From Egypt & England

Unmistakable influences from Egypt and England

The corona pandemic continues to play its part in ensuring that some of us still choose to sit outdoors, even though it is becoming more than a little chilly to do so. This beautiful late Gustavian chair, for instance, is enjoying a breath of fresh autumn air on the lawn.

The chair is usually to be found on the veranda in the company of her relatives, but moved out temporarily when things became a little overcrowded in there.

She answers to the name of Lotus on account of the floral embellishments that resemble lotus leaves at either end of the backrest’s three spindles. The oldest chairs to display this rather special ornamentation probably date from the 1790s. Initially lotus leaves were carved at both the top and bottom extremities of the spindles. With the passage of time, however, the spindles were shaped to taper towards the base, and the lotus leaves appeared only at the top. Popular colours for such chairs were grey or a shade simulating mahogany, the wood typically used for the English originals that served as models for this design.

The lotus is an aquatic plant that is found throughout much of Asia and in northern Australia.

The oldest examples of lotus ornamentation are found in the rock tombs at Beni Hasan in Egypt. Some of the pillars there have capitals that boast magnificent lotus bud decorations, a truly ancient symbol that is prevalent in Indian, East Asian and Egyptian art.

As for the English influence that is evident in this elegant chair, there is little doubt that our thanks there should be directed to the furniture designer Thomas Sheraton (1751–1806). He rose to fame in 1793 with his exquisitely illustrated work “The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing Book”. Sheraton’s neo-classical designs share a close kinship with Swedish Gustavian style, and his numerous illustrations of features such as backrests show an unfailing eye for enduring elegance, good taste and beautiful lines.

The late Gustavian chair is decorated with an egg-and-dart relief along the apron, the rails and around the backrest, with a little additional flourish on the crest rail. May we presume that the ornamentation there is a representation of acanthus leaves? This ornamentation also has an ancient provenance as a decorative element on pillars, most extensively in the capitals of Corinthian orders. Acanthus plants were already being cultivated for decorative purposes in classical times, and have long remained a favourite among artists and craftspeople.

By Gun Bjerkander Handberg

Note from the editor:

Winter is coming, filled with long, chilly days and possibly a little extra self-isolation this year? It is a good time to catch up on some reading and there are 2 elegant books written by the author of this blog, Gun Bjerkander Handberg to enjoy.

The books are published by Vind & Våg Publishing House, a boutique British publishers, and are available to order online by following this link or by typing PLEASE BE SEATED HISTORIC CHAIRS into your search engine.

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