When you hear the word “Chippendale,” chances are it will conjure images of Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley loosely choreographed, gyrating and thrusting. The other famous Chippendale is Thomas Chippendale, who was one of England’s most famous designers and cabinet makers. He published a book of designs (largely the work of Robert Adams) with the backing of John Rannie. This book influenced cabinet makers in England and Europe at large. It is worth noting most of his designs were never built due to their complexity and estimated cost of fabrication. Nevertheless, similar versions of these designs ruled the day.
Chippendale’s designs were popular through about 1780. His designs incorporated baroque (asymmetrical elements) Chinese influences and Gothic styles. Chippendale’s pieces ranged from elaborate to fairly straight forward. Thomas’ son continued making furniture until about 1813.
The Chippendale Period 1750-1780
Original Chippendale pieces are not signed. They are identified by provenance, from a house Chippendale furnished. As well as by comparison, with documented examples, and by a couple of idiosyncratic construction details that are unique to his workshop: A strangely shaped escutcheon, or keyhole, and a unique way of bracing pieces that is hard to describe. Most pieces are sold as being attributed to Chippendale (read maybe he made this). But it is worth mentioning that the entire period of English furniture spanning from 1750 to 1780 is described as “Chippendale .”