Tuesday, September 8, 2009


One of the most famous names in furniture is Thomas Chippendale.

He was an 18th century English cabinet maker and designer (who created furniture like the chair shown above). Care should be taken not to confuse him with the equally famous pair of squirrels known as Chip-n-Dale (who created nothing but a lot of mediocre programming for The Cartoon Network).

You can tell them apart pretty easily since they look nothing alike. Here's Thomas Chippendale who lived in 18th c. England:
And here are Chip-n-Dale, a coupla squirrels who live in West Hollywood (Hollywood adjacent).
As you can see, Chip-n-Dale are gender neutral cartoon characters. Some fringe elements have made the claim that they are same-sex domestic partners and occasional cross-dressers. In other words, "closeted squirrels". The photo does indicate some ambiguity and I understand that inquiring minds do want to know.

But The Buzz says,"Who are we to judge?" Wouldn't it be better if we all just joined hands and sang "What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love" and leave it at that? My feeling is if they're not hurting any important antiques, why not just live and let live?

But I admit to being bi-curious as what these two rodents actually DO every day. It's hard to say. Most likely, they just eat nuts, race across streets (sometimes with disastrous results), and wonder if they should change their names to avoid confusion with the famous cabinetmaker.

That's a good segue back to Thomas Chippendale, one of the most important cabinet makers and furniture designers of all time. Here's a spectacular Chippendale mirror incorporating exotic chinoiserie elements:

Pieces of furniture actually created by Thomas Chippendale are extremely rare, come on the market infrequently, and are very costly. For us antiquarians, the most important thing to understand is that the Chippendale name has become generic for all furniture made in the Chippendale style.

Here are some chair backs in the Chippendale style:
And here's a set of Chippendale chairs (note the Chinese stretchers and classic back splats):

This set of chairs weren't really created by Chippendale himself but they can still be properly called generic "Chippendale". Conclusion to draw here: not all Chippendales are created equal.

To illustrate this point, if you're offered the Chippendale sofa shown below for less than $100,000 USD, then you know it's in the style of Chippendale but not actually an authentic Thomas Chippendale piece-and that's OK.
Here's some beautiful Chippendale leg detailing (note the ball and claw foot and cabriole leg):

But Chippendale didn't just create chairs. Here's a Chippendale bureau bookcase (note the Chinoiserie glazing bars):

Ok, so now we know that all furniture that incorporates Chippendale's unique design characteristics can be called "Chippendale". But where do you find those styles and design elements? You find them in his seminal book of designs: "The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director" by Thomas Chippendale.

Look here at how the Portuguese interpreted and incorporated Chippendale style in the late 18th and early 19th centuries:

Kind of wild and weird, don't you think? I love this pair. Call me if you want to buy them. 415 541 7868.

Designs introduced by Chippendale in English furniture include the cabriole leg (see the ball and claw foot image above); and for that matter he introduced the ball and claw foot itself; the straight, square, early Georgian leg (often called Marlborough--see the sofa above); the carved latticework Chinese leg; the pseudo-Chinese leg; the fretwork leg and Chinese fretwork rails/cornices; the rococo leg with the curled or hoofed foot; and the spade foot. See my articles on legs and feet for more images.

And here's a bit more Chippendale eye candy for your viewing pleasure:


annechovie said...

Great post, Buzz. I like the way you mix humor with a scholarly approach. You bring up a very important point about the chipmunks...eternal mystery there. That bookcase is stunning!

GrannySmithGreen said...

Let me just say it again, I love your blog and sense of humor! I adore having a good time while I'm learning something! Thank you, Buzz!