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The Chippendale Style

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The Chippendales—Furniture of the period — Materials used—From Chippendale's workshops—Chippendale's early work—" The Director" —Characteristics of the style—The rococo or French style—Gothic influence—Fretted furniture—The Chinese taste—Irish Chippendale —Tripod furniture—Chairs, settees, and tables—The sideboard—Bookcases and bureaus—Bedsteads and commodes— Mirrors and pier glasses.

IN attempting to distinguish between the styles which in the eyes of collectors mark separate periods of manufacture, we are apt to forget that at no one period of art or craftsmanship has there ever been a sharply-defined line. Especially is this so in the furniture trade, for the change from one style to another has always been gradual, although there have been times when national events, such as a change of government, the fortunes of war, or the accession of a new sovereign have accelerated those changes. In passing from one stage to another in the manufacture of household goods once common, now antiques, time must necessarily have elapsed in the full operation of those changes. There are few really original devices, for whenever even a great master mind strikes out a new course his thoughts, actions, and the handiwork he achieves are influenced by his experience ; and the experience gained by some master cabinet-makers in certain directions is much greater than in others.

Sometimes, in consequence of special opportunities, a man hits upon an idea, but will produce something quite different in its accomplishment ; it may be the difference will lie in the design and appearance of the article, or possibly in the object or purpose of its use, but in arriving at the perfection of a new idea, or successfully launching a new ideal, there will necessarily be stages of development, and the newer method of design will be the result of evolution from something that has gone before. Hence it is that the style known to - day as Chippendale was the result of gradual although rapid development, and there are traces of what are now regarded as the characteristics of Chippendale noticeable in some of the earlier works of other makers. Indications of coming changes are to be observed in many of the pieces of walnut furniture made at the time Thomas Chippendale came on the scene ; and in the earlier works with which the name of Chippendale was associated there is to be observed more of the earlier Georgian style than of the characteristic design, which would in the opinion of a connoisseur justify the inclusion of such works in a catalogue of Chippendale furniture.

In tracing such developments we must bear in mind that the chairs and tables of the earlier period—the days when the Chippendale business was but in its infancy—were of walnut, and that they bear only slight indications of the trend of events, and of the predominating influence of the carver's art that at least one of those bearing the name of Chippendale excelled in. There are, therefore, many objects which, although classed as early Georgian, may have been made under the direction of Thomas Chippendale—father or son—or, perchance, made by his own hands. It is among such early pieces we look for traces of the coming fancy, and when genuine and well-authenticated antiques come into the market, they should not be passed over lightly because they chance to bear evidence of a change of thought, and to be not quite pure in style ; for to the student they may be precious connecting links between the two periods.

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