Victorian Balloon Back Dining Chairs
A natural progression of the balloon back chair came during the 1840s, when the chairs entered their second phase and Victorian balloon back chairs were born.
More curvature was introduced, resulting in a more rounded mid-rail and crest, but still tapering to give a narrow waist at the seat, which now became over stuffed with horsehair and more serpentine in shape with increased buttons. The legs remained the same as in the late Regency Period with straight octagonal shape front legs and outward curving back legs. Although experimentation in the wood used for the chairs took place, including the use of cane, the most popular choices remained mahogany or walnut.
The third stage of the chairs development coincided with the Great Exhibition in 1851 where visitors saw a wide variety of Victorian balloon back dining chairs on display. The backs of the chairs now incorporated elaborate carved details and could have an upholstered panel instead of a mid-rail. Cabriole, Rocco, and reeded turned tapering legs began to be used and whilst outward curving back legs remained in favour, chairs with all four legs curving outward appeared and became increasingly popular. Gothic Revival cusps and foils together with heavy scrolling in the Empire style appeared on the backs, along the rails, and on the apron of the chairs. Occasionally, a heavily yoked back with a straight mid-rail was used and, whilst it is still a balloon back chair, collectors call this variant a “buckle back”. There was also more variety in the use of fabrics for the seat and backs ranging from embossed velvet through to caning.
At the present time, the market is plagued with reproductions and fakes so consulting a specialist retailer is important as their knowledge and experience is invaluable when purchasing genuine Victorian balloon back dining chairs.