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American Empire Furniture

American Empire (1815-1840) is a distinctly different version of the French Empire, being a much less ornate form. Carving on American pieces took the place of the French brass and ormolu mounts, and there was less gilding.

Painting remained popular in the decoration of chairs; the tremendous popularity of the painted fancy chair is testified to by the fact that by 1826 Lambert Hitchcock was turning out fifteen thou sand chairs of this type annually, and there were other factories producing similar chairs at the same time.

Empire furniture was heavy and massive, and is considered by many as being decadent and the end of good furniture.

It is characterized by acanthus leaves, pineapples, animal paw feet, heavy cornices and lion's head brasses. The beautiful mahogany used, and the fine carving were highlights of the style. Other woods were used, curly maple among them. Mahogany remained the favorite wood but was often used in combination with veneers of either tiger-striped maple or bird's-eye maple. Crotch mahogany was also used frequently.

Typical of Empire furniture were sleigh beds, sofas with cornucopia legs or winged feet, bear claw feet often terminated carved columns on chests or other case pieces, pineapples were almost always used for finials, heavy tables with pineapple or lyre pedestals, and ogee mirrors. Late in the period heavy, scrolled legs appeared.

Hardware consisted of round wooden knobs far some furniture, round brass knobs for other, while the more ornate exhibited lion's head brasses with ring pulls.

Dull brown, deep blues and greens, including emerald green, predominated the color schemes although terra cotta, white, mauve, apricot pink and gray were also used. Fabrics featured large-scaled patterns and Egyptian and Roman motifs.



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