As a rejection of the restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth ideology during the eleven years preceding the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the last thirty years of the 17th century saw an open display of wealth in every possible way. In dress, in furnishings, in pastimes and pleasures. The ensuing reign of Queen Anne saw some restraint across the board but by the 1740's upper class society can be seen to divide between those who chose to splash their cash and those who didn't, certainly in the way they furnished their houses.
This is reflected in the pattern books of leading furniture makers of the time such as Matthias Locke and Thomas Chippendale wherein designs for chairs and tables will show an elaborately carved leg on one side and a plain straight leg on the other. In costume, men's fashion was still glamorous by today's standards, with deeply waisted frock coats and brightly coloured waistcoats, but there was less lace on display and buckles had replaced ribbon bows on shoes. However, judging by contemporary group portraits some interiors are notably austere; a picture and perhaps a looking glass, a side table or small centre table and two or three chairs. On the other hand a similarly wealthy family - bearing in mind one had to have a certain standard of living to afford a portrait - can be seen to be surrounded by luxury and exuberance. Pictures, mirrors, mantelpieces and overdoors, chairs and tables all carved with the fancy version of Mr Chippendale's design. Importantly, the predominant style at this time is known as Rococo. Emanating in France and then to Italy it arrived in England in the 1740's and was everything theatrical, dramatic, fantastical and larger than life. Using pine as the base timber it incorporated all things botanical, with Stylised Flowers and Lattice Work, Rocks and Shells, 'S' Scrolls, 'C' Scrolls and Raffle Leaves, Water Falls, Pagoda Tops and Chinese Fencing, Cluster Columns, and Garlands of every conception. All of this decoration was often covered with gesso and then water gilded, the highlights being burnished for even greater impact. Alternatively it was painted in pale grey or white and one of the finest examples of this is a mantlepiece in the British Section of Victoria and Albert Museum and should be seen just for the fun of it. Sometimes such paint has been removed or the carver's work left plain and polished, as in the frame illustrated.