American Empire Sofa Preserving Directqire Characteristics

American Empire Furniture

AMERICAN EMPIRE SOFA From Beverly Farms, Massachusetts

A TYPICAL AMERICAN EMPIRE SOFA OF GREAT SIZE AND WEIGHT Seat 8 ft. x z fit. Height of back 38 inches By Courtesy of Estate Mary V. Hammond, Frederick County, Maryland and later years and there are many pleasing examples. The Hitchcock chair is particularly well known.

An example of the American Empire chair previously referred to is shown in the bedroom of the Brett house in Plate 121. It is interesting as showing a departure. During the Chippendale period the cabriole leg was set diagonally to the piece—as it is in the accompanying bedstead. Then Chippendale re-introduced the Straight leg, and it was employed throughout the Hepplewhite-Sheraton régime. During the Directoire period the curved leg again came into vogue, but the curve began at the top of the seat rail. Now we find its commencement below the seat, and it is again truly a cabriole leg, but flat on the sides and set flush with the side-rails and not diagonally. How interesting are the changes from Style to Style—and how little they are observed! It will be noted, too, that the back-splat—absent for so many years—has returned with the leg; but, again, with some difference in form.

A side chair that I have juSt seen is moSt interesting in that it is wholly of Directoire form while between the top and middle back-rails appears a very diminutive splat of this American Empire type. It is therefore a transition piece and probably marks the very beginning of the revived use of the splat.

A chair very similar to that in Plate 121 but with a different back-rail is seen in Plate 118 B. These specimens are not unattractive and have a quaintness and homelike feeling of their own, but the declension in grace of design between them and the pure Directoire contour illustrated in the previous chapter is but too evident. What that declension could really accomplish, however, scarcely needs other exemplifications than the pair of chairs accompanying the cheSt-of-drawers in the opposite illustration—Plate 119: they show the saddening decadence which set in in all the decorative

^ Such a downfall is of no small moment to the human race: it goes deeper than is realised by those who are not continually concerning themselves with beauty and its effed upon mankind. "The arts"—said Rev. Dr. Bernard Iddings Bell recently in the Atlantic Monthly—'The arts—those activities whereby man would clamber from the beaSts to fly among the gods."

Fortunately we shall see further manifestations of the art-spirit in America, for though these chapters on furniture have reached their conclusion they are followed by two others—those on the interior archite&ure of the various periods and the accessories therewith employed.

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