American Furniture By E. T. Joy

Sheraton: as in England, so in America, Sheraton's designs were so much an anthology of other men's ideas - Adam, Hepplewhite, Shearer, not to mention his debt to the French creators of Louis Seize furniture - that the style which bears his name is more eclectic than original. Sheraton's designs incorporate, hither or yon, almost every characteristic of Hepplewhite. Nevertheless, the prevailing elements are the straight lines, rectangular forms and vertical rhythms of classical architecture which Sheraton had got from Adam and French revivers of the classical.

Sheraton-style furniture is less forceful than Hepplewhite, more delicate. Where Hepple¬white is masculine, Sheraton is feminine, even, on occasion, dainty. So much refine¬ment charmed Americans. It was in contrast to their rugged environment and might be said to have represented to them the triumph of art over necessity, of grace over Nature. The result was that there was made in America a great deal of beautifully skilful furniture based on Sheraton's designs. Much of it survives; though many pieces nowadays have become so fragile as to be more suited to museum than to home use. Among the many American cabinet-makers who pro¬duced fine furniture in the Sheraton taste, the most noted is Duncan Phyfe, of New York. Phyfe's fame has risen so high that many persons today mistakenly describe American Sheraton as 'Phyfe style5 furniture.

The chair backs, characteristically, are square or squarish with banister backs or openwork splats combined with banisters. Chair legs are straight and tapered; some¬times square, sometimes round. When round they are often reeded. Sofas having now come into widespread use, many were made from 1795 to 1825 in the Sheraton style. Their legs resemble the chair legs. Their backs are often a horizontal D-shape, but usually they have rectangular backs with narrow arms in line with the legs and connected to the legs by columnar supports, often in the form of an elongated vase. Back rail, arms, supports, legs, all are often reeded, but at times the back rail bears, instead, a bit of cameo carving. The distinctive feature of Sheraton dining, card and Pembroke tables is that the legs are generally round and reeded or, if supporting a pedestal or plat¬form, splay-curved. Chests of drawers (bureaux) may be distinguished by reeded or ringed corner-column supports ending in round, tapering feet.

These columns stand out from the body of the bureau, the top corners of which are cut almost circular in order to cover the columns. Of sideboards (as already pointed out), it is said that when the front ends of the serpentine curve are convex the style is Sheraton. Tambour desks, moderate-size bookcases, china cabinets and occasional furniture were increasingly in demand. Sheraton himself designed no mirrors. His name, however, is given to the type of mirror that was most favoured during his vogue in the United States (1795-1820). The characteristics are a vertical rectangle with thin columns projecting at the sides and an overhanging cornice ornamented with a row of balls or acorns. The columns often carry delicate reeding. Between the cornice and the glass is generally found a quaint painting or an applied decoration, often of a patriotic nature.

An authority, Lockwood, has pointed out as a special feature of American Sheraton cabinet furniture, that fit is almost devoid of mouldings', the bareness of the straight edges often 'being relieved by inlay', or some slight ornament. Inlay became much more used than hitherto, though still far less than in English Sheraton. This tendency toward embellishment was increased by the use of discreet carving such as cameo-cutting on chairs and sofas, reeding, fluting, and the use of applied classical swags, festoons and rosettes or paterae; also, the painting or stencilling of certain articles such as occasional chairs, and by exceptionally decorative, even fanciful, veneering.

Directory: early in the nineteenth century (c. 1805-25) American furniture was to a certain extent inspired by the French classical Directoire mode. Whether this influence came direct from France or, indirectly, through England, is not quite clear. In any event, in American furniture the Directory influence is limited mostly to chairs and sofas. It is

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