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Summary Article: Chippendale, Thomas from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(chĭp'Әndāl´´), 1718–79, celebrated English cabinetmaker. His designs were so widely followed that a whole general category of 18th-century English furniture is commonly grouped under his name. Chippendale's Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, an illustrated trade catalog first published in 1754, was widely influential in England and America. Among the numerous pieces stamped with his style, it is possible to assign unquestionably to his own workshop only those for which the original bills still remain, as in the case of Harewood House and Nostell Priory, whose furnishings were created by him. While he based his work upon the general Queen Anne and Georgian characteristics of sober design and thoroughly fine construction, retaining many of the early 18th-century details, Chippendale's distinction was to introduce many other forms. For these he used three outside inspirations—Chinese, Gothic, and contemporaneous French rococo. The first two resulted naturally from the general mid-18th-century enthusiasms for chinoiserie decoration and pseudo-Gothic architecture. Chippendale's name is emphatically identified with the extensive variety of chair types that he developed—from geometrical to Chinese, lattice, or sumptuously carved and interlaced forms. Chippendale's varied output also included desks; mirror frames; hanging bookshelves; settees, with which he was especially successful; china cabinets and bookcases, frequently with fretted cornices and latticework glazed doors; and tables with delicately fretted galleries and distinctive cluster-column legs of Gothic inspiration. The last phase of his career shows the influence of the designs of Robert Adam. Chippendale's style, quickly imported to America, was imitated by a number of expert cabinetmakers.

  • See studies by A. Coleridge (1968) and C. Gilbert (2 vol. 1986).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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