M. FORD CREECH ANTIQUES & FINE ARTS
 

www.mfordcreech.com

 

SUMMER : THE SEASON TO SHOW OFF

YOUR BARE LEGS

And they come in all shapes and sizes 

 


Do let me show you ours.

They come in all shapes and sizes too:

1695 to 1820 is known as 'The Golden Age' in British furniture -

with forms and construction evolving from the joined plank type of furniture

to most of the forms familiar to us, including currently popular 'mid-century modern'.

Perhaps no British furniture component changed so drastically as

THE LEG!

Furniture is quite often 'classified ( too often erroneously ) just by the leg.

Herein is an abbreviated visual recording of this evolution...

along with their living 'look-alikes' :

 


 

EARLY BAROQUE Period : c1680-1700

( described often as sculptural, symmetrical and self-contained )

For the leg, one might add lathe-turned, a bit blobby or knobby,

 twisted, bobbined, scrolled, even tasseled  

 

 

 Think :  Shar-Pei wrinkles...and Shirley Temple's curls...and you have it!

                    

 

 

 


 

About 1700, there was a rather drastic change -

something very old became new again :

the 'CABRIOLE LEG',

fashioned - and named - after a 'leaping goat'.

Below is a well preserved fresco from Herculaneum,

the Roman city buried in 79 AD along with nearby Pompeii,

featuring a table raised on rear 'goat legs' :

 

 

This curvaceous leg was lost in the Middle Ages, but refound c1700,

making its way from France into Great Britain, where in my opinion,

the British refashioned it with great grace and elegance.

The cabriole became 'the leg' of the 18th century.

 


 

Thus begins the LATE BAROQUE period - from c1700 - c1730 - or so

( also described as sculptural, symmetrical and self-contained, but with a curvilinear delicacy )

 

 

Above you can see the direct relationship to the goat's hind leg -

right down to an interpretation of the tendon.

This leg was given a number of appendages ( feet ), the earliest being a 'pad'.

    


Below is a simple, delicate, sculptural yet energetic early cabriole. leg.

The shapely high knees, slender ankles and out-pointing feet seem poised to spring -

bringing to mind...'the dumpy frog'...

also shapely, with knees, slender ankles, and out-pointing feet - poised to spring...or cling :
  

 

About 1720, this cabinetmaker undoubtedly had a favored cat, as

tapering round tapering legs on small paw feet became quite fashionable :
 

 

William of Orange opened a new trade agreement with Africa in 1688, and voila -

here comes this very unusual wide-splayed leg stance c1720 :

 

 

But whilst the tallest animal on the African continent might have had great 'drinking attitudes',

no animal equaled the lion - the ultimate British symbol since the 12th century.

As feet, lion appendages became known as 'the hairy paw'.

The Irish even gave it a Shar-Pei wrinkled ankle.

 

 

But perhaps the most prolific rococo foot is

the all-powerful Chinese dragon, its claws clutching a ball  

known as the 'wish-granting' or 'flaming'  pearl, and the 'heart of Buddha' :

 

 

 

 


 

THE ROCOCO Period : c1730-1770

( French influence, asymmetry with forms extending beyond themselves,

sinuous curves, piercing, carving and a new 'fragility';

the cabriole still rules, along with all its feet )
 
Back to Herculaneum and the 'goat-leg table' :
In 1738, dedicated excavations began to unearth the buried city and its preserved arts.

These findings continued to influence British design throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Below, in Herculaneum's 'Triton' mosaic floor, is depicted

a curvy octopus with the sinuous curves that so represent the rococo period.
 

 

And extensions : note the expanse of these legs and feet -
both extending far beyond the expected 'fit' ( in addition to the stand's very curvaceous outline ) :

 

 

Another leg from the Rococo period is the straight molded leg,

as used by Thomas Chippendale on many of his British 'Chinese' fashions,
many of those being 'pierced', having open fretwork.
This craftsman, however, gave this architect's and writing table
two sets of legs - both round and straight and resting on casters :

 

 

 A la Hedwig and the Angry Inch's song, 'Origin of Love' :

'They had two sets of arms. They had two sets of legs.

They had two faces peering out of one giant head

So they could watch all around them as they talked,

While they read'

 


 

NEOCLASSICAL : c1770-1820

( further influenced by the Greco-Roman forms uncovered at Herculaneum,

this time having restraint, symmetry, geometry - as well as

the appearance of great lightness and 'lift' as a primary goal )
 

 

Dining rooms with specified tables appeared about 1770, the most desirable raised on pedestal

bases, having downswept splay legs of 3- or 4-leg form, introduced c1780.

( Incidentally, that's Fred Astaire & Rita Hayworth, dancing to 'Swing' in 1942 ).

 

 

Tapering legs with spade feet were extremely 'neoclassical' - appearing as a dancer 'on-toe'.

 

 

'Quartettos' ( always with four tables! ) were among the small furnishings raised on

bamboo-form legs, these multiple legs reading almost as a forest,

and ending on graceful overscrolls and toupie feet.
 

 

Again the exaggerated curves of dancers' legs ( think Degas! ) beautifully exemplify

these curved klismos legs, relating again to Herculaneum's classical Greco-Roman klismos legs

 


 

Roman Wood & Tufted Leather Sofa,, c79 AD, Herculaneum

 

** It is said that nothing new in furniture design has been introduced since 1830 -

all just 'refashioned' with a few modifications.

In fact today's contemporary furnishings also have their root

 in the excavations at Herculaneum.

Their straight lines, formal restraint, and sense of lightness of weight

go back 2000+ years.

The wood and tufted leather sofa above is not by Eero Saarinen, c1955,

but found preserved beneath the mud... in Herculaneum.

During the second half of the 18th century, classical form and ornament was slowly

incorporated into the styles of the British and European Neoclassical period.

The fashion for Neoclassical lasted into the early 19th century...

then being replaced briefly by several 'revivals'...and surface ornamentation.

Neoclassical forms were re-found c1880 with the Arts and Crafts Movement...

then Art Deco of the 1920s and 30s...

and mid-20th century modern - so back in vogue again today.

 

So the 'new modern' is not really all that 'new' at all -

just being recycled and reinterpreted once more! **

 

    


 

Legend & Photographic Attributions of Interest :

The Furniture : M. Ford Creech

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples :

Triton Mosaic; and Banquet Scene Fresco

Carbonized Leather & Wooden Sofa, House of Carbonized Furniture, Herculaneum

Other Images : Shar-Pei Puppy : Yana Mishina

Portrait : First Steps, Josep Suria, Spain

Fourth Position (Dancer) : Kelly Perkovich, Iris Photography, Pittsburgh

The Balance : Permission, License or Public Domain  

 

Our 'furniture images' above are linked to detailed website pages.

 

Click here to visit our 2017 New and Incoming Purchases

 

 


 

Please call or email should you wish additional information

 

M. FORD CREECH ANTIQUES & FINE ART

581 S. PERKINS ROAD / LAURELWOOD COLLECTION / MEMPHIS, TN 38117

Hours : Wed.-Sat. 11-6, or by appointment

901-761-1163 (gallery) / 901-827-4668 (cell)

 

mfcreech@bellsouth.net  or  mfordcreech@gmail.com

www.mfordcreech.com

 

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 "Summer : The Season To Show Off Your Bare Legs"; M. Ford Creech Antiques

 

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