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Fiddle Back Chairs

In the southern parts of New England there developed a variation of banister back chairs wherein the split banister uprights of the banister back, numbering four or five, were fused into a single central splat which, in silhoutte, resembled the outline of a violin, thus attracting the name "fiddle back". In reality the inspiration for the shape of this new type of chair can be traced to Chinese influences, in particular the oviform vases being imported from the exotic East at the time.

Such fiddle back chairs were made from around 1715. The more elaborate among them had turned and square front legs ending in Flemish feet, with sharply turned front and side stretchers, and with back uprights curved slightly above the seat level to conform to the back splat.

Early 18th century chairs
The first, second, and fourth chairs represent early or country forms of the fiddle back chair design.

This vase shaped back splat was usually plainly formed except for the back- accommodating curve. In simpler, rustic examples the central splat was without the backward curve. Similar to banister back chairs these chairs could be made armless or otherwise, and the seats were of rush or occasionally woven splint. They were made of locally available hardwoods with some having splats of curly bird's eye maple or other rare grained wood. Most of the fiddle back chair was painted with some of the fancier parts being varnished.

Queen Anne Chairs

The early fiddleback chairs discussed above constituted the forerunners of the more famous Queen Anne chairs so popular in antique houses today. Queen Annes were distinguished by their cabriole front legs, vase shaped splats, and tall conforming backs crowned with yoke-shaped tops.

Dutch Fiddle Back Chair
Dutch Fiddle Back Chair. A well-developed form with shaped seat, cabriole legs and flat bowed stretchers.

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