ANNE was an Englishwoman and a Stuart—the J~\ second daughter of James II. Why, then, it may be asked, did the mobiliary modes of her reign continue to be Dutch?—thus of course affefting American as well as English furniture.
It has been said that it is not Kings and Courts that influence Styles in furniture, but the cabinetmakers. In degree this very much depends. We can hardly ascribe the tremendous swing from the Puritanical, utilitarian Styles of Cromwell to the efflorescent modes of Charles the Gay to cabinet-makers: on the other hand the virile genius of a Chippendale was able to impress his own fashions upon all Britain without the slighted consideration of His Majesty George the Second. There exists another situation— that where the craftsmen are let alone and among them there is no disturbing genius. In that case they pursue their own generally even way.
And so it was during the reign of Queen Anne. By now the Dutch tradition had ¿lamped itself upon the life of the court, upon manners, upon architecture, and furniture; and, though the modes were changed, the new was even more Dutch than the old! The craftsmen were undisturbed, for Anne was not a woman of marked intelligence. She has been described as of "colourless personality" and her court as "rather dowdy." As, after William had landed in 1688, she wished him success againSt her own father, James, it is easy to divine where lay her sympathies. There were always
foreign wars, but the new idea by which the sovereign put himself in harmony with parliament by choosing his ministry from the majority in the house had been discovered "almoSt by accident" and brought political peace within the nation itself. She herself disturbed it by her intrigues to secure the succession to the "Pretender," her half-brother, but this was at the very end of her life and her machinations failed. She reigned but twelve years—from 1702 to 1714.
Heavy, ornate furniture was made for the nobility, but the tremendous expense of the incessant foreign wars of William and of Anne sat heavily upon the resources of the people and the more typical furniture of Anne's reign was very simple: on the other hand, the comparatively well-to-do trading class was rapidly increasing, supplying abundant work for the chair-and cabinet-makers—the two trades were then diStindt.
The remnants of feudalism, the autocratic rule of kings, and romanticism had gone by the board, and from now onwards we find a colder, more matter-of-fadt, more modern, and materialistic spirit, very appreciative of success arid creature comforts. The literature of eighteenth century England gives us the key: able as it was, it was a very different literature from that of Shakespeare and Marlowe, Milton and Donne.
It was at juSt about this period that all through Europe dawned the desire for real physical ease and convenience, and that dug, early in the eighteenth century, that "Deep Dividing Line" between all furniture and decoration preceding it and that which followed that I have described and emphasised in my book on "Learning Decoration and Furniture." This change was gradual and transitional, but sweepingly effedtive. The differences between the furniture of William and Mary and their successor are perhaps not so radical as those between the Styles of Louis XIV and Louis XV but they are notable and will presently be seen.
The period we are now considering extended far beyond the reign of Anne, for no new, virile Style arose to take the place of the current mode till the advent of Chippendale in 1748. The intervening time may be characterised as years of drift. The firSt George was a Hanoverian who could not speak English, and his influence upon the world of furniture and decoration was non-existent. His successor was of Stronger personality, but troubled himself about none of these things. There were developments of a sort: the moSt notable of these being, perhaps, the "architect's furniture" of 1720-50. The heavy, ostentatious, gilded furniture of the then well-nigh taSteless aristocracy was, fortunately, not introduced into America and need not be dwelt upon here. The lion mahogany furniture was likewise absent,
AlmoSt immediately upon the accession of Anne in 1702 came the mentioned development in the direction of comfort that had been foreshadowed in the very laSt days of William—his consort, Mary, had died of smallpox in 1694. Tall, Stiff backs gave way to those of moderate height, spooned to fit the spinal column of humanity: the Straight leg was abandoned in favour of the universal cabriole.
Queen Anne furniture was, it is true, less formal, less elegant than that of William and Mary, but it not only was, it looked more comfortable—and more Dutch.
With us, across the Atlantic, this lead was of course followed, but at an interval of a dozen years or more. All experts with whom I have talked unite in feeling that nearly all American furniture is usually dated too early.
And this brings us to the American scene of the eighteenth century.
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