About 1710—ten years earlier than in England— mahogany came into use: but the native pine, maple, walnut, cherry, and occasionally other fruit-woods, were general With such simple furniture as that composing almost all of that of this period in America, the native woods were entirely appropriate. In the next period both mahogany and ornament came into their own.
As appropriate to the furniture, the handles were of simple types—of unobtrusive willow-pattern, plain bails, and, occasionally, knobs. Drop-ring handles appear on the cupboard in Plate 14 A. Figure B has the H hinges so familiar in architectural work.
IT IS with the Chippendale Style that we reach the firSt of the really great periods in English, and consequently in American, cabinet-making. Desirable in many respedts as the earlier modes may have been, we now for the firSt time find furniture comparable to the beSt Continental work, that of the fine French and Italian periods "of almoSt superhuman beauty."
The phraseology above used should be noted: we cannot accurately say with Chippendale, but are compelled to use the words "with the Chippendale Style." For from now on the Story of the Styles is particularly full of difficulties and uncertainties and we can only characterise the mobiliary produ& of the laSt half of the eighteenth century as belonging to the Chippendale, Hepplewhite, or Sheraton Styles or schools. Writers may and do continually and conversationally say that Chippendale, or another, did certain things, but it muSt unfailingly be understood that it is only sometimes that we can with certainty refer designs or work to individuals or firms.
Many reasons for this will make themselves evident as we proceed but it may at once be said that this is largely because detailed information is so exceedingly meagre—we do not even yet know, for example, when George Hepplewhite went into business. In the present age of weighty biographies of numerous illustrious nonentities this may now seem Strange, but no one then saw fit to chronicle the lives and achievements of even the greatest in English furniture design. Chippendale was the firSt in that country to lift cabinet-making from the level of mere tradesmanship to the rank of
high craftsmanship, but this is in our eyes rather than in those of his contemporaries. True, he was the fashionable cabinet-maker of London and actually dominated its furniture Styles for well-nigh fifteen years, but the spirit of the times had not yet risen to the appreciation of such art and the importance of recording the details of his life and work. Then he was Still but a tradesman!
Furthermore, movements in art, as in invention, are always "in the air." None of these men, Chippendale, or Shearer, Hepplewhite or Sheraton, Stood alone: there were also others, endowed with less genius but often with much ability, who at the same time were producing excellent results; sometimes because they were working in the same direction and under the same decorative impulse, sometimes as followers of these principal exponents of the various modes. For all of these men issued books of design, and it was open to any cabinet-maker in Leeds, Liverpool, or York, or in Salem, New York, or Philadelphia to produce furniture either exactly or approximately following the designs illustrated.
We should naturally conclude that these volumes would be an embodiment of the respective Styles, but we shall presently see, and but too clearly for our comfort, how far this is from being the case. Had the cuStom of signing and dating even only important pieces prevailed, as it did to a large extent in France, the Student of furniture would have been spared a world of investigation and conjecture.
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