Chippendale Style Furniture: Our Guide
Chippendale style furniture rose to prominence during the 18th Century, and is still popular among collectors today.
The style is named after world-renowned cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale. It was the first English furniture style to be named after an artisan rather than a monarch, recognised for its revolutionary designs and quality.
Who was Thomas Chippendale?
Chippendale, born in Yorkshire in 1718, made his fortune in London in the mid-18th Century. In 1754 he published a book of his furniture designs, The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director. The catalogue cemented his success and influenced the tastes of society in England and further afield for many years to come.
Following the Director’s publication Chippendale received large-scale interior design commissions from wealthy and aristocratic clients, and many other cabinet makers reproduced his designs and emulated his style. As a result, Chippendale style furniture was produced in Hamburg, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Dublin and Philadelphia.
What does Chippendale style furniture look like?
The designs in Chippendale’s Director combine elements of Gothic, Rococo and Chinese styles. From the 1960s, Chippendale was influenced by the distinctive Neoclassical style of architect Robert Adam, with whom he collaborated on several projects.
The influence of Gothic furniture was evident in S-shaped curves and pointed arches carved into the backs of chairs, and into the wooden glazing bars and pediments of bookcases.
Chinese styling can be found in the pagoda-style pediments of china cabinets, and glazing bars carved with fretwork. Similar fretwork can be seen on the edges of tea tables, and on chair backs and legs. Some Chinese Chippendale style furniture was ‘Japanned’, or coated with paintwork imitating Asian lacquerwork.
The influence of Rococo on Chippendale style furniture
Today, the term ‘Chippendale style’ generally refers to English furniture made in a modified Rococo style.
Chippendale’s Rococo-influenced designs were in part a reaction to the staid formality of earlier periods, although he adapted the elaborate French style for the somewhat less extravagant English market.
His Rococo designs include French chairs based on the Louis XV style, embellished tables and ornate gilded mirrors. Perhaps his most famous design is the broad-seated ribbon back chair, which featured a centre support made up of highly decorative carved ribbons and a cupid’s bow-shaped back rail.
Spotting Chippendale style furniture
Original Chippendale pieces are rare, and can fetch extraordinary prices at auction. However, the Chippendale style remained popular over two hundred years in the UK, Europe and America, and it’s possible to find beautiful Chippendale style pieces from the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries.
A distinctive feature of Chippendale style furniture is the Queen Anne-style Cabriole leg - a graceful, serpentine leg ending in a distinctively-carved foot. These feet include the lion’s paw, the club, and the ball and claw, which look like an eagle’s talon clutching a ball.
Chippendale style furniture is generally made of mahogany, but can also be made of walnut, cherry or maple.
Chippendale style furniture in our collection
Our collection includes a number of beautiful pieces in the Chippendale style. This beautifully carved 19th Century oak mirror is made in the Chippendale Rococo manner, with shell, rocaille floral and scroll work typical of the period, while this giltwood mirror, circa 1795, is topped by a large mythical Ho-Ho bird with its wings outspread and framed by gilt acanthus scrolls, rosettes and foliate details.
This rare pair of satinwood commodes, circa 1900, features a delicately carved top drawer over ornately painted lower drawers and panelled side cupboards.
If you’d like to know more about anything in our collection please do get in touch.