Colonial Architecture................Colonial and Colonial Revival FURNITURE............ Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary
Furniture - William and Mary
Proportions: Tall and slender.
Secondary woods: Pine or others.
Named after the king and queen of England who reigned jointly from 1689 to 1694, the English William and Mary style is an interpretation of the Baroque mode that had swept through Europe earlier in the century.
Parliament replaced the English Catholic King James II with his daughter, Mary, who had married the Protestant Dutch William of Orange. Thus, William and Mary were called to England from Holland, where prosperous middle class capitalists demanded the best cabinetwork, and soon the furniture designs in the two countries were almost indistinguishable.
During the reign of William and Mary many changes took place in the style of furniture, due not only to the fact that William was distinctly Dutch and brought with him Dutch ideas and Dutch workmen, but also to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, after which many artisans fled to England. During the first part of this reign the popularity of the Flemish furniture was at its height, but this style was gradually replaced by the Dutch style.
The chests of drawers were raised from the floor on turned cup-shaped legs, and that same form of leg was extensively used on chairs and tables; marquetry and japanning became popular, and carving almost completely disappeared. Chinese objects were extensively imported and collecting became a fad. The furniture, however, did not reflect this fashion, except in fret design and japanning, until about 1740.
When the style reached the colonies it had a profound effect on American furniture design. Unlike the massive pieces in the Pilgrim style, William and Mary furniture is graceful, with elegant lines.
The most important new forms introduced during the period, the highboy and lowboy, clearly illustrate the stylistic change that had taken place: these pieces rest on high, elaborately turned legs, and contrast sharply with the squat, blocklike furniture made in the 17th century.
Cabinetmakers soon favored walnut, maple, and fruitwoods rather than oak. Veneer became common, especially in fancy, grained woods. Legs were turned in elaborate trumpet or spiral shapes, and even simple chests were adorned with bulbous ball, bun, or turnip feet.
Hardware, which was usually imported, became decorative as well as functional. Made of cast brass rather than wood, pulls and escutcheons are primarily scrolled plates; handles are teardrop-shaped.
- Britannia: Monarchs of Britain: William III and Mary II (1689-1702 AD)
- History of the Monarchy: William III (r. 1689-1702) and Mary II (r. 1689-94)
- Armchair - Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
- Side chair - Ansley Wilcox Mansion / Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site ..... Detail: seat and legs
- Slat-back chair - Independence Hall, Philadelphia
- Upholstered armchair - Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia
- Country corner chair - Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia
- Caned-back chair - George Wythe House, Williamsburg, Va.
- REVIVAL (Kittinger) upholstered armchair - Seymour H. Knox House / Blessed Sacrament RC Church Parish Office
- Slat-back (ladder-back) armchair - Old Editions Book Shop and Café
- Armchair - Winterthur Museum
- Illustration: Octagonal slate side table. - Chestnut and maple; slate top. New England (Massachusetts?), ca. 1710. On display in 2003 at the Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
Gate-leg tables wre introduced in America in the 17th century. In general, thick turnings on thick legs are an indication of early tables. Such tables were practical in small houses beause they could be folded up to save space.
New England examples are usually of maple and are more delicate than those made in Pennsylvania or New York.
- Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia
- A second table - Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia
The highboy first appeared in America during the William and Mary period. Only a few of these have survived, and most are the trumpet-leg variety.,
Highboys are easily confused with those made about the same time in England and the Low Countries. Foreign examples usually more elaborately decorated
- Trumpet-leg highboy - Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia
- Trumpet-leg highboy - Winterthur Museum
The first American lowboys date from the William and Mary period, and it seems probable that, like dressing tables, they were meant to provide a place where toiletries could be stored and applied.
William and Mary examples have one to four drawers and a valanced skirt, and rest on trumpet-turned legs that are braced by flat, scrolled X-stretchers or box stretchers.
- Four dressing tables - Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 1926
- Winterthur Museum
- Chest of drawers - Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 1926
- Tavern stool - Private collection
- Reproduction Kittinger oak livery cupboard - Old Editions Book Shop and Café