Monday, December 1, 2014

Know Your Sofas: The Queen Anne Settee

Although certain details and elements were developed during her actual reign (1702-1714), the name "Queen Anne" to designate a furniture style was not used until nearly a hundred years later. The Queen Anne style can be seen as a refinement of the silhouettes and ideas from the earlier William and Mary period. The rather rectilinear William and Mary pieces used curves in applied decorative elements like inlay or marquetry. But Queen Anne pieces incorporated curves, S-scrolls, and C-scrolls into the shape of the furniture itself creating graceful, much more delicate lines than had ever been seen before.

While technically not a sofa as we know it today, the Queen Anne settee was, at that point in furniture history, the closest thing yet to a sofa. Unbeknownst to them, furniture makers of the day were working toward the concept of a sofa, and this was a step in its evolution. The execution, while structurally proficient, is actually a little comical: it looks like two chairs grafted together to make a larger sitting area. Which makes sense. If you wanted a chair that sat more than one person, well, why not put several chairs together and have them share a seat deck?

Even though the embellishments of prior styles like Rococo and William and Mary were muted, one can still see an occasional shell or acanthus leaf on a leg or back...

The Queen Anne settee was also made in three and four chair backs as well!

An important feature of Queen Anne pieces is the cabriole leg terminating in a pad (or club) foot, or in later incarnations, in a claw and ball foot (see photos below). This shape of leg has been in use since the early Greeks and Romans, but it was perfected in European furniture during this time. It was the Queen Anne style that saw the elevation of the cabriole leg into a sweet, sweeping, gentle curve. It is called a cabriole leg because of its resemblance to the slender hind leg of a deer or goat: in French, the word cabrioler means to spring or leap like a goat. The shape is always convex at the top and concave at the bottom. Because of this, the anthropomorphic sense makes it seem as if these pieces of furniture skitter about, chasing each other on the hardwood floor when no one is home!

Pad or club feet, seen above, are cabriole legs which end in what looks like a golf club.

And claw and ball feet are literally just that: a claw with its talons gripping a sphere.

These days you are likely to see a Queen Anne element like a cabriole leg (the most common) or a claw and ball foot on a more current piece of furniture as well. Keep you eyes peeled and happy designing!

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