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English Antique Furniture: The Queen Anne Style

19 days ago No comments

When the first English settlers came to America, England was just emerging from the Middle Ages. Furniture of the time was heavy and cumbersome and constructed chiefly of oak. By 1700, 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.

Political events, economics (including prosperity at home and trade with other countries), and the freedom to travel from one country to another influenced the styles of furniture as well as the amount considered essential in a home. Every so often, also, a great furniture designer who introduced new and different-looking pieces established a style and set a period. Between 1700 and 1800, five distinctly different furniture styles prevailed in England and America. The names attached to these styles or periods were sometimes those of the reigning monarchs, sometimes of a furniture designer. The Queen Anne style was, of course, named after Queen Anne of England. Though the style had become popular in England by 1705, it took another 20 years for it to become popular in America.

Queen Anne furniture was lighter in appearance and much more graceful looking than the ponderous 17th-century pieces. Furniture remained functional, however, and also became comfortable. Lines were simple, with emphasis on the curvilinear. The single most important decoration of Queen Anne furniture was the carved cockle or scallop shell. Often, one large shell was carved on the slant top of a desk or on the front of a highboy, lowboy, or chest. A smaller shell sometimes was carved on the knee of a leg and-with or without carving on the legs-to top the splat of a chair or daybed. The shell motif emphasized the curvilinear element. On some pieces, this carved motif is more clearly recognizable as a fan or a sunburst.

Cabinetmakers replaced the straight, turned legs on chairs, tables, and cupboards, with more graceful, curving ones called cabriole--that is, the leg had an out-curved knee and an incurved ankle. Feet were likely to be the simple pad or Dutch foot, occasionally the drake foot, which was carved with three toes, or the Spanish foot, which curved gracefully and showed rectangular lines of carving. Stretchers were omitted or else not particularly noticeable. The kettle or bombe base, which swelled outward at sides and front, appeared on cupboards and some other case pieces.

Oak was still widely used in England but walnut became the preferred wood in both England and America. After walnut, cherry and maple rather than oak were the choices in this country. Regardless of the wood, a small amount of Queen Anne furniture was painted white and gilded.

The drop-leaf table, either oval, round, or rectangular, replaced the trestle table for dining. Dropping the leaves, of course, saved space when they weren't in use. Rectangular tables with marble tops were made for dining rooms because, so far, no one had thought of making a sideboard.

Card or gaming tables were another Queen Anne innovation that continued to be popular for more than a century. By the mid-18th century in America, it wasn't uncommon for a household to own a half-dozen or more fine examples of card tables. Each one was well made of selected hardwood and was handsome, for it was part of the furniture of the room at all times. No comparison is possible between this style of table, which has become a classic, and the collapsible bridge (card) table so common today.

All of these card tables, now bonafide antiques, had tops consisting of two leaves that were hinged so that one could be folded on top of the other or be supported against a wall when the table was not in use. Of the four or occasionally five legs, one was movable to support the folding leaf when the table was opened to full size. The square table with a top 36 to 38 inches when opened flat usually had rounded corners to hold candlesticks to light the gaming. Some tables also had four oval saucers, one at each player's left, for coins. Occasionally there was a drawer under the top.

The Evolution of Oil Paintings

5 years ago No comments

Think of the greats.

Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gough, Leonardo da Vinci. Those famous paintings that you can probably picture in your head without even looking them up are oil paintings. No other medium can compete with the depth and intricacy of oil paint.

Take a look at this quick guide, walking through the changes that each century has brought to its oils.

16th century

Linen canvases featured layer upon layer of glaze. Pigments remained the same throughout the century; tones were earthy, made from plant dyes.

17th century

A dramatic flair took over the oil paintings of this century.

Painters created landscapes and mythological narratives with nothing but oil and pigment. Some of the most famous painters of all time like Rembrandt specialized in realism, painting with the precision and honesty of a photograph.

18th century

Realism continued to be popular and landscapes were common, as well.

19th century

Modern art really revolutionized oils. Realism took a backseat for more abstract art in the style of impressionism, expressionism, and more. More intense versions of blue and yellow colors were added.


The 1940s introduced acrylics to the scene, which competes with oils. However, oils glossiness and workability makes it continue to stand out, even today.

For more information on each of these time periods, visit this site on Oil Painting.

The oils featured above, circa 1880 feature a somber pair in pothole frames, available at Mill House Antiques and Gardens. Take a peek at the other oils we have available to you, right here at Legacy Antiques.

Period Antique Furniture 101

5 years ago No comments

Fun Facts About Period Antique Furniture

  • Period antique furniture was made from the mid to late 1600s through the first part of the 19th century.
  • The Goddard Townsend family of Newport, Rhode Island produced some of the most renowned and valuable pieces made during this period.
  • There are many periods of antique furniture, which overlap. Each subsequent period influenced the style of its successors. The major periods can be broken down into Colonial and Federal, however.
  • The Colonial period dates from around 1620 to 1780 and includes Jacobean, Queen Anne and Chippendale styles. The Federal period extends from 1780 through 1820 and incorporates Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Classical styles.
  • According to antique furniture expert Lyn Sack Wall, a piece must possess a “beauty and quality that transcends the bounds of the era or even the field of art it represents” to qualify for masterpiece status.

What is “period” furniture?

The top of the heap in American furniture was produced in the thirteen original colonies from the mid to late 1600s through the first part of the 19th century. Furniture like this gets the Keno brothers really revved when it shows up occasionally on the Antiques Roadshow television series.

Why? Theses pieces were impeccably hand made by skilled craftsmen in the finest colonial cabinet shops. A number of these fabulous creations were even signed by the makers.

The Goddard Townsend family of Newport, Rhode Island produced some of the most renowned and valuable pieces made during this period and a number of them were signed. These pieces get high-end auction houses like Sotheby’s really excited when they come on the market. In fact, a single mahogany secretary bookcase made by Christopher Townsend in 1740 once sold at auction in New York for the astonishing sum of $8.25 million.

What makes period furniture so unique and valuable?

If you read Leigh and Leslie Keno’s book, Hidden Treasures: Searching for Masterpieces of American Furniture , you’re familiar with the passion period furniture pieces generate. Haven’t had the pleasure? It’s still available through major online booksellers, and definitely worth picking up if you want to learn more about antique furniture.

Lyn Sack Wall also discussed the merits of period furniture, in a guest feature here on About Antiques. As the niece of Albert Sack, who operates Sack Heritage Group as mentioned in the Keno’s book, she's uniquely qualified to teach about this topic.

“It takes more than being old to determine the value of an antique. Not only must an item be of high quality, it must have artistic merit,” Wall said. She also noted “there are many periods of antique furniture. The different periods and styles overlap.”

Wall emphasized that cabinetmakers didn't stop making Queen Anne furniture on December 31, 1749 and start making Chippendale furniture on January 1, 1750. Each subsequent period actually influenced the style of its successors. The major periods can be broken down into Colonial and Federal, however.

The Colonial period dates from around 1620 to 1780 and includes Jacobean, Queen Anne and Chippendale styles. The Federal period extends from 1780 through 1820 and incorporates Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Classical styles. These styles are the epitome of American furniture design, and have been copied through the decades.

Who owned period pieces? What about now?

While we rarely run across these fine pieces now, you’ll find a number on display in museums. In fact, I discovered some lovely pieces on exhibit at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia while on vacation there a few years ago, including a fabulous shell carved chest crafted by John Townsend.

In talking with Colonial Williamsburg’s own cabinetmaker in a shop where period reproductions are handmade while visitors watch, I learned that the wealthier members of colonial society usually imported their furnishings from Europe. The consumers buying more ornately carved pieces of American furniture were from the up and coming middle class who wanted to show off a bit.

These days it’s definitely the privileged that can afford these beautiful examples of American craftsmanship. They often purchase them anonymously through phone bids in upscale auctions where prices can skyrocket in a matter of minutes.

What makes a masterpiece of furniture worthy of such attention? According to Wall, a piece must possess a “beauty and quality that transcends the bounds of the era or even the field of art it represents” to qualify for masterpiece status.

If I’ll never find a period piece, why do I need to know about them?

While you may never run across a piece of this caliber in your neck of the woods, it certainly doesn’t hurt to learn about the quality of fine American furniture. The more you know about the craftsmanship and styles, the better you’ll be at separating the wheat from the chaff on your own furniture foraging adventures.

Porcelain Makes A Fine Anniversary Gift

5 years ago No comments

Who is the last person you brought out the fine china for? Was it a special person? A special occasion? What do you know about your fine china? That it’s a pretty set of plates you registered for when you got married because your mom told you to?

Fine china, in simplest terms, is a type of porcelain. China and porcelain are often used synonymously, but china is softer – made of a softer paste that can be cut with a file, unlike harder porcelain. Another difference is that porcelain is translucent, while china is opaque. All porcelain originates from China, which is how china it got its name. Traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), it wasn’t long before trade routes were established to spread the mysterious, glassy treasures to other countries - beginning with the Far East and Europe.

Unlike previous, earthier ceramics of the time, porcelain stood in a league of its own – made with fine white clay from decomposed granite, which gave it its beautiful translucency. Of course, given its great demand, European attempted to replicate it. Finally, in 1709, German chemist, Johan Friedrich Böttger, came up with a formula to make porcelain - Kaolin. Sculptures went from producing china plates to carving intricate figurines.

My mom used to collect Limoges – the world-renowned porcelain figurines that come from the city in west central France – Limoges. Today the most popular Limoges porcelain items are trinket boxes – resembling 17th century snuffboxes.

Benjamin Franklin wanted to produce porcelain in the States as another step toward independence from England. The first North American piece of porcelain recorded was a small teacup made by Andrew Duché in Savannah, Georgia.

Check out this video of Matthew Blakely of Lode, Cambridgeshire sculpting a bowl from beginning to end.

If you scroll through our inventory of porcelain and china, you’ll find a wide selection of tableware china and other decorative figures that would make great wedding or anniversary gifts.

If (when) you fall in love with one for yourself, add it to your collection and make it a family heirloom that your grandkids can look forward to inheriting.

A Chippendale Settee: Refined Elegance

5 years ago No comments

In the 1700s, England was changing. Population rose. People migrated from country towns to the city. The Church of England was still the official religion of the country. Travel was done by foot or on horseback. Furniture had a brand new style called Chippendale.

Today’s featured piece is this fine carved Mahogany George III Settee in the Chinese Chippendale Taste, circa 1750.

The infamous Chippendale style of furniture was named after Thomas Chippendale. Born in 1718, in Yorkshire, Chippendale was the son of a carpenter. At 30, he married Catherine Redshaw. Thomas Chippendale was the first non-monarch to have a style of furniture named after himself. Not much is known about his personal life, but his work with furniture left a legacy that has been admired and imitated for centuries.

Between 1745 and 1770, Chippendale furniture dominated. His favorite wood to work with was Mahogany, which you can see in the settee pictured above. Chippendale furniture has deep, intricate carvings – something that the replicas can’t compete with. A sure-fire way to tell a phony is to look at the carvings. If the carvings appear symmetrical and uniform, then you are not looking at an original Chippendale.

What put Thomas Chippendale on the map was a book he published, titled “Gentlemen and Cabinet-Makers Director.” The book was a sort of catalogue of photos – work he had finished for clients. The book was reprinted several times and became a catalogue for the well off.

Chippendale’s furniture can be separated into four different categories.

  1. English: English Chippendale furniture highlights motifs of lions, masques, eggs, and darts.
  2. French Louis XV: Chippendale was influenced by Rococo which features elaborate lines and embellishments.
  3. Chinese: This style is sometimes called Chinoiserie. It features pagodas, bamboo turnings, claw-and-ball feet, intricate latticework and lacquering.
  4. Gothic: This category featured pointed arches, quatrefoils, and fret-worked legs.

*Reference: collecting20thcentury.com

The Stanley Weiss Collection features this beautiful settee. A settee is essentially a long seat with a back. It seats two, like a love seat, whereas a couch or sofa will seat three or more. A Chippendale settee brings a refined elegance into your home.

Art Nouveau Silver: All Sorts Of Whimsy

5 years ago No comments

Today, we’ll be delving specifically into the brief time period that we call Art Nouveau as it applies to Silver. The reason we’re featuring this topic is that McNally Company Antiques currently has the largest private collection of Art Nouveau silver in the United States. They recently obtained a private collection which hadn’t been seen in 40 years, outside of a private home. Of the 67 pieces they began with, McNally still has over 60 of these priceless pieces up for grabs. Even more exciting, these aren’t 67 spoons we’re talking about. These are large pieces – centerpieces, candelabras, trays, and more.

Art Nouveau was only briefly popular. It was made between the years of 1890 - 1910 – only a 20 year fad, but a fad that took over the world and influenced all types of art.

“It was a period when not only silver but all types of art embraced beautiful forms – it did include flowery, beautiful women, waves, fish, butterflies, etc. It included, in many ways, aspects from earlier periods all incorporated into one with a lot of [Asian] influence,” said Phil Dreis in a video interview. Dreis owns The Antique Cupboard and is the author of the book “The Warman’s Sterling Silver Flatware: Value and Identification Guide.”

McNally carries a number of Gorham silver pieces as well. Gorham revolutionized silver in his time. He took machinery that was being used to make silver pieces and threw it out. In 1896, Martele became popular. Silversmith’s started making pieces by hand again – primitively – hand carved. They used 950 sterling instead of 925 sterling which created a softer look. A lot of man hours went into this new endeavor, but about 8600 Martele pieces came from it.

You’ll hear people use the word “whiplash” when describing the art nouveau style. This came from a quote in Pan Magazine in 1894, describing Hermann Orbist’s wall hanging “Cyclamen.” The piece was described as having, “sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip.” The characteristic curves of art nouveau pieces are often called whiplash.

This extravagant, flowery style led to a style that went entirely the other direction – plain and stark. Art Nouveau Silver is so collectible because of its uniqueness and rarity. Silver of all sorts, at this time, had motifs of women with the long, flowing hair, angels, cherubs, fairies, sprites, animals, flowers, and all sorts of other whimsy. Whether your home is a whimsical wonderland or in need of some more frills, art nouveau silver is an elegant way to add some spice!

Georg Jensen's Take on Silver

5 years ago No comments

Combining functionality and beauty was his philosophy, and he nailed it. Even today, almost 80 years after his death, his style continues to hold its own and be emulated by artists all over the world and his company continues to flourish.

Jensen took the whiplash lines of the Art Nouveau style and “injected them with a distinctive vigour.” It’s hard to describe his style because while it fits the description of art nouveau, his pieces were unique; his actual name became a descriptive word in the art world. People began referring to different pieces as being “Georg Jensen style.”

Jensen was a Danish silversmith born in Radvaad, Denmark in 1866 – the seventh of eight children. Growing up in such a large family, it would be easy to get lost in the crowd, but Jensen sure made a name for himself. Radvaad was a beautiful countryside just north of Copenhagen. Jensen’s life work reflected his childhood surroundings as his work was always themed in nature and reflecting natural forms.

His father was a knife grinder and his mother a housewife. Jensen worked with his father in the factory and was always making things. His family recognized his artistic talent and moved to Copenhagen when Jensen was 14 so he could be a goldsmith’s apprentice.

He worked long hours and attended a technical school, but in his spare time, he would work with modeling clay. Sculpting was his greatest passion. After some time, he became a sculpting student at the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen. Although never incredibly successful as a sculptor, his training greatly influenced his work with silver.

In 1891, he got married and had two children. Professionally, Jensen was having a hard time because he wasn’t able to make a living doing what he was most passionate about – sculpting, so he went into the pottery business. Then, he went through a very dark period in his life. His wife died suddenly of kidney disease after only six years of marriage. Jensen was left with his two sons – Vidar and Jorgen, no money, no work, and another rejected sculpture.

Eventually, the darkness lifted. Jensen made some positive, professional relationships. He spent a few years touring France and Italy – studying different types of art – particularly, the art nouveau style which would become his trademark. This time of traveling and experiencing all different types of art caused Jensen to let go of his tunnel vision view of himself as a sculptor and open his mind to becoming more.

Check back for Saturday's blog to learn how Jenson’s business blossomed into what it is today and to learn more about his fascinating personal life.

Daily Covet - 19th Century English Rococo-Style Mirrors

8 years ago No comments

What a truly luxurious pair of 19th Century English Rococo-Style Mirrors! I particularly love the artistic merit displayed in the “Rococo” movement, which is derived from the French rocaille, “a shell.” This style developed as Baroque artists gave up their symmetry and became increasingly more ornate, florid, and playful. Rococo rooms were designed as total works of art with elegant and ornate furniture, small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry complementing architecture, reliefs, and wall paintings. Louis XIV's succession brought a change in the court artists and general artistic fashion. By the end of the old king's reign, rich Baroque designs were giving way to lighter elements with more curves and natural patterns.

The goal of all artists in this period was to charm, delight and entertain. And, based on these fabulous pieces collected by Antique Dealer T. Reggiardo, I believe the sophistication speaks for itself. His Gallery is located in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco since 1998, specializes in 18th and 19th Century English and Continental furniture and works of art. The shop also carries select pieces of 20th Century furniture and art.

If you're in the San Francisco area, T. Reggiardo Antiques is a must see.

Behind the Scenes of a Top Texas Design House

8 years ago No comments

Legacy Antiques had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Minton and his team and they were kind enough to allow us to snap some candid photos of his workspace and his staff in action. Joe does everything with style and his office is no exception. Check out the ultra-cool sample room in the above photo. I wish my closet was as organized as Joe's swatch shelves!

I loved sitting awash in natural sunlight, absorbing the colors and textures of the stacks and stacks of fabric swatches, sipping on sweet tea with Joe. Not only was his entire staff incredibly friendly, but they seem to get along really well. The people who work with Joe stay with Joe. Two of his Senior Designers, Paula Lowes and Lisa Teakell, have a combined history of over 30 years with Joe.

Many thanks to Joe and the entire staff at Joseph Minton for allowing Legacy Antiques to come in and have a chat.

The home cooking was appreciated, the conversation inspirational, and the company couldn't have been better.

View the Joseph Minton design portfolio at his web site www.josephminton.co

Defining The French Antique Commode

8 years ago No comments

Recently, I accompanied a dear friend to Savannah for a girls’ antiquing trip to find some finds. My friend had become weary of being told “your house looks like a catalog” and decided it was time to break out of her Pottery Barn box and get serious about investing in some non-stuffy antiques. I love to witness these little awakenings! I was thrilled to help her break up her predictable décor and select some nice, unique pieces.

Before I launch into commode mode, let me talk a little about Savannah. This southern city is a mecca for charming little antique stores and home great architecture and architectural salvage. Not only is the scenery straight out of some antebellum-themed movie, but the food is stellar, it’s easy to get around on foot, and the historic design district is not intimidating in the least.

The antiques dealers are friendly and accustomed to tourists and newbies, so it’s one of the perfect places to discover what you like and acquire a few starter pieces. After a long day of driving, we checked into a little row house B&B, caught the the complimentary wineA nice place to enjoy a mint julep after a long day of antiquing hour in the drawing room, & got our second wind.

After stops into fun places like Paris Market, we decided to get off the main streets and seek out the serious dealers. While perusing one French dealer's wares, my friend recoiled when I referred to a stocky chest as a “commode”. In a more informative than inquisitive tone, she said “I thought a commode was a toilet”.

I explained the French term to my knowledge and realized I really didn’t have too much insight on the history of the term. I suppose I hadn’t ever wondered much about it. Besides the literal definition, what about the evolution of the term into English vernacular? Why do we associate a piece of furniture with a household utility/fixture?

In this series, I hope to shed light on the history of terms like commode, not just define the terms themselves. It’s very interesting stuff! So, in addition to Talk the Talk in our magazine, I think it would be helpful to begin writing a primer educating newbie antiques enthusiasts about the history of some of these fascinating items.

Here’s a look at why we call a commode a commode:

The word commode has French roots and it means 'convenient' or 'suitable' in French.

The dictionary describes commode as a piece of furniture. In fact, commode originally meant a piece of furniture that could be used as a washstand. At the same time, it also served as a close space used for hiding a chamber pot. Commode, in modern English, was used to describe a porcelain toilet or a chair improvising for a chamber pot. In France, the word still refers to a chest of drawers with short legs. Before modern plumbing marked its existence, the middle class in Europe used these commodes [to store/conceal chamber pots].