In the 18th century, furniture had become gradually more plentiful and new forms appeared to fill domestic needs. The Queen Anne style offered homeowners lighter, graceful, more comfortable furniture, and the first “period” pieces were born.The style of Queen Anne furniture began in 1702 and lasted until 1714. While the era of Queen Anne was short lived, the style of Queen Anne furniture is one of the more common and more popular styles today.
Not long following Queen Anne’s ascendancy to the throne the furniture named for her period in time evolved. With heavy Dutch influence carried over from the William and Mary period, the cabriole legs were adapted from the French. Needless to say, since the English and the French were not on good terms at the time, there were adaptations and modifications to the French styling.
Although Queen Anne had little personal influence on the style development of her time, with our without her influence the style of furniture took on a more graceful look and appeal. The furniture became more comfortable. Of course, chairs were merely over a century old in their development from stools. While the English were enjoying the comfort of chairs for sitting and resting, Queen Anne styling added to the overall comfort in the design.
At first there was little ornamentation on Queen Anne furniture. In fact, it was quite plain in the early years. After Queen Anne died in 1714 the furniture became more ornate like the ornate French contemporary styles of the time. Unfortunately as the design became more ornate the quality of the furniture deteriorated. Too much ornamentation led to less emphasis on comfort and construction. Early Georgian furniture came into being with a more ostentatious appearance.
It must be said that in the beginning Queen Anne furniture was a little clumsy. The fine lines developed by English designers had not yet appeared on the scene. Even with the curved elements of the Queen Anne style, the furniture leaned toward a pleasing shape and structure, but could not totally escape the appearance of being a bit clumsy.
The Queen Anne style is perhaps most recognizable by the cabriole legs. However, there are other elements of design that are equally attributed to the Queen Anne period. A brief summary of the main characteristics include:
– Cabriole legs.
– The prolific use of the cyma curve in design which also aids the structure.
– Lack of stretchers and lower bracing used by the previous periods.
– Broken pediments or bonnet tops for taller pieces of furniture.
– Horse-shoe shaped seats in chairs.
– Spoon backed chairs.
– Carved shells on the knees of the cabriole legs and the skirts and aprons.
– The use of walnut as the wood of choice.
– Curved aprons, refined and adapted from the William and Mary period.
– Chairs with “fiddle” backs.
– General rectangular structure.
Though Queen Anne furniture is mostly found in the U.S. and in England, its popularity is growing in France, Italy and Spain.