Early Georgian Furniture
The beginning of mahogany—Architectural influence—Decorated—Lion and mask period—The cabochon-and-leaf period—The furniture of the period.
IT is very difficult to draw a hard and fast line between styles of furniture which overlap, and although there have been times when a change of sovereign produced an immediate difference in art and commerce, like those periods which followed immediately after the restoration of the Stuarts, and the accession of William and Mary, bringing with them Dutch influence, there have been other occasions when trade and commerce have gone on without interruption. One of these periods across which we draw an imaginary line is the accession of George I. on the death of Queen Anne. George was the first sovereign of the House of Hanover, but his German connections did not in any way affect the English cabinet-making trade, which at that time was passing through a slow and steady process of progress and development.
The chairs of walnut which continued to be made during the first years of the new King's reign were of what has been termed the Decorative Queen Anne Period ; that is to say, the decorative ornament and upholstery of the end of the Queen's reign was continued throughout the Age of Walnut, as represented by the furniture made at the commencement of the reign of the House of Hanover. Some very beautiful armchairs and decorative settees and double chairs were made, and many exceptional pieces in the collections of connoisseurs show indications of the coming change. Already the carver's art was being applied, and the wood-carver was, as it were, waiting for the newer material which was destined to have such a far-reaching effect upon the English cabinet-making trade.
It is said that the accession of George I. marks an important departure in that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in the eighteenth century, until the death of Queen Anne, royal favour had been the chief factor in promoting change and setting the fashion. George I. cared little about English society or English trade, and by no stretch of imagination can the early Georges, even by their most enthusiastic admirers, be regarded as patrons of art. The time had come when the artist and the trader were to set the pace, and it is a noticeable thing that from the commencement of the reign of George I. fashion changed, and even took its distinctive characteristic names from craftsmanship and designers and not from royal patrons. We speak readily of the style of Queen Anne, but when describing subsequent styles we use the generic term of " Georgian " as indicating the era or period, but certainly not as covering any definite style, for thenceforth such names as those of Adam, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton were to be descriptive of the style of the age.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )