The Queen Anne time period ranges from the 1720’s to 1760. Elements of the style were being used in the early 1700’s but the unified look ranges from those dates. The movement corresponds with the late Baroque as a wider movement. The dates do not correspond with her reign, and the movement was not called Queen Anne until much later in the century.
This is also the first movement that sees a popular adoption in North America. Craftsmen and journeymen were emigrating to the colonies along with consumers. Queen Anne furniture made in NA was probably present in the homes and offices of most Colonial Administrators and leading citizens.
Anne ascended to the throne of England in 1702 and ruled as Queen of Great Britain from 1707 until her death in 1714. She was the niece of Charles II and cousin to William and Mary, who died without issue, leaving her as heir presumptive.
During her reign the Acts of Union consolidated the kingdoms of Scotland, Ireland and England into Great Britain under a single monarch. The country was enjoying a growing middle class, with increased wealth outside of the peerage and is also saw the development of a multi party political system (Whigs and Tories) with an active opposition.
The movement sees influences from France and the Low Countries, but the main development was the increasing competence of English craftsmen to create a unique style as opposed to simply mimicking the prevailing style of the Continent. That being said, the “English Sensibility” or toning down of the extravagance of Continental designs that we will see for the next 100 years begins to take hold. What results is a uniquely English look, based on elements borrowed from across the Channel. In addition, increasing trade with the far east brings several Chinese elements into the opus, this served to tone down the elaborate ornamentation of the earlier periods. As an example, the cabriole leg (originally from China) was introduced into English Furniture during this time, having been re-imagined and popularized by Andre-Charles Boulle at the Court of Louis XV, the English interpretation is restrained and elegant.
The wood is still primarily walnut, as large scale imports of mahogany were not yet coming from the colonies. Regionally there were local woods used when walnut was not available.
We see the introduction or popularization of a few forms in this time period. The Dressing Table (or Lowboy) becomes popular as well as the Chest on Stand (or Highboy). The chest on stand essentially adds storage to the lower section, making a more functional use of space while still creating a tall and imposing piece of furniture. The dressing table is designed to be sat in front of while being dressed, offering the lady a storage option for her makeup and beauty implements.
From a design perspective, as a cataloger, we look for a simple cabriole leg, often carved at the knees with a simple shell or scroll. Feet can be ball and claw but usually a simple pad foot. Overall, ornamentation is restrained, and is moving to a more naturalistic theme, simple double scrolls and turned finials or pendants. The seat backs on chairs have not become fully pierced and are often solid.
What we see most in the wild are gate leg dining or wake tables, chairs (both dining and Library wingbacks) and dressing tables. The secretary bookcase and tea table are also popular. Because the movement lasted so long, there are often elements mixed together with later styles, its quite rare to see period pieces unless working with a large and well established collection.
Because of its simplicity of line and ornamentation, the Queen Anne style really has never gone out of vogue (except possibly in the 19th century) and is still produced to this day. They are versatile pieces that work well in any room and with pieces from many other movements.
Hold onto your hats….the Germans are coming!