Onion feet

You know how when you concentrate on a word or say it several times it sometimes sounds odd, as if it has become attached to the wrong meaning and you worry you have been using it inappropriately for years? Semantic satiation. I went to bed last night thinking about furniture feet, woke up thinking it too, and now the word feet seems such a strange one to apply to things on chairs. Most things with legs and feet use them for mobility, a chair is the very opposite of mobile. They should be called underpinnings with substructures.

An onion foot, a sturdy base for a heavy piece of furniture, not common after 1720.

An onion foot, a sturdy base for a heavy piece of furniture, not common after 1720.

You might have seen the one behind the onion foot is a ball-and-claw foot, but that comes later and I am going to put some chronological order into the post.

Jacobean style, a 17th century chair with unadorned stretchers between the feet. Only the masters of the household had chairs, everyone else had stools.

Jacobean style, a 17th century chair with unadorned stretchers between the feet. Only the masters of the household had chairs, everyone else had stools.

Simplicity of style indicates an early chair. The legs are supported by stretchers.

Simplicity of style indicates an early chair. The legs are supported by stretchers. There are no feet.

Legs are turned and stretchers more ornate. William and Mary  period 1689-1720

Legs are turned and stretchers more ornate. William and Mary period 1689-1720

Queen Anne style overlaps, 1702-1755, more refined and with shapely legs – cabriole legs, an s-shaped curve where the bump near the seat is called a knee. They don’t sound so elegant when one learns that cabrioler is French for running like a goat. The advantage of a cabriole leg is that it doesn’t need stretchers for additional support. That makes the following image unusual -it has both a cabriole leg and stretchers.

Cabriole leg, simple curved knee, pad foot but strangely also with stretcher.

Cabriole leg, simple curved knee, pad foot but strangely also with stretcher.

Hoof-like foot, sometimes called a Spanish foot.

Hoof-like foot, sometimes called a Spanish foot.

Another style of hoof foot

Another style of hoof foot

Simple pad-feet on a cabriole leg

Simple pad-feet.

It was common for the back legs to be simpler and undecorated while the front feet on show displayed the good craftsmanship.

It was common for the back legs to be simpler and undecorated while the front feet on show displayed the good craftsmanship.

Now this is where the ball-and-claw foot comes in. They appear on furniture from both Queen Anne and the later (174-1760) Georgian style.

Beautifully carved ball and claw foot

Beautifully carved ball and claw foot. It is raised off the uneven floor.

Another ball and claw foot.  The similarity with the first one might be indicate a similar origin - both are Bermudian pieces from the early 18th century.

Another ball and claw foot. The similarity with the first one might be indicate a similar origin – both are Bermudian pieces from the early 18th century.

A trifid foot, like an animal paw. These may have been influenced by Irish styles of the 18th century. They are sometimes called Drake feet.

A trifid foot, like an animal paw. These may have been influenced by Irish styles of the 18th century. They are sometimes called Drake feet.

More utilitarian furniture is influenced from Pennsylvanian Dutch style, 1720-1830, and commonly these had straight unadorned legs with no feet.

No feet

No feet

Everyone has heard of Chippendale chairs. They tend to be more ornate than Queen Anne chairs, but they share similar feet. Carving on the cabriole knee is more likely in a Chippendale.

Delicately carved cabriole knee

Delicately carved cabriole knee

American fashion liked brass claw feet. We are now in the early 1800s.

American fashion liked brass claw feet. We are now in the early 1800s.

Not sure this can really be called a foot, a bracket. The draw handles are of batwing design so from Queen Anne or Chippendale.

Not sure this can really be called a foot, a bracket. The draw handles are of batwing design so from Queen Anne or Chippendale.

Marching feet: back and front feet face the same direction

Marching feet: back and front feet face the same direction

Bow legs with stubby feet (note that is not a technical description)

Bow legs with stubby feet (note that is not a technical description)

Rather small brass feet on turned spindle legs

Rather small brass feet on turned spindle legs

Six onion feet

Six onion feet

All pictures taken with permission in preparation of room guides for the Bermuda National Trust property, Verdmont. If you want to see the whole pieces of furniture to which these feet belong then Verdmont is open Wednesday through Friday from 10am to 4pm and is just $5 entrance fee. I am sorry that the air fare to Bermuda is a little more costly than that.

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