When we think of the ball and claw foot and cabriole leg, we might immediately think of Thomas Chippendale. However, these design features were certainly in existence during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714) fifty years earlier.
In its earliest form, the cabriole leg was underframed to make it secure because of the necessity to cut across the grain to form it. However, improvements in construction meant that by the beginning of the 18th century it could stand alone. The feet took varying forms during this period, from a plain pad to lion’s paws and pony hoofs. All these forms had come from classical antiquity anyway; the cabriole leg itself copied from a goat’s leg and the ball and claw foot from ancient Egypt and China. The ball was historically regarded as the orb of power and the claw, which had power in its grasp, was authority.
Antique furniture made during Queen Anne’s reign was generally quite plain and the only bits of heavy carving were usually on the knees and feet of the cabriole leg, so this gave cabinet makers of the time an opportunity to display their skills.
The cabriole leg, with its ball and claw foot, continued in popularity for some years and was used extensively by Thomas Chippendale in the 1750s until it was superseded by the fine tapering styling of Neo-classicism from the 1760s onwards. As a design feature it still remains popular however and has been revived many times.
The cabriole leg is a common design feature on period and revival antique chairs and Lancashire antiques dealers always stock a good range of items.
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