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Chippendale - Furniture Of The Period

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



The advanced connoisseur is apt to become somewhat narrow in his views, in that as he gradually discards first one piece and then another in favour of finer specimens he loses interest in the pieces that delight a less advanced collector. In that way he gets out of the common work, and eventually seeks pleasure only in extravagant expositions of style, or in the specimens of which there are few, and probably never were many, examples.

The home connoisseur who regards his hobby from the level of the possibilities of securing typical examples of the furniture of the period of which he is collecting, wants to know what the furniture of a well-appointed home of the period under review consisted of. We shall not find it, as might be expected, in Chippendale's "Director" (more fully referred to in another paragraph), but rather in museums and private collections, and among the more isolated and often more typical furniture of the Chippendale period in old English homes, where it has been treasured since the latter half of the eighteenth century, when the "style" became established, and many country, as well as London, cabinet-makers were copying it.

From a perusal of "The Director " we learn that certain articles were included in Chippendale's list, but from their names only (see p. 187) we know nothing of the types, and not much about their uses. Of the more elaborate designs in "The Director " many were never executed, being only suggestive. Indeed, the designs as illustrated in " The Director" do not indicate the Chippendale furniture which eventually became the vogue of the middle classes.

In the "best parlour," in the middle or latter half of the eighteenth century, there would be much furniture bearing traces of Chippendale influence, if not altogether pure in style. In such rooms there were single chairs and upholstered easies, sofas and tables, and in many instances card-tables. The bookcase or bureau - book-case was deemed an essential piece of furniture, and was much used. The china cupboard or cabinet was also favoured, and in the best parlour were to be found those beautiful little tripod tables and stands now so much admired. Clothes' presses, commodes, side-tables (not sideboards), and wine-coolers were popular ; there were also fire-screens, pier-glasses and carved picture frames. In the libraries of the middle-classes and well-to-do folk at that time were writing-tables and bookcases, open and closed. The bedroom furniture was solid, but the bedstead, while still a four-poster, was much lighter and more decorative in appearance than it had been in the early Georgian, and still earlier Jacobean and Tudor periods. Such bedsteads, like the very beautiful example illustrated in Fig. 2, with their hangings, were imposing pieces, and added splendour to the bed-chamber. Chests of drawers of various forms, more particularly those designated commodes, bow-fronted chests, and tall-boys, with ornamental handles and rosettes, were then frequently to be seen. Today the bow-fronted chests are much scarcer than those with serpentine-shaped fronts. Thomas Chippendale made some very beautiful little shaving-tables and basin-stands. And it may be noted that even in the height of his popularity for high-class works he did not despise the less important commissions, for he stated in his " Director " that his patterns were " suited to the fancy and circumstances of all persons in all degrees of life."

The collector is always interested in the later extravagances of Chippendale designs. The two chairs shown in Figs. 52 and 53 represent chairs in which the Chinese influence is seen in the legs and pierced rails, a noticeable feature being the applique fret ornament on the legs ; the backs are of very graceful ornament, although somewhat unusual—these chairs are part of a set of twelve in the possession of Messrs Mawers, Ltd.

Fig. 54b is a Chippendale chair in the French taste, one of rare type, made about 1760. Fig. 54a is another Chippendale chair of rather unusual type, in which the Chinese influence is strongly marked, the true Chippendale riband being scarcely in keeping with either the Chinese perforations, applique ornament, or cluster legs. This chair, one of a set in the possession of Messrs Mallett and Son, of Bath, was made about the same date as Fig 54b.

In Fig. 55 is seen a remarkably fine settee or double seat of the Chippendale style, slightly Gothic in design, with Chinese fret brackets, made about 1760.

Fig. 56 is a handsome Chippendale mahogany book-case, in which Gothic influence is seen in the fret ornament of the pediment. The fret inlay under the cornice is an adaptation of the frets of Chinese design.

Fig. 57 is an early Chippendale kneehole dressing-table (circa 1755). The toilet mirror on the dressing-table is of contemporary date.



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