Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chippendale chairs

Philadelphia-made side chair, one of six, circa 1779

I have always been fond of Chippendale...chairs and sofas. This is likely the result of my mother, grandmother and so on back in my family, all of whom have also been Chippendale-inclined.

Thomas Chippendale was a furniture maker of the mid to late 18th century. He was probably born in 1718 but there is no record of his birth, only his baptism in that year. He was the son of an Otley, Yorkshire, England carpenter and most likely an apprentice to his father. He published a manual about the style of chairs he was creating, thus spreading the word of his designs.

Chippendale chairs were made in England and the colonies. Many were made right here in Philadelphia in the late 1700's.

There are six different basic Chippendale style legs. These are the lion’s paw, the ball and claw, the late Chippendale, the Marlborough, the club and the spade. Three of the styles are based on the cabriole shape, which is an elegant, serpentine style ending in a distinctive foot. These include the lion’s paw, which ends with a lion paw shaped foot, the club, which is a simple round foot and the ball and claw, which looks like a claw holding a ball. The remaining leg styles are straight with the Marlborough being a plain, square leg; the spade a tapered round leg often with a square or trapezoid foot and the late Chippendale having a square leg with a square foot.

There are many variations on the basic leg styles, but close observation will reveal the basic pattern. If carving is present, and it most likely will be to some degree, it will be detailed and deeply cut. Leg joints will be precisely done with evidence of handwork. Check for repairs where the leg and seat frame meet. Sometimes, chair legs will have been cut down at the bottom to a shorter stature and this lessens the value of the chair.

Stretchers are the horizontal rungs between chair legs. They are sometimes present in Chippendale style chairs. These, too, will be well joined, show evidence of handwork and will often be carved.

The chair backs will vary by the intended purpose of the chair. There are upholstered backs, rail backs, ladder backs, rung backs, splat backs, carved backs and in the case of stools and window seats, no backs. Often there will be piercing, where the solid wood has been pierced through as part of the back detail. One popular splat (back support) type is the lyre shape. Joinery will be well done and show evidence of handwork.

We use our chairs all the time--at our dining room table, in the drawing room and library, and we even drag them onto the porch if we don't have the outdoor furniture out yet. They're meant to be used, not just preserved.

Sitting pretty,


CZ said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!! 18th Century is my FAVE!!!! What a gorgeous collection you have!

Guardian of Gimcracks/Oyster Girl said...

Hi Anne-

I loved this post. It is great that you use your collection- I see Chippendales everyday at the W but I of course never get to sit on them!

Have you ever been to Harewood House near Otley? They have magnificient window valances carved by Chippendale- truly amazing!



Pink Champagne said...

Lovely! I'm jealous of your collection!

JMW said...

Gorgeous Chippendale chairs! Love the fabric in the second-to-last photo.

DawnW said...

I LOVE that fabric on the 3rd photo (the floral print). Do you happen to know the name of that fabric? I'm needing to get mine recovered - the current fabric is SO old and it's really starting to look it!!

Anne Lake said...

Dawn, the fabric was discontinued a year ago and I have what was left when I had curtains made. (I have this fabric on chairs and sofa in my drawinhg room.) Sorry!

Summer is a Verb said...

My parents dining room chairs are eerily similar to your first pic needlepoint and all...XXOO

Chippy's Ice Cream Parlor said...

Have you seen Hepplewhite chairs? The Hepplewhite are the same time period and also very elegant.

sle said...

Love the chairs, especially the needlepoint! It reminds me of my grandmother's house.

Davis and Bechet said...

you know your Chips very well, can you give me some advice as to how to determine the age of a chair like this?

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Living well is the best revenge...and a choice we make every day. Join me as I celebrate the bounty of beauty in all its forms: fashion, homestyle, accessories and everyday richness...as I juggle the roles of Mommy, wife, daughter, dog mommy, creative director, Zumba instructor, volunteer...all with more than a passing glance backward to an old-school, classic time when style was a way of life