Chairs Continued

Other chairs of this type had stretchers which, together with the front legs and brackets, might be pierced and fretted with patterns, or, alternatively, applied orna­ment might be found on legs, stretchers and seat front. In the case of Chinese arm­chairs, lattice work also filled the space between arms and seat. Gothic chairs showed interlacing pointed arches in the splats, or covering the whole of the back. Another attractive chair design was the 'ladder-back', taken from a traditional country style. At its best it showed undulat­ing curves on the cross- and cresting-rails, which were pierced and carved and often had a small carved emblem in the centre (Figs. 5 and 6 for Gothic and ladder-back).

The interest of the Adam brothers in classical art influenced chair design by intro­ducing a lighter type of chair, emphasizing oval lines in the backs and using straight legs tapering from square knee blocks to feet set upon small plinths. The construction of chair backs changed, as the splat gradually lost its link with the back rail of the seat and became enclosed within the uprights. In this, again, the strength of mahogany was a definite factor. There was a sympathy .for delicate fluting and channelling on the back, arms and legs, and the addition of classical ornaments on the seat-rail and (especially carved paterae) at the top of the front legs. But another kind of chair which enjoyed a long vogue was the Trench Adam' type illustrated in Plate 296. Dating from about

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.the mid-17705, it shows the cabriole leg in its final form, ending on scrolled feet. This chair is distinguished by the use of gentle curves, of gadrooning on the edges of the legs, arms, seat and back, and of beautiful upholstery, all treated with the utmost refinement. Other French-style chairs had straight, tapering legs, usually fluted, and some of the backs were square in shape, with a lyre, including brass strings, for the splat (Fig. 7). The versatility of form cannot be over-stressed. Adam liked both painting and gilding; beech was used if chairs were to be gilded, and satinwood was becoming popular for fragile-looking drawing-room chairs. He also reintroduced cane seats.

As Hepplewhite's chairs are famous, it is worth noting his own directions for making them: * Chairs in general are made of ma­hogany, with bars and frame sunk in hollow, or rising in a round projection, with a band or list on the inner and outer edges. Many of these designs are enriched with ornaments proper to be carved in mahogany.' Plate 290 shows one of his shield backs, his most cele­brated form (which he varied with heart or oval shapes). The top rail rises in the centre over a splat consisting of narrow curving bars which terminate in a carved wheat-ear design. The bottom of the shield is just above the back of the seat. The arms add distinc­tion to the chair, with the pronounced backward-sweeping curve from the top of the front legs straightening out at the arm­rests which join the shield about half-way up. The tapering legs and plinth feet, the care­fully limited carving on legs and arms, the channelling throughout, the serpentine front to the seat, overstuffed, are all typical of Hepplewhite's work. Other carved orna­ments in the fyack included the Prince of Wales's feathers (Fig. 8), leaves, vases and drapery. He also used satinwood inlay on a mahogany background and, like Adam, designed some lyre-backs.

The refinement in chair design reached its peak with Sheraton, and Plate 290 shows some of his features. He preferred rectangular shapes to emphasize lightness. The wide cresting-rail overrunning the uprights and shaped for the sitter's back is particularly worth noting, as this was a novelty in chairs and was found in wide use after 1800. The back has merely a single rail, and the legs are forward splaying, with little attempt at foot design. Carving is replaced by clear, straight-lined inlay, in a contrasting coloured wood, on the cresting-rail. For upholstery a striped material was popular, in keeping with the general rectangular effect of the rest of the chair. Like other designers, Sheraton did not confine himself to one pattern. On the whole he preferred to leave the back of his chairs as open as possible, and broke away from the vertical splat designs of his predecessors. He brought in a revival of painted chairs (of beech), usually decorated with bright floral devices on a black background and having plain cane seats and turned legs. He did not neglect carving by any means, but he is particularly noted for his employment of stringing as decoration. Basically, this was the same as the inlay on the cresting-rail in Plate 290, but he carried it to extreme delicacy by using very thin lines of wood or brass. Chair arms often took a wide sweep upwards immediately above the legs, and another at the back to join the uprights at the cresting-rail.

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Sheraton's work already reflected many features of the so-called French Empire style, which blossomed out fully in the Regency period. Painted chairs remained popular, and the sweeping forward of the front legs, balanced by a similar outward curve on the . back legs, was accentuated because of its resemblance to the chair figured on classical Greek vases. The cresting-rail, in a variety of shapes, was a prominent feature, and the whole back was often given a very pronounced rake. Much of Sheraton's light­ness disappeared with the ex­tended use of lion's-paw designs for legs and arms (Fig. 9), and the addition of gilding and novel­ties like Egyptian motifs. A throne-like arm-chair, in which the whole sides—front and back legs, uprights and arms—were made in units, into which the back and seat fitted, tended to give this type a somewhat heavy and ornate appearance.

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