Antique furniture enthusiasts love details, including whimsical and functional carved feet of chairs, tables, secretaries and highboys. The "Field Guide to American Antique Furniture" helps antique furniture buyers identify many charming foot motif designs, including arrow, block, ball, claw-and-ball, Dutch, French, Spanish, lion's paw, paw, Marlborough, onion, scrolled, and drake footed furniture. Identifying the legs and feet on fine antique furniture may provide clues about its origin.
The arrow foot's cylindrical, tapered design separates from the furniture leg with a rounded, turned ring. Windsor chairs frequently use the arrow foot or the blunt arrow, a slightly more broadened, squat design. The arrow foot may attach to a slender or fluted leg. Used in Sheraton and Hepplewhite designs in England and the United States, the arrow foot became popular around 1750.
The claw-and-ball foot remains beloved by furniture owners in the United States. The eagle's claw version of the claw-and-ball helps identify an American origin. The lion's paw type suggests a European origin. The ball grasped by the claw is either polished and carved wood or crystal. Chippendale-inspired furniture in the early United States includes versions from Massachusetts, in which the claw feet and ball form a triangle from the side view; New York, in which the eagle grasps a squared ball; Philadelphia, displaying eagle's talons with intricate details; and Rhode Island, in which blunt talons clutch an egg-shaped oval ball.
The monopodium foot usually ends with the lion's paw. The designs above the paw may include the horn of plenty, wings or scrolls. The monopodium foot is named for the single-based tables of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman designs. This foot type presents on chairs, bookcases, tables and sideboards. The monopodium foot became popular during the 19th century. This mysterious design appears in Greek Revival period furniture. Empire and Regency furniture may also feature the monopodium foot.
Hoof or Pied-de-Biche Foot
The hoof foot, carved to reflect the natural appearance of an animal such as a deer or horse, appeared in fine furniture at the end of the 1600s. Antique buyers often see the hoof foot with the cabriole leg. The hoof foot is sometimes called the pied-de-biche, or deer's foot, in the trade. The hoof foot appears in William and Mary and Queen Anne designs. It was popular in stately furniture throughout the 1700s.
The delightfully whimsical dolphin foot uses the shape of a fish or dolphin's head. The motif may continue up the often curved leg or through the base. The dolphin design appeared in chairs and table feet in the United States and England in the 18th and 19th centuries. The dolphin foot also appears in design-rich Empire, Biedermeier and Regency furniture.