Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Four scores and seven auctions ago, my father hooked me in to going to an auction with him. There, he was excited to find an old, water damaged, animal chewed, antique corner cupboard. It was walnut, so he said, it was most likely Mid Atlantic and of the Federal Period. Boy was I impressed….not ! It meant he wanted to stay and bid, which to me meant we’d be there for hours. And to make matters predictably worse, if he won it, I’d be tying it to the roof of the Station Wagon at mid-night on a school night, in about 20 degrees. Score! Well he won it and it went into the barn with other projects around 2AM that night.
Fast forward 10 or 15 years, I can’t remember, but I do know, I was sitting in an Auction School in Reading Pennsylvania. This is when I learned, maybe I should have paid more attention to Dad. Here, one of the subjects, and sure to be on the test, was a "required" understanding of the Periods of Furniture. To me, it felt like it as going to be learning the chemical elements of the periodic chart all over again…. very gaseous. But I did survive it and here I am now to drop it all on you!
Let us begin with the turn of the 17th Century….
William and Mary 1690-1730
This style furniture was popular in the late 17th and early 18th century and was characterized by its Dutch and Chinese influences. Named for English King William of Orange and his consort (a fancy name for a wife, husband, or companion, in particular the spouse of a reigning monarch) Mary. Examples bear a classic examples of trumpet turned legs, many have a Spanish ball feet and Oriental lacquer work, known a Japanning. (A type of finish that originated in European to imitate Asian lacquer-work.)
Queen Anne 1720-1760
This style furniture emerged during the reign of William III (England.) It is characterized by cabriole legs, pad or drake feet, fiddle-backed chairs, and bat-wing stylized drawer pulls.
Louis XVI 1760–1789
Designed for Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution and was heavily inspired by Neoclassical design. Louis XVI furniture is generally characterized by its Greco-Roman influence, straight lines, classical motifs and richly carved details.