A bench of mine recently called it quits, committing furniture suicide by casting off one of its own legs. Once upon a time, I purchased that bench to match a writing desk given to me as a present when I published my first book. I wanted not just somewhere to sit, but a piece that would match the desk itself, which had brilliantly curved legs and a dark cherry finish. In looking for that perfect match, I discovered that my writing desk had been crafted in the Queen Anne style. Naturally this inspired me to want to find out more.
The cabriole leg is one of the most recognizable features of the Queen Anne style of furniture, but it’s not the only defining element. Queen Anne furniture is often marked by a carved cockle shell or fan motif that appears on the front of a chest or on the curve of an iconic Queen Anne leg. Frequently found in the dining room on tables and lowboys, the Queen Anne style of leg can also be found on dressing tables, writing desks, and benches.
I tend to think of Queen Anne furniture as being delicate, but that delicacy is oftentimes an optical illusion caused by the curvature of the legs or the scalloped edging on a sturdier piece. That’s not the only thing just a tiny bit strange about Queen Anne furniture, however, as I discovered in an article at Osborne Wood.
Who would have thought that a mistake in identifying the proper origin of a single table leg would result in arguably the best known furniture style of the world today–the Queen Anne? You see, it was really the Chinese who inspired the cabriole legs and the Devonshire legs. Although mistakenly attributed to England’s Queen Anne period, the nomenclature remains today. Carefully researching the history of the ‘Queen Anne cabriole legs’, we find that it most resembles the William and Mary styling of the late 1800’s. Thanks go in great part to William Thackeray’s novel The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne. Thackeray eluded to the Queen Anne style of architecture, but failed to give many particulars. So, readers and craftsmen devised their individual interpretations and labeled these different styles ‘Queen Anne’. Thus was born the many variations of the Queen Anne styling appearing today. Although quite a misnomer, the Queen Anne leg has certainly taken its place in the world of beauty and design, even if it does have a bit of an identity crisis.
Learning about one’s furniture is fascinating, no?