Two Eighteenth Century Chairs

Sometimes opinions can vary widely. That is certainly true of these antique chairs from Sweden.

The older of the two, the one on the left, exhibits Late Baroque characteristics.

The one on the right, on the other hand, is more suggestive of the Rococo aesthetic: the typical “keyhole” in the baluster-shaped backrest and the curved seat rails are tell-tale signs of what is going on here. This chair is in its original condition, other than having been spruced up with a new coat of paint.

The earlier chair has been fitted with a new, low H-stretcher between the legs – a rather insensitive, matter-of-fact addition that is a stark mismatch with the lines of the original front and rear legs. Still, at least it means no one’s trying to hoodwink anybody. What you see is what you get, so to speak. And this chair, too, has been given a new coat of paint.

What stand to take in matters such as this is, however, the subject of heated debate. Should one show clearly and incontrovertibly what has been replaced? Or should a skilled furniture restorer be commissioned to construct a perfect H-stretcher that will be good enough to deceive even the most experienced eye, once the chair has been repainted and made presentable?

Perhaps this is a question we should pose to the older of the two chairs … Aha, I see. So that’s it, is it? The chair doesn’t think very highly of the ruler-straight lines of its new stretcher. That’s not at all how things were in the beginning: no chair looked like that in the days when this one was made. A subtle but clearly visible curve is all that would have been needed to do the job and ensure a far better match with the legs. Straight H-stretchers only became a common feature with the advent of Gustavian style, when they were introduced to complement the straighter chair legs of that era. Gustavian chairs from Lindome in the south-west of Sweden are a good example of the cleaner, no-nonsense lines that came into vogue towards the end of the 1700s and beyond.

I can’t help smiling when I conjure up in my mind’s eye an exquisitely framed portrait of some handsome man from the Late Baroque, dressed in gorgeous clothes with a powdered wig on his head, while on his feet someone has put – or rather, painted – a pair of comfortable trainers in light-blue artificial leather with thick white rubber soles!

New fuel is added to fan the flames of the heated debate …

By Gun Bjerkander Handberg

Notes from the Editor:

Our latest publication by Gun Bjerkander Handberg is now available online. Historic Chairs A Blog Anthology / Stolar med historia En bloggantologi is a book with both the original Swedish language text and English translations documenting a selection of 36 hand-picked blog stories shared in one beautiful publication.

If you have enjoyed the concept of the blog and would possibly like to buy or share a copy of this latest publication please get in touch by leaving a message in the comments section and we can send you a link to how you can order the book.

Historic Chairs – A Blog Anthology / Stolar Med Historia – En Bloggantolgi ISBN: 9781739122607