Sheratons Chairs and Settees

HOMAS SHERATON may be aptly described as the exponent of the square-back chair in contradistinction to Hepplewhite, who was the advocate of the shield and oval'forms, together with the variations which have already been described and illustrated. Sheraton, as we have seen, gives only two examples of the shield form of chair-back, and neither can be described as being either typical or successful. Sheraton did not appear,to have an appreciation for the possibilities of the shield or the oval, or perhaps was desirous of striking out in a new path unfettered by the Hepplewhite traditions. In this he was eminently successful ; in fact, as a designer of chairs he was possibly the superior of Hepplewhite. The credit for this is as much due to the simplicity of his outlines as to the designs themselves, the shield and oval back presenting many difficulties to the inexperienced chair-maker which were absent in those of the square type. Having regard to the fact that we can only measure the qualities of Hepplewhite and Sheraton respectively by the Guide and the Drawing Book, in the former of which no square-back chairs are illustrated, and in the latter the shield and oval forms are practically ignored, it is a curious instance of the reckless system of classification which has been applied to the furniture of this period, that both shield- and oval-backed chairs have been usually described as Sheraton, and Hepplewhite has even been credited with the introduction of the square-back, in utter defiance of the only available evidence of authorship—that afforded by the two design books before referred to. It is in the chair models from 17S0 to 1792, and those from 1790 to 1S05, that we have the most reliable pieces of furniture for establishing a distinction between the work of the two craftsmen. When we enter the domain of the cabinet-maker as distinguished from that of the maker of chairs, the greatest difficulty is experienced in tracing the influence of Thomas Sheraton. Fulfilling the function merely of a designer, and leaving the creations of his brain to be resolved into actuality by other cabinet-makers, with such modifications as their judgment or other circumstances dictated, added to the fact that actual Drawing Book pieces were exceedingly rare at the period, and that Sheraton borrowed freely from Adam, Hepplewhite, Shearer, and others, without the slightest acknowledgment of his indebtedness, it will easily be seen that the Sheraton style is bounded by exceedingly arbitrary limits, regulated to a considerable extent by personal taste and opinion. Measured by the standard of the Drawing Book, however, there are

certain patterns, particularly of chairs, which are illustrated in that book, which do not appear in any other of prior date, and these we arc justified in attributing to Thomas Sheraton, and in describing them as being in his style. So well defined are these particular features that the general form of Sheraton's chairs can be resolved into two or three types. Figs. 330 and 340 may be said to epitomise these, the first having the dropped top rail, square back and seat and diamond-latticed splat, the second having the~stra"ight top rail, turned outer uprights, square paterae on the corners, rounded seat, and the central splat a combination of the lattice and baluster. It will be' found that these details, either singly or in combination, are found in nearly all of Sheraton's chairs until the first years of the nineteenth century, when, forsaking his earlier style, he followed the tide in the direction of the so-called " English Empire." It will be seen that the French fashions of this period were followed in chronological sequence at almost identical dates, Fig. 340, for example, being purely Louis Seize in character, "and the fashion changing to the "English Empire" at the period when the Corsican lieutenant of artillery had

Figs. 339 and 340. MAHOGANY CHAIRS.

3 .!. I in. from fl.inr to tup of I>.i, k. 3 ft. o ins. from floor in top of back.

2 ft. o in-, across front of seat. 1 ft. 9 ins. extreme depth of seat.

1 ft. 7 ins. depth of seat. 1 ft. 8 ins. depth of seat.

1 ft. 5! ins. from floor to top of -eat. 1 ft. 4I ins. from floor to top of seat.

Date about 1790-5.

Figs. 339 and 340. MAHOGANY CHAIRS.

3 .!. I in. from fl.inr to tup of I>.i, k. 3 ft. o ins. from floor in top of back.

2 ft. o in-, across front of seat. 1 ft. 9 ins. extreme depth of seat.

1 ft. 7 ins. depth of seat. 1 ft. 8 ins. depth of seat.

1 ft. 5! ins. from floor to top of -eat. 1 ft. 4I ins. from floor to top of seat.

Date about 1790-5.

Fig. 341.
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