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Decorative Periods:
Decorative Stles And Periods In The Home
General Antiquity
Pompeian Decorative Styles And Periods
Gothic Decorative Styles And Periods
The Renaissance
Decorative Styles And Periods In Italy
Decorative Styles And Periods In France
The Style Of Louis Quatorze
The Style Of Louis Quinze
The Style Of Lous Seize
Empire Decorative Styles And Periods
Elizabethan Or Tudor Styles Sixteenth Century
Jacobean Period
Queen Anne
Chippendale Middle Of Eighteenth Century
The Adams Brother
Hepplewhite Book Issued 1789
Shearton - End Of The Eighteenth Century
English And American Empire
Art Nouveau

Queen Anne Style

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


With all reverence must the Queen Anne period be approached and studied, for in it we find matter of absorbing interest, the beginning, in fact, of the great train of minor styles that produced the furniture we hold so dear, the furniture of our American forefathers. This fact is indeed the excuse for the space we will give this period, for in itself it is far from perfection and fails signally in beauty when compared with the style we call Chippendale, which it immediately preceded. It is not too much to say that the Queen Anne style opened the way for Chippendale even if it did not furnish all his inspiration.

To understand the Chippendale style, then, it is necessary to go back to its roots which are bedded in this the preceding period. And to understand that we turn with pleasure to note first causes of Queen Anne, this taking us into the department of history.

It is clear to us now how the Gothic was discarded for the imported Renaissance, which in time developed into the native Elizabethan, influenced by Flanders, became the Jacobean, and through all these changes becoming more and more complicated in construction, more suited to an ever intensifying civilisation.

Cromwell could not fail to stiffen style as he stiffened morals and those whom they regulate, for style is but the outward sign of thought. The severe old commoner's reign was scarcely long enough to do more than temporarily constrict the hand of the craftsman, and quick was the return to more lightsome ways whose tendency was ever toward more refinement and delicacy.

After the Commonwealth came two feeble Stuarts, Charles II and James II, and the second of these bowed himself out of his throne and away to the more congenial atmosphere of France with a wide sweep of his feathered hat and a smiling, " Place aux dames " to his daughter Mary.

We almost forget Mary in her Dutch husband William who, although only consort, felt not so convincingly that his wife was called to wear an English crown as that he was to rule England. It was in 1689 that the Dutch Stadtholder, as he was called, took the place of the Stuart kings who had gone before him, and perhaps to him was due the attribute accorded the fighting English of never knowing when they are beaten. The important matter to us is not, however, the political attitude of William and Mary, but the more personal and domestic phases of their reign.

They had been living in Holland with all the consequences of a governor's household, and as such had been surrounded with the best that country had to offer in the way of life's embellishments. Perhaps it is humiliating, but we must remember that at this time the Netherlands were more advanced in arts decorative than were the people across the Channel. The Renaissance came there earlier, and added to that was the close connection with France where, as we see in reviewing the reigns of the three successive kings named Louis, a lesser and local Renaissance took place.

The furniture which William and Mary transferred to England with themselves and their kingly rights, was Dutch, which meant a Dutch development of Italian and later French influence, and is of exceeding great interest to every owner of old furniture made or used in America in the eighteenth century.

This introduction revolutionised the style of furniture in vogue, the squarely constructed Stuart style, or Jacobean, as it is called down to this advent of William with his Dutch possessions.

That the new strange pieces were looked on with amazement by the cabinet-makers is as undoubtedly true as that the nobility and gentry were in haste to emulate the king and queen by furnishing their houses in the imported style.

The Channel is not wide, and ships were plenty, so loads of foreign furniture began to fill the market. Foreign workmen were imported and English craftsmen were forced to copy the new style or go bankrupt. The massive heavy styles they had been accustomed to manufacture had to lose in size and weight and altogether alter in construction.

Durability had never before been considered separable from ponderousness and weight. The Dutch styles, while not light in the matter of pounds, had a light effect and bespoke a new principle. Hitherto furniture had been almost as immoveable as wainscot or mantel, and when once placed budged not, but this new idea was to make it easily portable and delicate with grace. Furniture of England was revolutionised, and never since have the old ways been resumed. The one member that wrought the greater part of the wonder was the cabriole leg.

We have seen a little of its development on the Continent, its modern beginning as an elongated scroll set on end, its evolution into a slender curve under the artist craftsmen of the Regency influence, its decorated period and its plain, and lastly we have its Dutch development. In this latter form it came to England, reigning in its department as determinedly as the one-idea'd William reigned in his. It admitted no rival in the field, but routed all, proving at the same time its worthiness to occupy its place. The cabriole leg is the one great point of this decorative period with which the collectors of old English and American furniture must arm themselves against statements of the ill-informed. It had not appeared in England previous to this time.

Its French prototype went to extravagant lengths of decoration later on, and likewise did the English leg under Chippendale when his style began to wander from the ways of purity, but at present we have only to do with the substitution of the curved line for the straight in the supports of tables, chairs, and case-work.

Lest any one be confused by seeing a leg of straight line in furniture attributed to this time, it must be said that such was still made, and illustrated the continuance of Flemish influence and the employment of turning.

In examining chairs we have to look at another characteristic, the back. Two peculiarities strike us; one is its defection from the rigidity of the exactly perpendicular. Turn a chair sideways and it will show a sinuous line to accord with that given by nature to the human spine.

In decorative effect it is marked with the wide, flat splat, framed in with a continuous rail which is thrown over the top without a break, but with graceful sinuations. The great height of the back must be mentioned lest this style be confused with a much later reflection, one which appeared in that stretch of sterile years which now, with little compliment to a great queen, we call the Victorian period. It was a joiner of this later time who bragged of a " prentice job of six cherry-wood, bandy-legged fiddle-back, rush-bottom chairs," a description not inapplicable to the Queen Anne time. Apropos of that, it is a pity that 'prentice jobs and 'prentice systems are no more, for furniture made by such eager devotion to craft and to ambition can scarce be equalled in modern factories.

A chair came in at this time which had straight legs and a square seat, which was placed diamondwise, with a corner in front. This effect was gained by the simple experiment of framing the opposite corner with a semi-circular back.

The window chair is a product of this time, and for certain uses has never been surpassed in utility and comfort. Comfort was, indeed, a prime consideration at this time, which saw a great increase in the matter of upholstery. Chairs were at last made in which man might lounge and take his ease and woman might abandon herself to grace and relaxation.

Besides the chairs with arms, and the chairs with high-padded backs which spread out generously for shoulders wide and shoulders dimpled, there was the great luxurious contrivance known as the wing chair, an affair of high back and enclosing sides, all covered with stuffings and stuff, no wood frame to suggest hardness in the midst of this soft luxury, except short, square legs to bear with confidence the weight. It is now called a grandfather's chair, but is it not prettier to discard the theory that the protecting wings were made as bulwarks against rheumatic draughts, and were instead asylum for a golden head which tantalisingly coquetted from this luxurious vantage ground? It was not always old men who sat in what we are wont to call our grandfather's chair.

Some of the old men of those days have, however, left a name on certain chairs. There is, for example, the chair we first considered, that of the splat back and cabriole leg, with or without under-framing. That is called the Hogarth chair, and doubtless the eccentric artist sat in chairs of this kind when he had in hand the moral caricature of " The Rake's Progress " or " Marriage a la Mode." It pleases us to think so at least, and we may do it with assurance of being right, for during his life this was the typical straight chair.

To an increase in literary taste and in literary work is attributable the improvement made in desks. Lovable, rascally, humorous Dick Steele needed a suitable plateau for his lively elbows to rest while his pen scampered over the page and journals waited for copy. And the scholarly Pope desired an asylum for his papers and a convenient place for his books while writing for all men his famed essay on the subject which is ever fresh in interest. All these had emulators as great artists ever have, and so the need grew for a desk which would suit the litter of literary work, and designers produced what has never been excelled in convenience, except by the office roll-top desk, which has no place in this book.

The desk we know as the Dutch desk is the desk of this time, although brought to a higher perfection later. It began as a bureau, then had a top added, full of enticing little pigeonholes and drawers, which were concealed by a slanting lid that lowered to make a plane. On top of all was set a bookshelf, a convenience, not a beauty, but a comfort to all who both read and write. One of the earliest of these desks had half of the bookcase fitted with a mirror and a place for toilet accessories, a matter which might recommend itself to the modern apartment as companion to the celebrated space saver, the foldingbed.

The desks were simple, flat at sides and front, and stood on legs that were slightly curved, or later on a short claw and bell. Elaborations of this style show a later period.

The high-boy (French haut-bois) or tall-boy belongs to this period, but spreads over the next where many decorative changes were made. In its earlier manifestations it stands on six turned legs of the bulbous style we know as Dutch. These legs are underframed with a waving line which gives an effect of lightness. The table closely resembles the low-boy, and on this the large drawers stand in a neat compact square without other pediment than a moulding. On bookcases the pediment appears.

Attractive at all times are the tables of this time with their slender curved legs, although the cabriole leg is not at its best when too much elongated, as in the small drop-leaf table shown in the illustration. Its better appearance is on the shorter limit of the other table given. A feature of tables is the presence of several drawers and the waving line across the front which has an architectural effect of arches, and which pleases in accordance with its correctness of drawing.

Glass coming now into larger use gave an opportunity for the display of small treasures without exposing them to damage, and cabinets were made, very much on the plan of bookcases. Hanging mirrors for the wall became a feature of the time, and were framed in a way that prevents their being confused with those that came later. They were flat, the early glass not being bevelled, and the frames had none of the relief both high and heavy which has since been used. The frame proper was sawn from mahogany as soon as that wood was imported, in any fanciful design of curves, and on this flat field was laid a decoration in low relief, sometimes carved, sometimes moulded of stucco, but always gilded. The effect of the bright gold on dark mahogany is one that pleases quite as much now as it could have done at the time of its creation. On top of the mirror the designer usually placed a bird of some species best known to himself, who was always resplendent in gold. Except in certain imitations of French inventions, the glass of those hanging mirrors was in one piece.

It was at about this time that Holland was working her will with marquetry, producing her interpretation of the Italian intarsia done in many coloured woods. As a matter of course the reflection of it came to England, and is seen in some old pieces of this time, done in patterns of floriated scroll and dilutions of Renaissance designs worked out in wood of pear, sycamore, maple, mahogany and holly.

The woods of the time were oak, chestnut, walnut, beech, and the beginnings of that king of woods that has done more than all others to produce beauty of line and to bestow beauty of colour in the furniture of our homes - mahogany. The history of this wood is full of tradition, associating itself mainly with the New World, and setting an arbitrary date for its appearance. But deep investigation shows its timid beginnings, its experimental stage to be very early and limited to no country.

The period called Queen Anne is so arbitrarily named that it is impossible to speak of it without mental reservations of historical accuracy. Having its beginning with William and Mary in 1689, it finished that century and started the next with Anne, then continued its influence on through the reign of the first George, up to the middle of the eighteenth century, when French influence produced so great a change-that is to the time of the designers who were headed by Chippendale. This gives a period of about sixty years, one in which many artists lived and designed and in which important historical events occurred.

Industrially considered, one of the most prolific of these events was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, executed by Louis XIV. Very naturally the persecuted Protestant workmen fled to other countries less hostile to their religion, and thus Holland and England were enriched by men superior in their crafts. These were the artisans who made the Queen Anne furniture and fabrics that we prize, and that have been able to stand the wear of two centuries. Weavers took themselves and their adroit fingers to Spitalfields, near London, where the silk factory then established still exists.

Not only workmen were driven from France, but men of higher gifts. Daniel Marot, he who was architect under Louis XIV, fled to Holland, where he fell under the patronage of the Stadtholder William, and went with him to England. Hampton Court is full of his work and that of his favourite Grinling Gibbons. Marot designed the king's coach, and coaches were in those days resplendent works of art, if cumbersome in mechanism. Marot had also designed for Boulle.

But the matter of most interest to us is that Marot was prolific in producing the tall clock case which we call grandfather's clock, and which appropriately stands in the hall a guardian of time for both owner and stranger.

Marot designed much interior decoration executed in carving, with the heavy semi-classic effect of the day. It was impossible that the magnificent revival of Roman designs under the ruling French sovereign Louis XIV should not cross the Channel and influence native artists. That it did so is shown in old houses, like that of Lord Chesterfield's and others, in this heavy style which follows at a distance the over-decorated architecture of ancient Rome.

Another influence which took the form of a craze was the Chinese. Dutch traders were in close touch with China and returning ships brought generous stocks of small wares from a country in which small wares abound. Porcelain was imported in such quantities and in such curious forms that no drawing-room was considered complete without an exhibition of Chinese dogs and dragons and enough teacups to hang all over the room. Even the great Marot felt it consistent with his dignity as royal architect to design a mantel and side-walls for the especial accommodation of teacups and saucers.

It was in 1708, about forty years after the Great Fire of London, that Queen Anne ordered the churches of the city rebuilt. Inigo Jones had died fifty years before, but not so the Palladian styles with which he had impressed England. Before his death the young Sir Christopher Wren was maturing his talents, to succeed to the place of chief architect, and it was Wren whom Queen Anne chose for the work on the churches.

St. Paul's comes first to our minds as his magnum opus; and seems the forceful ruler with the lesser churches gathered about. The interior shows the rich adaptations of the classic in columns and details, all wonderfully carved by the master hand of Grinling Gibbons.

The interiors of the Queen Anne period were, as seen, Palladian, following down from the example of Inigo Jones. The note was set and the others continued it, more unchangingly in decoration than in furniture.

But now another influence came in by reason of the ever interesting personal equation. William the Stadtholder was inspired to envy of the grandiose Louis XIV, and this envy led to emulation. So Sir Christopher Wren, instead of going to Italy to become saturated with the spirit of art, went no further than France, and there absorbed and worked until he said he had sketched everything there. .

Yet, as Louis XIV styles were inspired by those of ancient Rome, it was only another means of keeping to the classic principle, adding certain exaggerations and expressing what was then modernity.

Wren built the State Apartments at Hampton Court for William and Mary in emulation of the king's great rival at Versailles. Here the oak wainscot is richly carved, although in general Wren's wainscot was comparatively plain. His walls are laid off in panels of dignified width surrounded with an enriched moulding. In general the rooms of the time have low dadoes, wide panels for pictures or tapestry, rich cornice, deep cove, and heavy ceilings.

The ceilings are of plaster, but great care was taken with the designs. Work was not executed in a distant shop, brought a distance, and placed regardless of fitness. Plaster workers and wood carvers were both at work in unison in the room where their products were to stay, and together effected the rich harmonies which have made celebrated certain old English houses. If we of these latter days criticise the heaviness of these old Queen Anne interiors, it is only from the point of view of one who lives in an age of small homes, where such enrichment would be out of place.

It is an interesting fact that the wood with which interiors were embellished frequently grew on the estate of the gentleman who was building his house, and he naturally was limited to what his forest produced. For his fine carvings Grinling Gibbons used lime, pear, and cedar; but oak, sycamore, and walnut were commoner for panels and floors. Mahogany would have been a wonderful medium for Gibbons' exquisite work of swags of fruit and flowers, of groups of cherubs' heads, and of classic detail, but he died in 1721, just as the uses of that wood were being discovered. History records that this master carver was appointed by King George I, and received as recompense eighteen pence a day.

Examples of Queen Anne interiors are not wanting in our own country, where, if we had not Wren's original work, at least we profited by it through his followers. Old houses of Portsmouth, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and many another colonial structure, show the serene dignity of the Palladian school of English architects. Interiors are simple, with an effect bordering on grandeur, as is ever the case where free yet judicious use is made of columns and pilasters. It is not only that the eye is pleased with his treatment, but that the reason is gratified. Even the merest suggestion of an order adds dignity, as it seems to give support to the ceiling, taking away the look of a box-lid.

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