Victorian balloon backed dining chairs were produced in large numbers in the 19th century, individual designers developing their own unique styles which were copied for mass production. This means that Victorian balloon backed dining chairs are widely available in many different styles, to suit every decor.
Victorian balloon backed dining chairs have been made in every style imaginable, from elaborate French Rococo to simple cane-seated Arts & Crafts designs. In the early Victorian period, cabinetmakers would produce chairs of exquisite quality on a small scale, by hand. These craftsman-made pieces, although rarer than the mass-produced forms, are worth seeking out. They are often sold as “harlequin” sets, each chair subtly different.
The Victorian balloon backed dining chair was designed for both comfort and beauty, and generally upholstered. The earliest examples were developed from chairs of the Regency period, reflected in the front leg turnings and sabre-shaped rear legs. The substantial design meant no stretchers were deemed necessary, and the majority of Victorian balloon back dining chairs lack stretchers.
Early Victorian balloon backed dining chairs were distinguished by their concave crest, or upper rail; later this became convex. Other elements were a central cross-piece, often elaborately carved and scrolled, and elegantly “waisted” stiles, or uprights. The seats were often buttoned, although this was rare in early designs.
By the 1840s the Victorian balloon back dining chair had developed pronounced curvature on the crest, with opposing curvature on the cross-rail to create the classic oval opening. The seats were heavily buttoned and generously rounded.
A number of modifications emerged, such as “buckle backs” with a straight cross-piece and simple central motif, and elaborate yoke-back styles with double S-shaped curves to the top-rails.
By the 1850s Victorian balloon backed dining chairs were being moulded along Louis XV lines, intricately carved but light and elegant in style. Later, Gothic Revival and country styles emerged. Not all Victorian balloon back dining chairs have cross-rails; some later designs featured vertical back splats, but retained the convex crest.