Prior to 1700 it was difficult to put the name of a maker to a piece of English antique furniture. Grinling Gibbons (1648-1720) is perhaps the most famous name from this earlier period only because during his lifetime his patrons numbered five monarchs ranging from Charles II to George I and examples of his work remain in royal palaces and country houses such as Petworth and Belton.
Gibbons’ work was mainly architectural anyway, and he worked for the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren which would also account for his lasting fame.
Gibbons passed out much of his work to other carvers which was also common practice post 1700. Much mid 18th century antique furniture is attributed to Thomas Chippendale based purely on its individual style. Perhaps more accurately, it should be that pieces are made ‘in the style of’ rather than directly attributed to this famous furniture designer for the following reasons.
A ‘Chippendale chair’ could be made by Chippendale himself although this is rare, because like Gibbons he would design furniture rather than make it and the chair itself could be manufactured by someone else from his own workshop. It could also have been manufactured by another furniture maker working to Chippendale’s designs from his Gentlemen and Cabinet Maker’s Director or catalogue; and a chair could also be a faithful copy made anytime from the mid 18th century to present day.
Chippendale’s Director itself was also criticised for being copied from an earlier pattern book by Copeland and Lock, so what is or what isn’t Chippendale still remains an enigma. However there are some bombe commodes that can be attributed directly to this master cabinet maker.
Much mid 18th century furniture is still loosely defined as ‘Chippendale’. When looking for period or revival Chippendale antique dining chairs , Lancashire dealers will be able to advise you on the best purchases.
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