Over on the Chris Schwarz blog, some of the people commenting on his review of Furniture in the Southern Style mentioned one of the photos in the introduction, and the reference to it being a misrepresentation of a ball and claw foot. I thought it would be a good idea to post the photo in question. We didn’t have room for more photos of this piece, and we assumed that the picture was enough to convey the idea without additional text. Perhaps we were too close to the subject and should have explained more about what the staff at MESDA referred to as “the Chicken Foot table”. As you can see, this is a good attempt at a ball and claw foot, but it is unusual in its form. To be specific, the leg is too straight to gracefully form the foot, and the ball is far from round, looking a bit squashed under the weight of the leg.
This was one of the unusual pieces that we saw, and to our eyes it looked as though the maker may not have ever seen a ball and claw foot in person, but was working from a description. Or he may have been working from memory, and a few of the details didn’t come to mind.
Here’s a view from a different angle and further away, and it shows the shape of the leg a little better. One of the commenters suggested that maybe we were picking on the original maker, that maybe he had the form correct and the guys from Philadelphia, Newport and New York didn’t know what they were doing. It really isn’t a matter of right or wrong, it’s about the usual and the unusual, and the reasons why things are similar to a point and then diverge.
That’s what we tried to do with the book, look at period furniture from a new perspective and examine pieces that would reflect what people who weren’t fabulously well-to-do had in there homes two centuries ago. Some things take more than a quick look, and any book worth reading should make you stop and think at least a time or two.