Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary ..................... Federal style
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English designer of furniture and author. He may have been apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, and as an earnest Baptist he wrote religious books and preached. Records show that he was in London from c.1790 and supplemented the meager earnings from his books by giving drawing lessons.
His designs became influential through his manuals. Starting in 1791 he published in four volumes The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Drawing Book. At least six hundred cabinet makers and joiners subscribed to his to his book and it was immediately widely influential over a large part of the country.
During this period he did not have a workshop of his own and it is believed that Sheraton himself never made any of the pieces shown in his books. No pieces of furniture have ever been traced to him directly. So a piece of furniture described as being "by Sheraton" refers to the design and not to the maker of the piece.
In 1803 he published The Cabinet Dictionary, a compendium of instructions on the techniques of cabinet and chair making.
Then a year before his death, in 1805 he published the first volume of Cabinet Maker, Upholsterer and General Artist's Encyclopaedia.
"The eighteenth century included the five great styles of English furniture, that is, the Queen Anne, the Chippendale, the Adam, the Hepplewhite and the Sheraton. It is for this reason termed the "Golden Age" of English cabinet making." - Edgar G. Miller, Jr., American Antique Furniture, 1937, Vol. 1, p. 35
Sheraton, like George Hepplewhite, followed the styles of the Adamses but leaned more toward the Louis XVI and later French sources. In America, the designs of the three designers are known as Federal.
His earlier pieces, in spite of their excessive slenderness, were soundly constructed, and have outlasted many heavier articles of similar type.
Sheraton's style is marked by a graceful delicacy and simplicity, emphasis on straight, vertical lines, and a preference for inlay decoration, reeded legs, and classical motifs.
Satinwood was his favorite material, with mahogany for chairs, and for veneering. Carving was rarely used -- chiefly smaller Adam forms, such as rosettes, urns, sunbursts and vases. Ivory and brass key plates and metal drawer pulls were of the utmost simplicity.
In inlay, he has never been surpassed, using kingwood, zebrawood, tulip, rosewood, and holly as his chief materials, often divided by narrow lines of ebony.
Upholstery: His upholstery differed from Hepplewhite's, in that he revealed the frame, instead of entirely concealing it.
Chairbacks: His chairbacks were plain, lyred, or turned, the top line straight or slightly broken.
Legs: Slender fluted legs, round or square, tapered down to natural or spade feet.
Chair arms: Straight, or continuously curved from back to front.
Caning marked many of his pieces.
Sideboards: Instead of the serpentine front of Hepplewhite's sideboards, Sheraton preferred a complete convex or a single swelling, set between square ends. He often used the brass railing at the back ("gallery") introduced by the Adam brothers, and concealed in the interior all sorts of small drawers, shelves and boxes.
Other furniture: Countless kidney-shaped desks and tables, card tables, sectional bookcases, and wardrobes complete the distinctive Sheraton contributions.
Examples from Buffalo:
- Armchair / Worktable / Side table / Fancy chairs / Sofa - Private collection, Buffalo, NY
- Sheraton armchair - Private collection
- Card table - Private collection
- Card table - Dana Tillou Fine Arts
- Kitchen table - Rich Twinn Octagon House
- Chest of drawers - Dana Tillou Fine Arts
- Reproduction "George Washington Desk" - Kittinger Co. reproduction
- Reproduction card table - Kittinger Furniture Company
- Reproduction card table - Private collection, Amherst, NY
- Country Sheraton cane chair - Boies-Lord House (Hamburg)
- English Sheraton sideboard - Private collection, Orchard Park, NY
- Secretary based on Plate 43 - Anonymous collection, Buffalo, NY
- Illustration above: Secretary - MacKay Homestead, Genesee Country Village, & Museum
- Miscellaneous drawings - Thomas Sheraton's The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Drawing Book
- Sofa based on Plate 35 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Ornament For a Frieze of Tablet on a pier table based on Plate 56 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Arrow spindle chair - MacKay Homestead, Genesee Country Village, & Museum
- Side chairs - MacKay Homestead, Genesee Country Village, & Museum
- Accordion banquet table - MacKay Homestead, Genesee Country Village, & Museum
- Federal Gentleman's Secretary-and-Bookcase - Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Sideboard - MacKay Homestead, Genesee Country Village, & Museum
- Drop lid desk - Fairmount Park Woodford House, Philadelphia
- "George Washington Desk" - Edgar G. Miller, Jr., American Antique Furniture reprint
- Griffin panel ornament on pier table - Metropolitan Museum of Art