Claws, paws and hooves
Furniture based on the anatomy of wildlife dates back 3,000 years to the animal-worshiping Egyptians, whose beds stood on carved bull legs, gazelle hooves or lion feet. Four-legged beasts also influenced the design of chairs and tables of the Greeks and Romans, who used them for strength as well as decorative detail. The hoof or pied-de-biche 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.
The ball & claw design on the other hand was most likely derived from the Chinese: a dragon’s claw grasping a crystal ball, or a pearl, or sometimes a sacred, flaming jewel. In Chinese mythology, the dragon (Emperor) would be guarding (with the triple claw foot) the symbol (ball – for wisdom, or purity) from evil forces trying to steal it. Another interpretation is that the ball symbolizes a polished river stone being held firmly by a crane, who stands diligently over her nest. English cabinetmakers are credited with transforming the dragon’s claw into a bird’s talon or a lion’s paw; the lion representing English authority. Here are a few examples of various claws, paws and hooves that can be be seen at the upcoming show.
An elegant French Maison Baguès 1940's gilt-bronze coffee/cocktail table with ram's head caps ending in hoofed feet and Carrara marble top.
From Yew Tree House Antiques:
An impressive 19th century English country house entrance hall table standing on hairy lion paw feet, with a striking green-veined marble top.
From Clinton Howell Antiques:
A superb set of eight George II carved mahogany dining chairs with carved cabriole legs terminating in ball and claw feet. English, Circa 1750.
From Daniel Stein Antiques:
A fine Regency mahogany and ebony inlaid serving table, featuring columnar fluted supports headed with superbly carved lions masks and terminating in paw feet, circa 1825.
From Roberto Freitas American Antiques:
A Massachusetts Chippendale carved mahogany serpentine-front chest of drawers with cabriole legs ending in ball-and-claw feet, circa 1780-1785.