Sheraton Chairs

The two outstanding characteristics of all Sheraton furniture are its slenderness and the avoiding of the curve in favour of the Straight line. His chairs have, therefore, the rectangular, or as they are often called, the "square" back.

It so happens that Hepplewhite in his "Guide" had given a number of designs for square-back chairs, and we know from Sheraton's slurring reference in his own preface that he was familiar with them. So far as I am aware but two of Hepplewhite's were made, and tracings from the "Guide" are given in Plate 52. If the reader will compare the firSt of these with the firSt design in Plate 68 A he will see how free was Sheraton in helping himself to the ideas of Hepplewhite. Furthermore, in Plate 52 C is also given a tracing of a vase-shaped arm-support. This is the only example of it given by Hepplewhite, and, whether or no it suggested the form to Sheraton, the fad remains that in one phase or another it is Sheraton's favourite treatment in arm-chairs and sofas. It will be seen in the tracing of a sofa from his own book in Plate 57 B and in all the Sheraton American sofas illustrated here.

Stretchers were not very usual in English Sheraton chairs of this type but frequently appeared in American examples: indeed the whole lower portions of the two chairs in Plate 53 are distinctly Hepplewhite. Fig. B in this plate was presented to the great-grandfather of the present owner by General Washington, and Mr. Halsey tells us that a set similar to Plate 54 B was a part of the library furnishings of the Cherry Street house Washington used as the firSt Presidential mansion in New York. As a number of exactly the same pattern have been found in old houses in that city, all are probably of New York origin.

MoSt of the American Sheraton chairs are in these simple, chaSte designs; but a very ornamental back is seen in Plate 55. This chair is in the possession of a descendant of a well-known old New York family and so, too, was almoSt surely made there.

The design of chair-back shown in Plate 54 A does not appear in Sheraton's book but the whole piece is a virtual duplicate of some original English Sheraton chairs: thus showing that in this period also our craftsmen sometimes worked from imported pieces, drawings or templets. On the other hand Plate 53 B and the chair in Plate 79 are respectively very close and direct renderings of Sheraton's design No. 1 in Plate 68 A.

Sheraton's favourite back-treatment was the Straight baluSter seen in all these chairs and the diagonal form appearing in the chair from the Cadwalader house, Philadelphia, and made in that city, appearing in Plate 93. Sometimes they were combined, the diagonal of the upper portion joining perpendicular baluSters below.

Notwithstanding all his "borrowings," there is a certain quality in Sheraton's typical design that is difficult to describe in language but that will be felt by one appreciative of loveliness in proportion and form: this quality is inherent in moSt of his chair backs. I regret that the number of illustrations for which I muSt find room forbids my showing all his plates. It is a deprivation to American furniture that our craftsmen rendered so few of these designs.

A ladder-back of these classic years is shown in Plate 56. This influence is evident in its slenderness and refinement of detail.


In this period, too, both multiple chair-back settees, immediately recognisable by the Style of back, and upholstered sofas were made. Of the latter, two typical examples of Hepplewhite's have been traced from the "Guide" and are reproduced in Plate 57 A.

Good American examples of the Hepplewhite sofa are decidedly scarce: Sheraton's Style followed closely upon Hepplewhite's and displaced it, so that, except for chairs, we find less furniture of the earlier than of the later Style.

Plate $8 shows how our craftsmen both followed and departed from originals. Plate 57 A gives two of Hepplewhite's own designs and it will be seen how here the characteristics of the two have been united. But the high roll of the arms is that of the type familiar through the Chippendale period and persisting in Hepplewhite years both in England and America—Plate 23 B. The drooping arm typified in Hepplewhite's Plate 24 (the lower tracing) was definitely however one of his phases. In some entirely upholstered pieces with rounded back the arms curve immediately and gracefully downward. The well-known Hepplewhite sofa in the Brooklyn Museum, in which the wood of the arms appears, has the droop in double concaves. The husk ornaments the front of its tapered square legs.

The fine example illustrated here (Plate 58) has a delightful back-ornament of a^basket of flowers upon a Stippled ground, with rosettes and- waterleaf sprays upon the arms. Qualities of the workmanship will be referred to in connexion with the Sheraton sofa illustrated in Plate 60 made by the same cabinet-maker, who is believed to have come from Salem, Massachusetts.

A typical Sheraton design, traced from his " Drawing-Book," is the loweSt figure on Plate 57. Of these sofas Sheraton says: "If the top rail be thought to have too much work, it can be finished in a Straight rail, as the design shows." MoSt of our American craftsmen took Sheraton's hint, but some one or more of those in Salem, Massachusetts, not only followed the original form in this period, as in Plate 60, but

AN ORNATE SHERATON CHAIR-BACK Chair probably made in New York Photograph by Courtesy of A. F. C Bateman Co., Philadelphia

Sheraton Chairs
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