Furniture crafted in the Queen Anne style dates from the 1720s to approximately 1750 in England, although the ruler it is named after died in 1714. In the United States production ran longer, right up to 1800 or so. This ever-popular style falls within the Colonial period.
Furniture made in the Queen Anne style is often difficult to date exactly since it sometimes blends elements from the earlier William and Mary and later Chippendale styles, according to American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas and Beds by Marvin D. Schwartz. Queen Anne is lighter and less chunky in appearance in comparison to earlier furniture, exhibiting a change in taste in the early 1700s.
There are some quintessential examples of Queen Anne styling, however, including highboys, lowboys, and the Hogarth chair, as mentioned by Frank Farmer Loomis IV in Antiques 101. These all have legs, feet, and other elements common to this style as noted below.
Queen Anne Style Legs and Feet
Marking a shift toward elegance and refinement in American furniture manufacture, Queen Anne style pieces were the first to incorporate the curving cabriole leg. Most pieces, even pedestal accent tables and bed frames, featured a cabriole-shaped leg even if on a shorter scale than those used on chairs and tables.
The pad foot is the most common found on Queen Anne pieces, but spade and trifid feet were used as well. These replaced the heavy look of the ball foot used previously in William and Mary styling, in keeping with the lighter look of this style. Some later pieces may have ball and claw feet although these are much more indicative of the later Chippendale style in most instances.
Keep in mind that on "country" pieces -- those made away from the refined cabinet maker's workshops in major Colonial cities -- the cabriole leg is not as prevalent. Legs may have turned embellishments, but they are often straight rather than curved. Spade feet can be found on country pieces but they are usually less refined than on higher quality furniture made by major craftsmen of the era. They are usually less valuable as well, as you might have guessed.
Other Queen Anne Style Features
In addition to the ubiquitous, curving cabriole legs so often found on Queen Anne pieces, there are other characteristics to look for. Not all of these design elements were incorporated into every piece, but they were used frequently and should be noted when familiarizing yourself with this Colonial-period style:
- Broad but delicate features overall, with curved elements.
- Simple fan and shell carvings embellished many pieces both on cabinet fronts and the knees of chair legs.
- Chairs also frequently have yoked-shaped top rails and back splats often have a solid vase shape, as exemplified in the Hogarth chair. Seats most often feature a horseshoe shape or compass shape and they are not upholstered.
- Space-saving features such as the tilt top and hinged drop leaf were often incorporated into Queen Anne style tables.
- Upholstered pieces such as easy chairs, settees, and chair seats were usually decorated with wool or silk damask, printed cotton, needle- or crewelwork with large flower or pictorial designs. Some leather was used as well. It is rare to find original fabric still decorating older Queen Anne pieces today, however.
Woods Used in Queen Anne Style Pieces
Many Queen Anne style pieces were primarily crafted of walnut, but cherry and maple were used as well. Imported mahogany became popular with furniture craftsmen working in this style around 1750, according to Schwartz. Mahogany was frequently imported from the Caribbean, so it was most commonly used in and around port cities.
Secondary woods making up these pieces were usually maple, pine, ash, cedar, beech, and tulip, among others. Differences in types of woods can provide clues when pieces are not all original. For example, when a tabletop has been replaced or a leg has been repaired the woods used may not match up to the rest of the piece.
Later Queen Anne Styles
Many reproductions have been made in the Queen Anne style over the centuries since the Colonial period. While some of these are old enough to be considered true antiques now, just as with Chippendale reproductions, in comparison they do not typically exhibit the finely crafted details found in early Queen Anne style pieces.
Even today, Queen Anne influence is found in formal furniture design and manufacturing, especially the use of the ubiquitous cabriole legs and pad feet. They are often combined with other style elements to create unique, modern looks with traditional influence.