When purchasing a modern set of dining room chairs, we often don’t realise that the designs used today often come from the workshops of Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779).
Dining room chairs with cabriole legs and a vase shaped back splat with shell motifs on cresting rails dated back to the early 18th century, the best examples made of walnut. By 1720 walnut was becoming very scarce so other hardwoods such as mahogany were being imported from America and Jamaica. Mahogany had a very close grain and was very strong so ideal for carving and piercing and could be polished to a reddish high gloss finish. Early Georgian mahogany dining chairs tended to resemble Queen Anne but from the 1740s onwards, the influence of French Rococo meant that the qualities of mahogany could be exploited to their fullest.
Chippendale’s typical bow shaped cresting rails and elegantly carved and pierced splats on his mahogany dining chairs were able to take full advantage of the extravagances of Rococo styling and there were several variations of the chair on offer in his Director for customers to choose from. The ribband-back design was typically Rococo and tended to have the cabriole leg.
However his Chinoiserie designs were geometric and incorporated Chinese fretwork into the overall styling which proceeded down a squared rather than cabriole leg. His Gothic styling was also less fanciful than Rococo incorporating the seriousness of medieval architecture. Other designs used classical motifs such as the lyre back and cheaper versions of his dining chairs tended to have the plain rather than the cabriole leg and generally less carving.
Chippendale’s dining chairs have never gone out of fashion and the typically pierced splat and cabriole leg remain as markers to his genius. When looking for period and revival Chippendale Victorian antique dining chairs , Lancashire dealers provide many good examples of this enduring chair.
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