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Queen Anne Chairs

The furniture craftsmen of England in the 17th century had learnt many valuable lessons from the influx of Dutch immigrant woodworkers and designers and this is seen most clearly in the development of the famous Queen Anne style of chairs, curving and shapely.

English "Queen Anne" dining room chairs had lowish, graceful backs, rounded top rails, and the arms set in a manner that made the whole chair design a harmony of curves, exquisitely simple but intrinsically elegant, satisfying with supreme skill the demands of both comfort and fashion. A single, vertical splat, again curvilinear, both in plan and elevation, held sway in the centre of the back, allowing for a good deal of comfort to the sitter.

While British chairs with curving back splats and cabriole legs, usually made of walnut, and with upholstered seats, are universally called Queen Anne chairs, in reality such chairs as these first came into fashion not so much during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714), but in the reign of George I (1714-1727), and continued in popularity right throughout the walnut wood period until 1740.

Queen Anne Chair
Queen Anne Chair, circa 1700 with curved back, in beech with "Chinese" painting and hoofed front feet.

Queen Anne Legs - Cabriole

The major element of Queen Anne chairs are the "Queen Anne Legs", the cabriole leg for chairs and also for stands and other furniture. Cabriole legs are gentle, restrained, useful, and well-proportioned, traits which, in the end, mark off English furniture from its more extravagant and elaborate cousins in France, and traits which may be thought of as applying to the nation as a whole at that time.

In later times Queen Ann chairs evolved in style, as the craftsmen employed in making them gained in skill. The stretcher that tied the legs of the earlier Queen Anne chairs disappears, and without this underframing the cabriole leg becomes heavier and has a bolder sweep to its curve.

Walnut Chair
Walnut and Marquetry Chair, 1725.

Hoof shaped and scrolled feet lose ground to club, and claw and ball feet, from around 1710. Cabriole legs now often sport carved knees, sometimes with a husk and later with a shell motif, and the carving is sometimes mirrored on the center of the seat rail.

The solid type of splat becomes joined by a simpler cresting rail. Such chairs were more comfortable as the backs were curved to support the sitter's body, matching the curving of the legs. Veneering and marquetry also make an appearance on some of the finer antique Queen Anne chairs.

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