Sideboard Dining Room Dining Table Chippendale Chair
Chippendale Furniture was named for the cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale. He first made his way into the decorating world in the late 1700’s. Most furniture during these times were named after royalty, with exceptions such as Chippendale.
This furniture is most distinguishable by its detailed wood carvings, whether they be present in the back of a chair or the foot of a table. A common modern example of Chippendale Furniture is the furniture found in a formal dining set, from the table itself, to the chairs, and even the breakfront. Chippendale furniture can be divided by its three different styles: English, French Rococo, Gothic, and Chinese. Each style offer a unique and exquisite interpretation of the original Chippendale Furniture design.
The English designs had deep carvings. His work represented the current furniture fashion in London at the time.
The Gothic design is known for its S shaped curves as well as the wooden bars adorning the glass windows or Chippendale bookcases or breakfronts.
Meanwhile the Rococo design was the epitome of the Chippendale design, creating an alternative to the Baroque style of furniture that was so very popular at the time. Rococo is often known for the carved interlacing ribbons that adorn mirrors, chair backs, and other pieces designed in this style.
In Chippendale’s book, The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director, the Rococo style is referred as modern. Chippendale borrowed the Rococo style from the French but made it less flamboyant and suitable for the English market. Generally characterized by lightness, elegance and an exuberant use of curved natural forms in the ornamentation, the Rococo style is considered a reaction against the Baroque’s heavy formality.
Chippendale’s Rococo furniture is asymmetrical and designed following the delicate interlace of curves and counter curves based on the fundamental fluid shapes of the“C” and the “S”.
According to the Rococo ideas, straight lines were unnatural and inelegant. Other than what might be needed structurally, it is often difficult to find a straight element in Rococo furniture.
Rococo furniture was decorated with carved scallop shell forms and other natural shapes such as flowers – particularly roses and acanthus leaves. Predominant colors were ivory white, gold and light pastels.
Common wood choices include mahogany, walnut and rosewood. If a lesser wood was used, it was painted, so it could appear more expensive. Cast-iron elements were quite common.
Mirror frames, girandoles and console tables in Rococo style were elaborately carved and glided. The tables featured marble tops and S curved legs with gaps between the legs narrowing toward the bottom and linked by showily decorative stretchers with trophy ornaments.
The chairs had intricately pierced slats or open carved backs and crested serpentine top rails. The furniture’s legs were delicately carved and the feet were either cabriole or French whorl (reverse scroll). The corners of the furniture were shaped to conform to the overall scrolling form. The Rococo cast pulls were abundantly decorated with three-dimensional shapes such as scallop shells and C-shapes scrolls. The early versions of Rococo pulls were less ornate and featured one-piece back plates.
The best known Chippendale Rococo piece is a broad-seated, French chair, based on Louis XV style. It features beautiful upholstered back withrail in the form of Cupid’s bow and a pierced splat composed of carved interlacing ribbons.
The Chippendale Rococo quatrefoil side chair is made of mahogany and features crested serpentine top rail above a pierced splat with floral decoration, quatrefoil and deep gadrooned rails around a neutrally upholstered seat set on straight paneled legs with running garlands. The wood is elaborately carved with flowers and leaves motifs.
For the making of Chippendale Rococo furniture, the most elaborate hardware of the time was used, but it was reserved only for the most expensive pieces.
Later on, Chippendale’s Rococo style evolved into two other furniture styles – Naturalistic and Renaissance Revival. Antique reproduction Chippendale furniture in the Rococo style remains ever popular.
Finally, the Chinese design is named for the Chippendale designs found throughout china cabinets and china shelves consisting of fireworks designs and pagoda style pediments.
Use of Mahogany Wood
Chippendale furniture is often referred to as the royalty of furniture or Museum Furniture, since it is composed of such exquisite, often regal designs that were most suited for royalty in the late 1700’s. Most Chippendale furniture was designed in Mahogany, which during the time period, was imported from the West Indies. Mahogany was considered a regal, fine wood and was not inexpensive or easy to obtain. However, different regions of the world used different woods, depending on what was available and allowed for the same beautiful finish. American furniture makers specializing in Chippendale furniture in the 1800’s used cherry wood most often, while those in Bermuda used cedar with an orange hue. As a result, those looking for antique Chippendale Furniture can determine where and during what years the piece in which they are interested is from based on the wood used.
Chippendale Furniture Characteristics
One of the most defining characteristics of Chippendale Furniture is the cabriole leg, which is a leg that is shaped like a serpent and ends in a definitive ball shape. The three definitive shapes consist of the lion’s paw, the ball, and the claw.
Chippendale is also known for the highboy, which replaced the standard chest on stand type dresser of the period. The highboy was a high chest of drawers situated on cabriole legs with a swan or family crest adorning the top. The handles were often hand crafted gold with the same curvature on the legs and top of the wood.
Much of the inspiration for Chippendale Furniture in America came from the Queen Anne style in Europe.
Thomas Chippendale is credited for most of the fine pieces of furniture of the Chippendale styles, however, unlike many artists and craftsmen, he never used a marker’s mark, therefore, it can be quite difficult, if not impossible to verify him as the artist.
It should also be noted, that even if the work came from his workshop, it is not likely he worked on the piece as he employed many craftsmen to help bring his vision to life.
One trait that is verifiable is the pieces are all handcrafted. Without the help of machines, the pieces do not match 100%, but has the touch of human craftsmanship with every piece.
Chippendale furniture is still considered among the elite of furniture, rendering an extremely high price tag. Such quality and pricing have added to the reputation that this furniture is made for kings. If you are not royalty, but want to experience the beauty of this furniture, check out your local art museum, where you will find authentic or replicated pieces on display for you to enjoy.
Clip from the BBC on Thomas Chippendale