Date about 1780.
shield-back to the seat of the second, and the pendent drapery in the back of the third, disconnected from the sides, are details probably due to exuberant fancy, or want of practical knowledge, on the part of the engraver. Hall chairs of this type were usually made from hard mahogany, with the details painted on. The centre of the back was usually reserved for the armorial bearings or device of the owner.
Hepplevvhite's settees and chairs having thus been illustrated in an orderly progression, it may be useful, before closing this chapter, to shortly summarise the various patterns which have been given as typical of his style. The settees, or sofas, may be divided into two classes—the solid
MAHOGANY "LADDER-HACK" CHAIR.
3 ft. 2 ins. from floor to top of back. I ft. SJ ins. across front of seat. I ft. 6i ins. depth of seat.
Date about 1775.
upholstered, and the open " chair-back," or " bar-back," to use the phrase of the Guide. In the first the top line of the back is always shaped, and generally " stuffed-over," and the back and arms are united in one continuous sweep. In the second, all the well-known Hepplewhite chair-back designs are used, either as multiplications of the one pattern, or in combination. These chair-back settees were generally of beech, japanned and decorated, rarely in satinwood, and hardly ever in mahogany. Coupled with the settees must be placed the Hepplewhite window-seats, with or without backs. Of the chairs, if it be permissible to place the various patterns in order of date on somewhat meagre evidence, we can state them in something like the following order : (i) "Serpentine-top, shield-back, central-splat"; (2) "Hoop-back, central-splat"; (3") "Ladder-back," with Adam detail ; (4) " Oval-back, central-splat " ; (5) " Serpentinetop, shield-back baluster " ; (6) " Bow-top, shield-back baluster " ; (7) " Interlaced heart " ; and (8) " Solid shield-back." There are, of course, numerous variations of each of these patterns, especially in the presence or absence of the stretcher-underframing uniting the legs, but; as a general rule—especially if the designs published in the Guide be received with some caution as representing actual pre-existing models'—nearly all of the chairs and settees from 17S0 to about 1792 can be resolved into one or the other of the types enumerated above.
In spite of the claims which have been made for both Chippendale and Sheraton as designers of chairs—and there is no doubt that their schools produced many notable models—it is to that of Hepplewhite that the palm must be awarded for general high level of design, proportion, and workmanship. Foreign influences were absorbed rather than adopted, with the result that the settees and chairs produced during the years from 1780 to 1792 take their place in the forefront of the furniture produced in England during the latter half of the eighteenth century.
Hepplewhite's French Models.
E have seen, in the review of the later work of Chippendale, in the second volume of this book, that shortly after 1765-70, French fashions began to assume an ascendency in the metropolis. The dandies of the period dressed in the French fashion, they lisped in the French tongue, and, it is to be feared, imbibed French vices—and proved themselves apt pupils. Even as early as 1742, Henry Fielding had launched the wealth of his satire against this tendency. In Joseph Andrews, published in that year, we have the fop Bellarmine, in the story related by the well-bred lady in the coach, who explains to his fiancee, " Yes, madam; this coat, I assure yon, was made at Paris; and I defy the best English tailor even to imitate it. There is not one of them can cut, madam; they can't cut. If you observe how this skirt is turned, and this sleeve ; a clumsy English rascal can do nothing like it. Pray how do you like my liveries ?" Leonora answered she thought them very pretty. " All French," says he, " I assure you, except the greatcoats ; I never trust anything more than a greatcoat to an Englishman. You know one must encourage our own people what one can, especially as before I had a place, I was in the county interest ; he, he, he ! But for myself, I would see the dirty island at the bottom of the sea, rather than wear a single rag of English work about me ; and I am sure, after you have made one tour to Paris, you will be of the same opinion with regard to your own clothes. You can't conceive lehat an addition a French dress would be to your beauty ; I positively assure you, at the first opera I saiv since I came over, I mistook the English ladies for chambermaids ; he, he, he / "
This craze for French furniture to match the chesses and customs imported from Paris must have been a powerful one to oblige Chippendale, in the last years of his business career, to cater for the new taste. Hepplewhite appears to have frankly adopted it, in the years preceding the publication of the Guide, and it is curious to note that it is precisely this French furniture of Hepplewhite which is the most esteemed of all his work at the present day.
The French taste, as it was styled, dated from the middle of the reign of Louis XV., and aftei declining towards the close, experienced a revival shortly after the accession of Louis XVI. in 1774, persisting, with more or less favour, until that monarch was beheaded in 1793. The war with the American colonies, which began in 1775, seems to have had the effect of rendering this French craze all the more keen. It is not
201 2 c
Was this article helpful?