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Decorative Style - Queen Anne

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Queen Anne "furniture is a very elastic term, for it is often used to cover the reigns of William and Mary, Queen Anne, George I, and a part of the reign of George II, or, in other words, all the time of Dutch influence. The more usual method is to leave out William and Mary, but at best the classification of furniture is more or less arbitrary, for in England, as well as other countries, the different styles overlap each other. Chippendale's early work was distinctly influenced by the Dutch.

Walnut superseded oak in popularity, and after 1720 mahogany gradually became the favorite. There was a good deal of walnut veneering done, and the best logs were saved for the purpose. Marquetry died out and gave place to carving, and the cabriole leg, one of the chief marks of Dutch influence, became a firmly fixed style. The carving was put on the knees and the legs ended in claw and ball and pad feet. Some chairs were simply carved with a shell or leaf or scroll on top rail and knees of the legs. In the more elaborately carved chairs the arms, legs, splat, and top rail were all carved with acanthus leaves, or designs from Gibbons's decoration. Chairs were broad in the seat and high of back with wide splats, often decorated with inlay, in the early part of the period. The top rail curved into the side uprights, and the seat was set into a rebate or box-seat. The chair backs slowly changed in shape, becoming broader and lower, the splat ceased to be inlaid and was pierced and carved, and the whole chair assumed the shape made so familiar to us by Chippendale.

Tables usually had cabriole legs, although there were some gate- or thousand-legged, tables, and card tables, writing-tables, and flap-tables, were all used. It was in the Queen Anne period that highboys and lowboys made their first appearance.

In the short reign of Anne it also became the fashion to have great displays of Chinese porcelain, and over-mantels, cupboards, shelves and tables were covered with wonderful pieces of it. Addison, in Sir Roger de Coverley, humorously describes a lady's library of the time.

And as it was some time before the lady came to me I had an opportunity of turning over a great many of her books, which were ranged in a very beautiful order. At the end of the folios (which were finely bound and gilt) were great jars of china placed one above another in a very noble piece of architecture. The quartos were separated from the octavos by a pile of smaller vessels, which rose in a delightful pyramid. The octavos were bounded by tea-dishes of all shapes, colors, and sizes, which were so disposed on a wooden frame that they looked like one continued pillar indented with the finest strokes of sculpture and stained with the greatest variety of dyes. Part of the library was en-closed in a kind of square, consisting of one of the prettiest grotesque works that ever I saw, and made up of scaramouches, lions, monkeys, mandarins, trees, shells, and a thou-sand other odd figures in china ware. In the midst of the room was a little Japan table."

Between 1710 and 1730 lacquer ware became very fashion-able, and many experiments were made to imitate the beautiful Oriental articles brought home by Dutch traders. In Holland a fair amount of success was attained and a good deal of lacquered furniture was sent from there to England where the brass and silver mounts were added. English and French were experimenting, the French with the greatest success in their Vernis Martin, mentioned elsewhere, which really stood quite in a class by itself, but the imitations of Chinese and Japanese lacquer were inferior to the originals. Pine, oak, lime, and many other woods, were used as a base, and the fashion was so decided that nearly all kinds of furniture were covered with it. This lacquer ware of William and Mary's and Queen Anne's time must not be confounded with the Japanned furniture of Hepplewhite's and Sheraton's time, which was quite different and of much lower grade.

It was in the reign of Queen Anne that the sun began to rise on English cabinet work; it shone gloriously through the eighteenth century, and sank in early Victorian clouds.



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