Queen Anne - Table of Contents ..... ...............Colonial and Colonial Revival FURNITURE............ Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary
Furniture - Queen Anne Style

Breakfast table in the Amherst Humphrey House
at the Genesee Country Village, & Museum

Table of Contents:


In terms of European design history, the Queen Anne style was the restrained English version of Rococo which originated in France in the court of Louis XV.

In the early 18th century, following the shift in European taste from the monumental Baroque to a more intimate mode, Rococo, English cabinetmakers created their own interpretation of the style, which they named after England's Queen Anne (1702-1714).

In terms of English design history, the Queen Anne style in England was actually the Dutch style which was made the fashion by the influence of William of Orange, a Dutchman, and Mary, his wife, when they became King and Queen of England in 1689; and this influence was continued by Queen Anne during her reign from 1702 to 1714.

The political history is a bit confusing:

"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. - Edgar G. Miller, Jr., American Antique Furniture, 1937, Vol. 1, p. 35

Photo source of Queen Anne portrait, on his page, which is found in the William & Mary College Wren House: Sara McClure's Online Journal

It was not until 10 years after Queen Anne's death that the style began to influence American furniture design.


In America, it was one of Colonial (pre-Revolution) styles of furniture:

1630-1690 ...Colonial: Pilgrim style
1685-1725 .. Colonial:
William and Mary
1725-1750 ...Colonial: Queen Anne
1750-1780 ...Colonial:
1775-1783. ..Revolutionary War

The Queen Anne style is characterized by delicacy, restrained decoration, and curvilinear forms.

These curving lines are best seen in the cabriole leg, a new development of the period. Modeled after an animal's leg, the S-shaped cabriole leg gives furniture a more intimate, human quality than the massive turned legs of the William and Mary style. The cabriole leg is also extremely practical; the balance it achieves makes it possible to support heavy pieces of case furniture on slim legs, without the use of stretchers.

Woods were richly finished and carved: walnut was most popular, along with cherry and maple; imported mahogany began to be favored toward 1750. An exotic foreign wood, mahogany, was introduced to America during the Queen Anne period. Of a rich brown hue and easily carved, it was an immediate favorite; however, because of its expense, most cabinetmakers continued to use native walnut and maple.

The style relied heavily on beautiful woods and simple contours for its effect, and for that reason it found great favor with buyers of modest means. The emphasis was on quiet dignity, with no special tricks of turning or carving.

Queen Anne furniture was lower and smaller in scale than that of previous styles, and it was markedly more comfortable. Richly polished wooden surfaces were either undecorated or embellished with simple shell- or fan-shaped carving.

The heavy ball feet used during the William and Mary period were replaced by small, graceful pad, spade, or trifid (TRY fid) feet.

Elegant batwing took the place of teardrop pulls.

As social life became more and more under the control of women, special pieces were created for them:

It is difficult to date the Queen Anne style precisely since it sometimes blended with the William and Mary and, later, Chippendale styles.

Some Queen Anne pieces, particularly rural examples, were executed close to the time of the Revolution.

Proportions Broad but delicate.

Essential elements Curved and subtly carved parts. Carved motifs, primarily shells. Yoke-shaped top rails and solid vase-shaped splats on chairs; upholstered horseshoe-shaped seats. Cabriole legs. Feet: pad, slipper, trifid, and, later, claw-and-ball

Primary woods Walnut; also maple, cherry, or, later, mahogany

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

Notable forms Splat-back chair. Upholstered easy chair, sofa. and settee, often with arched backs. Low-post and canopy beds. Tables: card, tea, drop-leaf, side, candlestand, and others.

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

See also: Queen Anne style of ARCHITECTURE, but note that the architectural term really refers to Queen Victoria and was popular in the late 19th century

Furniture examples


The most distinctive feature of the Queen Anne style of chairs is the cyma curve - an S shaped curve - which takes the place of the straight line ion the previous styles. This curve is present in almost every part of the chair, and particularly and always in the cabriole form of leg.

The back of the chair is curved at the ends of the top and there often is a concave curve in the center. Sometimes, chairs had yoke-shaped top rails (two S shapes) with down-curving ends.

The splat rests upon the rear rail of the sea - , not upon a cross-rail above the seat as in a William and Mary caned chair.

Of great importance was the introduction of the cabriole leg. Whereas the turned William and Mary leg had a certain monumentality, the cabriole leg gave furniture a more human scale. The chair is most representative of the new Queen Anne style.

Besides cabriole legs, chairs had yoke-shaped top rails with down-curving ends, solid vase-shaped splats, and horseshoe-shaped seats, all curving yet restrained. This basic form is thought to have been an adaptation of a Chinese model.

Front feet are the rounded Dutch, or club, feet.

Delicate carved details included the popular shell motif.

Candlestands and tea tables: Finely detailed candlestands and tea tables were common, often on tripod cabriole bases and sometimes with tilt tops to save space.

The graceful lines of restrained American pieces are often lacking in English examples that are their Old World equivalents. Americans used mahogany as well as cherry and a few other local woods for simple elegant furniture, while English cabinetmakers often used oak.

Game table: The game table with a hinged folding top, and some forms related to dining, such as large drop-leaf tables and side or serving tables, were introduced.



Sofas and settees: Upholstered sofas and settees, relatively rare, evolved from earlier benches.

Secretaries: Secretaries of this period are either flat-topped or crowned by an elaborately carved bonnet top.

Beds: Low-post beds were most common, but some beds had high posts and canopies.

Looking glasses


Photos and their arrangement 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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