Queen Anne Furniture
"one can no longer send such fashions because the English have their own, which are followed here now"
So wrote an observer in 1715, a year after the end of the Queen Anne period. Queen Anne of England had reigned from 1702 and in this age English baroque furniture, a tradition begun in the time of Carolean furniture and continuing in the William and Mary era, reached a mature stage, the peak of its history.
The Queen Anne era sees all the forces that had been at work through the preceding half century of history, the French and Dutch importations, both in human and idea form, the rise of the cabinet maker, and the flowering of local design talents, come to fruition, in a restrained and elegant way, with the best embodiment of this being seen in Queen Anne chairs.
Prior to the period of Queen Anne furniture England had been a backwater in design terms, a pale shadowing of the great things which had been accomplished in France and Italy. Queen Ann furniture puts the efforts of English furniture craftsmen almost on a par with their French and Dutch neighbours, not however slavishly copying, but in a uniquely English compromise and fusion.
Queen Anne Style
English furniture makers of the Queen Anne period attained a mastery of foreign techniques and evolved a distinct style of their own, in a fairly limited way it must be admitted, that nevertheless, laid the foundations for much of the quality work to come.
The reasonableness of English taste reasserted its influence in this time after the preceding decades had seen much copying of foreign fashions, and although fashion still led the way, we can see a real flowering of native English craftsmanship, fine furniture that was elegantly proportioned and sparingly decorated, without caring too much about being compared to the masterful but overpowering works of ornamental furniture that were the product of French cabinet makers and designers.
What was still very decorative and elaborate about Queen Anne style furniture was largely the lacquer work, the rich oriental wares and china, the use of gesso design, and the Dutch marquetry cabinets, with their bombe sides and fronts and profuse decoration.
English furniture of this period however saw little of the clustering scrolls, the wandering trails of acanthus, the amorini, heraldic motifs, and all the rather haphazard mixture of decorative ideas that had embellished the late Stuart furniture.
Wood & Main Features
Walnut was the main wood used, although in the country oak, beech and other woods easy at hand to the village craftsmen were employed. Makers of Queen Anne style furniture found that their clientele was growing, because the taste for comfortable and graceful furniture, such as wing back chairs, was by no means confined to the upper and idle classes alone. Many of the homes of modest merchants, traders, lawyers and the professional classes could boast of furnishings at least of equal merit to those found in interiors reserved for the well born.
Stretchers & Claw and Ball Feet
The stretcher piece was generally discarded, as in card tables, and stools, couches and the stands of cabinets all benefited from the added grace afforded by the abandoning of it. The feet in which the legs of furniture terminate underwent alteration and improvement. Ultimately claw and ball feet make their appearance, or rather their reappearance, for the claw and ball foot is an ancient design, and makes an attractive finish to the heavier type of cabriole leg that evolved after the disuse of the stretcher.
Scroll feet are generally associated with the earlier Queen Anne furniture, but there were also club feet, spade feet and a square moulded type of foot; and the club foot was sometimes square, the leg in this case being square in section also. Although carving was sparingly used, a little appeared on the knees of cabriole legs.
Last Days of the Baroque - Queen Anne Legacy
Furniture produced towards the end of Queen Anne's reign shows marked moves away from the very ornate and decorative style of baroque furniture, a move towards more refined, delicate, and "humanised" furniture on a less grand scale.
This trend continued well into the eighteenth century before encountering the introduction of the Palladian style in the early Georgian era.