Over the years, the style of antique furniture has changed dramatically. From the sweeping, ornate style of Baroque, to the restrained clean lines of Arts and Crafts furniture. The same can be said for the details, for example the humble foot has yielded many different styles and designs throughout the ages. Here, we have a look at some of the designs which take their inspiration from nature, specifically the animal kingdom.
The ball and claw foot style is thought to originate in China with the ball being a pearl and the claw being a dragon’s claw. This sculptural style was first adapted by the English in the early eighteenth century, who changed the dragon claw to an eagle or lions claw. This type of foot was mainly used in the Edwardian period onwards but was copied from earlier designs when animal features were often used in decorating furniture.
Ball and Claw Foot. The Past Perfect Collection
This is a variation of the ball and claw feet, omitting the ball altogether. They usually depict carved animal claws, for example lions, dogs or eagles. They may also be made from brass with a small coaster underneath. Highly decorative and ornamental, claw feet have lots of personality and style.
Claw Feet. The Past Perfect Collection
Another variation is the monopodium foot. This time the foot consists of a carved animal paw with an ornate extension above it, often of a scroll, vine or foliage of some sort. Again, the animal foot is usually one of a lion and it appeared on monopodium (single-base) tables inspired by ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian designs, but can also be found on other furniture like sofas and chairs.
Monopodium Foot. The Past Perfect Collection
This is a really ornate carved furniture foot in the shape of the head of a dolphin or sometimes a fish. A very old design but was used specifically for feet around the mid 1700s. Sometimes the motif is extended into the leg (usually curved) or base of the piece and if used on a chair, may have matching carved arms.
Dolphin Foot. Credit: The Cobbs Auctioneers
This design developed alongside the cabriole leg and is usually found at the end of such legs. It is an early style, around the end of the 17th century, which depicts a carved foot made to look like a realistic animal hoof, usually a deer. It is also known as a pied-de-biche which translates to deer’s foot in French.
Hoof Foot. Credit: Pia's Antique Gallery
Also known as a drake foot this carved foot has three toes which resemble a stylised animal paw resting on a base. It is characteristic of 18th century design and often appears on chairs and footstools. It was especially popular in Ireland and Philadelphia and often appears in Queen Anne-style and early Chippendale-style pieces.
Trifid Foot. Credit: Jane Tompson Antiques
So, the next time you are browsing antiques, take a minute to consider the details in each piece. The artisan who made it has taken great care and skill to create such a characterful item. The feet can help to date the piece but more than that they add great fun and personality to the furniture and who wouldn’t want to own furniture with animal feet?