In general, the Victorian antique furniture era refers to furniture items made during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and includes both mass produced pieces and those hand crafted in small shops by talented furniture craftsmen and designers. The elegant pair of identical Balloon Back chairs in front of you was skillfully hand crafted - it represents the upper quality of the Victorian Balloon Back chairs fashion which began in England in 1830s.
The pair of Balloon Back chairs presented here incorporates enhanced ornamental elements from the Rococo Revival trend, especially the scrolled and intricately pierced carved pattern of the back, and the smooth design of the front legs which ends with a cute cabriole leg element and resembles the bent leg of an animal. The balloon shape of the back of the chair is emphasized by the fully rounded upper rail which together with the curvature of the upholstered generous seat and the undulating curving contours of the front legs, greatly contributes to the gracefulness and gentleness of the chair's outlines.
ריהוט חדר האורחים הויקטוריאני (Victorian Drawing Room Furniture) בבתי המשפחות האמידות באנגליה, החל ממחצית המאה ה-19, כלל בדרך כלל סט של 6 כיסאות אורחים מטיפוס Balloon Back chairs שסודרו מסביב לשולחן האוכל הגדול. הכסאות תאמו את הספה הנוחה, אף היא באותו בסגנון Balloon Back sofa. אב המשפחה ובעל הבית ישב בכורסא מרווחת עם מסעדי ידיים - armchair. לאישתו, בעלת הבית, הוקצתה כורסא קטנה יותר, ולדעתי יפה יותר, ללא מסעדי ידיים - armless sewing chair בכדי שיהיה לה קל לתפור בזמן השיחה והאירוח. איזה חיים.
The first design ideas of the Balloon Back chair style were presented by George Hepplewhite at the end of the 18th century and were published in his renowned book The Cabinet Maker and Upholsterer's Guide in 1787. Hepplewhite designed a shield-shaped chair back, where an expansive shield appeared in place of a narrower splat design, forming a distinctive style of light and elegant furniture. Unfortunately, most of these innovative styled chair designs stayed on paper and did not materialize into popular furniture products. It took the English furniture industry more than 40 years until these ideas turned into the popular stylistic Balloon Back Chair.
Walnut, mahogany and rosewood were the woods of preference - woods that became increasingly difficult to acquire in later in the twentieth century. This shortage led to the rarity of genuine 'un-touched' exemplars like this beautiful pair of chairs. In the early models of the Balloon Back chairs, the front legs were straight and the back legs were curved out in a way which was influenced by the Regency style chairs. The following scheme depicts the parts and construction of a simple 'standard' Balloon Back chair.
The sophisticated Rococo style design of the back of these exemplar chairs demonstrates the superiority of quality handmade furniture where the proficiency of the handmade joints is a major feature in the construction of the chair. Craftsmen like the one that made these chairs were the early propitious of the Arts and Crafts Movement which flourished on the 1880's leading on to the development of the Art Nouveau. Here are some technical clues which may be relevant to antique furniture collectors when trying to date antique English chairs:
Historically, handmade nails were used until circa late 1770s. They are pointed and were forged one at a time on a blacksmiths anvil. They were replaced about 1870 by the modern machine made round steel wire nails.
Many antique upper quality chairs have no nails - their corner strengthening structure being a hand-pressed in bird beak end shaped piece of hard wood.
Screw nails were first made by hand. They may be detectible by some non uniformity in the thread and by an off center slot in the head. They remained in use until the appearance of the machine made screw nail around 1812.
The design and craftsmanship of the balloon backs of the chairs in front of you is a masterpiece of cresting and carving with its sophisticated decoration on the top rail of the chair. Note that the strongly curved lines and carved features of this balloon shaped back require large sections of wood from which to cut the shaped parts.
Height from floor to seat: 1' 5.7" - 45 cm - 17.7
Height from floor to peak of back: 2' 11.4" - 90 cm - 35.4 in
Width of seat: 1' 5.7" - 45 cm - 17.7 in
Depth of seat: 1' 3.7" - 40 cm - 15.7 in
Wooden frame, back and legs: Rosewood
Age: more than 150 years old (circa 1850) - all upholstery and wooden elements are original and genuine.
"Collecting Antique Furniture" by Peter Johnson - Pages 48, 94 - ISBN 0-600-39136-1 / 0600391361
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