mahogany instead of walnut was able to introduce the florid Rococo carving and styling into his pieces. The crest at the top of the back was now bow shaped and the splat was intricately pierced and carved in the styles that identify pieces as essential Chippendale. He still kept the cabriole leg although square legs were used on cheaper versions of the chair.
By 1760, Rococo styling was on the wane and Neoclassicism based on ancient Roman and Greek designs was being brought into fashion by decorators such as Robert Adam. The ‘lyre back’ was a typical Adam feature. Legs were now square with spade feet, and the fronts of seats often serpentine. George Hepplewhite introduced the shield shaped back which incorporated designs such as the Prince of Wales’ feathers, urns, swags and sheaves.
Thomas Sheraton’s early designs were similar to those of Hepplewhite, however his dining chairs soon became rectilinear, with square rather than bow shape or shield shape crests, and the arms were attached high to the uprights on the back. Legs were often thin and tapered so very different from the earlier cabriole leg of Chippendale designs for example.
The antique dining chair displays well these metamorphoses of different styles that occurred throughout the 18th century. When buying antique dining chairs , Cumbria dealers can show you quality period and revival examples.
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