The Victorian Age heralded something of a fashion for copying all manner of earlier styles and adapting them in ways that reaped confusion and caused uncertainty among many people.
This is a simple yet splendid example of a kind of chair that I have not previously encountered, despite the fact that I’ve become acquainted with so many chairs during the course of my life. It exhibits such a multitude of traits and attributes from different historical periods that the overall impression is rather like that of a jigsaw puzzle, where one piece has been slotted into place next to another.
The seat, probably fashioned in elm, brings to mind that of a Windsor chair: thin, saddle-shaped and eminently comfortable. It is a particularly ergonomic design and the chair was doubtless intended for use without a cushion or seat pad.
The front legs have been carved in cabriole style. (The term derives from the French word for a leap in the air: originally, the leap of a goat.) After a pronounced outward projection, not unlike a knee, immediately below the seat rail, the legs take the form of a slender letter S, first curving inwards before they flare outwards again to terminate in the gently rounded foot. Might such legs be described as Queen Anne Revival? In the days of Queen Anne, furniture legs often terminated in a paw, claw or ball foot. Reason enough, perhaps, for the name to have been applied to this chair.
I think the armrests or supports lend a feminine air to the design. My thoughts turn to Rococo furniture – or in this instance, Rococo Revival. Romantic pastoral idylls spring to mind, populated by rosy-cheeked shepherdesses amid a sea of flowers and maybe even a little calf peering out to complete the image that Rococo seeks to conjure up. That was the kind of thinking that inspired Rococo – a response to the more ornate yet austere Baroque style of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The backrest has three pierced spindles for an elegant look that also gives the construction an airy, unpretentious appearance.
This splendid chair had its home in a grand house buried deep in the countryside, surrounded by tall trees and a scattering of quaint old stone cottages. It was there that I would sit, beside the open French windows with the summer breeze wafting in my face, wrapped in my dreams, borne aloft by the cheery warble of the birds ‘On Wings of Song’ as Mendelssohn’s familiar piece of music so evocatively describes it.
Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Note From The Editor:
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