The Farm Antiques, Wells Maine

The Regency Period

The Regency Period
By Hannah Crouthamel in Furniture Designers

The English Regency period in decorative arts covers more than the nine years from 1811 to 1820 when George, Prince of Wales, (the Prince Regent) took over from his ailing father King George III.  Most authorities categorize the Regency period, as it pertains to the decorative arts, as the first 30 years of the 19th century.  Those were the years when the Prince of Wales had the greatest influence over the tastes of the time.  The first ten years of the century saw the Georgian period in decline and the Regency in the ascendency, the twenty years were dominated by the designs favored by the Prince Regent, later to become George IV.

The Regency period as it relates to fine arts does not start or end on one day; there is both a build up and a denouement.  Many things affected furniture design, from the practical to the events of the day.  The Regency PeriodThe Regency period ushered in different ideas in house design for the influential.  There was a greater emphasis on more open, informal (comparatively speaking) room arrangement, more thought given to the functionality of a home; how to make it more convenient and comfortable.  Windows became larger; the indoors and the garden merged; and furniture became lighter and smaller scale so it could be moved more easily.  The notable military engagements of the time proved to have an important influence on design.

In 1798 Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson led the English against the French in the Battle of the Nile.  This fueled greater interest in ancient Egypt.  Egyptian motifs – sphinxes, Egyptian heads, hieroglyphics, and crocodiles (as the public imagined Nelson to be surrounded by them on the Nile) were integrated into furniture design.  With Nelson’s victories came furniture detailed with marine motifs of knotted ropes, dolphins, shells and anchors.   With his death in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar,  ebony inlay was utilized more heavily, black symbolizing the country’s state of mourning for its greatest hero.
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Thomas Sheraton – Bridge to the Regency

Thomas Sheraton – Bridge to the Regency
By Hannah Crouthamel on Jul 30  in Furniture Designers

Thomas Sheraton, though a journeyman cabinet maker when he arrived in London in 1790, is not known to have had a workshop. It is believed he earned a bare living by working as a free Regency and Sheraton Period Furniturelance designer to other cabinet makers in London. He died in 1806 leaving “his family, it is feared, in distressed circumstances” (that according to “Obituary with Anecdotes of Remarkable Persons” in the Gentleman’s Magazine, Nov. 1806) . His designs are categorized as late Georgian, but they definitely presage the nascent Regency period in England and helped, as well, to define the Federal period in America.

Sheraton Design Innovations
Sheraton’s designs are generally distinguished by his emphasis on carving and wood turning. To some extent it might be said tht he took some of the Hepplewhite shapes and instead of using inlay as the primary enrichment, he used carving.

But, he also explored and developed new shapes and treatments. The square shape of chair backs; the columnar or turned leg with spiral carving; the leg that stands proud of the carcass of various forms of furniture; the reeding carved into edges and turnings; the convex shape that is often used in case pieces; and the elaborate carved cross stretcher are some of the notable Sheraton innovations (more…)

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George Hepplewhite and His Widow Alice

George Hepplewhite and His Widow Alice
By Hannah Crouthamel on Jul 21 in Furniture Designers

Had it not been for Alice Hepplewhite, the widow of George, it is doubtful that anyone would be aware of this 18th century English cabinetmaker.  After George’s death in 1786, Alice complied a catalog of the taste of the era The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide; or Repository of Designs for every Article of Household Furniture in the Newest and Most Approved Taste.  It was first published in 1788, re-issued with minor changes in 1789 and “improved” and republished in 1794.  It not only catalogued tastes, but guided them down the road of more delicate, inlaid furniture and accessories.

Self-proclaimed arbiter of style and taste
The full title of The Guide tells us quite a bit. Alice reinforces the thrust of the title in her preface, Hepplewhite Mirrors, Hepplewhite Chests, Other Case Pieces, Hepplewhite Period Furniturewhere she makes no claim for originality of design. She catalogs the tastes of the last quarter of the 18th century, and by what she chooses to include she creates the ‘Hepplewhite style’.  She used designs from other cabinetmakers of the period, as well as sketches, drawings and possibly even models of her husband’s furniture. Many of the forms which she chooses come to be known as  ‘Hepplewhite,’ even though it is highly likely that someone else created the design. Rightly or wrongly the Hepplewhite label has stuck.

As with Chippendale’s Director, this catalog had a far-reaching influence on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, cabinetmakers did not slavishly follow The Guide, but did use it for inspiration. For example, they would regularly substitute inlays that were more relevant to the American experience (Eagle and Stars instead of Britannia and Lion) or use timber that was more easily attainable and locally sourced for contrasting inlays. However, the inspiration of The Guide is evident in the move from more heavily carved Chippendale furniture to the more feminine Hepplewhite style. (more…)

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Thomas Chippendale and his Designs

Chippendale and all that
By Hannah Crouthamel on Jul 14  in Furniture Designers

Thomas Chippendale – Background
Born in 1718, Chippendale became a master carver and cabinet maker at an early age. Chippendale design, Chippendale Period FurnitureGifted with a rare eye for design and technique, his workshop in London became a highly successful undertaking. In 1754 he published the first edition of The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker’s Director. This chronicled tastes of the moment and his designs in particular.

It was so popular that a second edition was printed the following year and a third edition with more plates and up to date revisions in 1762. Most believe The Director, as it became to be known, was the most important book of furniture design published in the 18th century; it dominated design in England and her colonies through much of the century and, in fact, Chippendale’s designs are still being reproduced 250 years later. His influence was felt not only through The Director, but from the furniture that his workshops built and placed in the grand homes of London as well as in country mansions. He trained dozens of cabinetmakers, many of whom later established their own shops in England and in America (very likely some of the cabinetmakers who made furniture in Philadelphia, were trained in his London shop). (more…)

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