Colonial/Colonial Revival FURNITURE....................Rococo style................. Federal style................. Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary

Thomas Chippendale

Table of Contents:


Thomas Chippendale was a furniture maker of the mid to late 18th century. He was probably born in 1718, but there is no record of his birth, only his baptism in that year. He was the son of an Otley, Yorkshire, England carpenter and most likely an apprentice to his father.

There are no records of his early life and training, but by 1753 he was established in London as a furniture maker.

Claim to fame

In 1754 he published the first of three editions of his Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, a catalogue of English furniture design. This book is probably the major reason he is one of the world's best-known furniture makers. Prior to the publication of Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director in 1754, no cabinet maker had ever issued his designs comparable to the lavish volumes produced by professional architects.

Chippendale's varied output included desks; mirror frames; hanging bookshelves; settees, with which he was especially successful; china cabinets and bookcases, frequently with fretted cornices and latticework glazed doors; and tables with delicately fretted galleries and distinctive cluster-column legs of Gothic inspiration.

Most of his work uses solid mahogany wood with elaborate hand carving.

Chippendale Styles in England

"The eighteenth century included the five great styles of English furniture, that is, the Queen Anne, the Chippendale, the Adam, the Hepplewhite and the Sheraton. It is for this reason termed the "Golden Age" of English cabinet making.

"Several styles which became fully developed in particular periods, for example, the Chippendale and the Empire, actually began earlier than their names would indicate. Certain features of the Chippendale style, for example, made their appearance some years before Chippendale himself made furniture; and some features of the French Empire style are seen in furniture made before the Empire of Napoleon arose." - Edgar G. Miller, Jr., American Antique Furniture, 1937, Vol. 1, p. 35

"During his long life as a craftsman, Chippendale saw at least five important styles develop and some of them wane, and all of these he either greatly influenced or at least did distinctive work in them. When he began as a journeyman, the early Georgian style was in vogue. Later followed the 'French taste' [Rococo], the Chinese style, the Gothic style, and, during the latter half of his working period, the classic [Neoclassical] style, given its English expression by the London architect, Robert Adam." - N. I. Bienenstock, "Thomas Chippendale," in The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, reprinted by Dover Publications, Inc., 1966

England - Georgian period

England - Rococo period: In the Director, most of the Rococo pieces use a French whorl (reverse scroll) foot. All of the legs are cabriole.

There are no examples of claw-and-ball feet (considered old fashioned) in the Third Edition, yet virtually all American Chippendale pieces that are Rococo have claw-and-ball feet. Most of the designs in the Director are too ornate for American taste.

England - Gothic period

England - Chinese period: A period in Chippendale's work, in the mid-18th century, when he was greatly influenced by chinoiserie, Chinese motifs, and the work of Sir William Chambers.

See also: lacquerwork....... fretwork

England - Adamesque period: The last phase of his career shows the influence of the designs of Robert Adam. Chippendale's style, quickly imported to America, was imitated by a number of expert cabinetmakers. In America, Adamesque is known as the Federal.

Chippendale Styles in America, 1750-80

Proportions Broad but delicate.

Essential elements Curved and elaborately carved parts. Carved motifs such as scrolls, shells, and acanthus leaves. Cabriole and Marlborough legs. Claw-and-ball feet. Fretwork decoration. Yoke-shaped top rails with upturned ends on chairs. Pierced chair splats sometimes with Gothic arches, flora, and trefoils. Upholstered seats with straight sides. Some gadrooned skirts on tables and chairs.

Primary woods Mahogany; sometimes walnut, maple, or cherry

Secondary woods Maple, pine, ash, cedar, beech, tulip, or others

Notable forms Splat-back and ladder-back chairs. Upholster,

- Marvin D. Schwartz, American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Beds. 2000

America - Rococo period: The Chippendale Rococo style is an American (and English) version of European Rococo. Earlier in the century, the Queen Anne style served the same function.

American Chippendale was more conservative than its English counterpart and reflected earlier 18th century trends such as claw-and-ball, which were already out of fashion in London.

Cabriole legs are an essential feature of this period.

Designs had the light proportions of the Queen Anne period, but were generally more opulent.

Intricate chair backs, including the ladder-back, now became popular. Mahogany was by now the favored wood.

During this period different regional preferences became apparent. Craftsmen in Newport, Rhode Island, for example, followed the classical style more closely, with
fluted and reeded columns and legs, whereas their Philadelphia counterparts produced more elaborately carved Rococo pieces.

Examples from Buffalo:

Other examples:

America - Chinese period: Using Chinese and Japanese furniture as models is known Chinoiserie

America - Federal (Adamesque) period: In America, because of intense patriotism and anti-British sentiments, the Adamesque style is known as Federal.

For this period, the following were used:

Examples from Buffalo:

Other examples:

Photos and their arrangement 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
| ...Home Page ...| ..Buffalo Architecture Index...| ..Buffalo History Index... .|....E-Mail ...| ..