turned cherry wood bowl

Philadelphia Oval Ball and Claw Stool

The original of this piece is in the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. This is a copy of a piece made in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century. Philadelphia furniture was dark, heavy, and went in for lots of acanthus leaves carved on the legs. It has the ball and claw motif on the foot.

The use of the ball and claw is an interesting story in furniture making. It was copied by English cabinet makers who borrowed it from the English silversmiths. They, in turn, had copied it from the Chinese dragon claw and egg which was a sacred symbol in the Orient.

When trade began to open up between Europe and the East, many design influences made their way west, and the ball and claw adaptation of the dragon claw and egg was one of them.

So it was not original with English or American cabinetmakers. This supports my contention that there is nothing new under the sun. Everything is a copy of something else whether man made or made by nature.

We don’t need to claim authorship for “original ideas.” Better we be judged on how well we have executed them. I also prefer a good reproduction to a bad original.

The oval stool is more of a challenge to make than a piece of furniture with a rectangular carcass. The rails are fitted to the legs with dowels and this makes the piece a bit less sturdy.

It is a piece of furniture that would be used on special occasions, and the rest of the time it would reside in the formal drawing room.

The stool is made of mahogany. I would hate to think of the effort required to carve this in a less forgiving wood such as cherry. Mahogany carves very easily and thus was favored by eighteenth century craftsmen for highly embellished furniture.