Queen Anne Style Furniture: A Resplendent Blend of Elegance and Comfort

Queen Anne furniture in the Governor's Council Chamber of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The chairs are attributed to William Savery. The Queen Anne style of furniture design, which blossomed during the reign of Queen Anne...

Queen Anne Furniture Queen Anne furniture in the Governor's Council Chamber of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The chairs are attributed to William Savery.

The Queen Anne style of furniture design, which blossomed during the reign of Queen Anne from 1702 to 1714, exemplifies a harmonious fusion of refinement and coziness.[^1^] This style is marked by its smaller and lighter form, offering a more comfortable seating experience compared to its predecessors. Its popularity can be attributed to its distinctive characteristics such as curvaceous shapes, cabriole legs, cushioned seats, wing-back chairs, and practical secretary desk-bookcase pieces.[^2^]

History and Characteristics

During the reign of William III of England (1689-1702), the groundwork for the Queen Anne style began to take shape before fully emerging in the mid-1720s to around 1760.[^4^][^7^] However, it is interesting to note that the term "Queen Anne" was not coined until much later, more than a century after the style had fallen out of fashion.[^5^] The use of Queen Anne styles in America coincided with newfound colonial prosperity and an influx of skilled British craftsmen to the colonies, particularly between the 1720s and 1730s.[^8^][^9^][^10^] Today, certain elements of the Queen Anne style continue to be favored in contemporary furniture production.[^5^]

Queen Anne Dressing Table Queen Anne dressing table with cabriole legs. Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1730-1750.

In terms of design, the Queen Anne style embraces curved lines in its feet, legs, arms, crest rails, and pediments, allowing for a sense of graceful movement and an emphasis on the material itself.[^5^] Unlike the rectilinear William and Mary furniture that preceded it, Queen Anne furniture employs C-scrolls, S-scrolls, and ogee (S-curve) shapes within the structure of the pieces, exuding elegance and sophistication.[^5^] Walnut became a popular choice for furniture during this period in urban environments, surpassing the dominance of oak and earning the era the moniker "the age of walnut."[^6^] However, other woods such as poplar, cherry, and maple were also utilized in crafting Queen Anne style furniture.[^11^]

The Epitome of Subtle Ornamentation

Compared to the ornate 17th-century and William and Mary styles, Queen Anne furniture embraces a minimalist approach to ornamentation. Instead of elaborate inlays, figured veneers, paint, and carvings, the emphasis is on tastefully executed ornamentation such as scallop or shell motifs (often found on the crest and knees), broken and C-curves, and acanthus leaves when decorative motifs are present.[^15^] Japanning, a technique of applying varnish and paint in intricate designs, offers an exception to the general trend of minimal ornament in Queen Anne furniture. When utilized, japanned decoration is often seen in vibrant shades of red, green, or gilt on a blue-green background.[^11^]

The Queen Anne style also introduced the tilt-top tea table on a tripod during the George II period in the 1730s, adding a touch of practicality to its repertoire of elegant designs.[^16^] Eventually, the Queen Anne style gave way to the Chippendale style, with late Queen Anne and early Chippendale pieces often exhibiting similar characteristics, leading to their frequent association.[^17^][^18^][^19^]

Queen Anne style furniture has left an indelible mark on the world of design with its refined aesthetics and unmatched comfort. Its enduring appeal continues to captivate furniture enthusiasts to this day, making it a timeless choice for those seeking a touch of elegance in their living spaces.

References:

  1. Original Article, Queen Anne style furniture
  2. Original Article, Queen Anne style furniture

Carved Shell Chair Carved shell and S-scroll features on a walnut Philadelphia Queen Anne compass-seat chair, c1750 (Private collection)

Walnut Side Chair Walnut and burr walnut veneer side chair attributed to Giles Grendey, London, c. 1740 (Art Institute of Chicago)

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