I wonder what will become of them?

I wonder what will become of them?

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! It’s enough to break your heart. Whatever has happened to these two Rococo chairs? Rescued from a house fire? Remnants of a Walpurgis Night bonfire? Or perhaps simply victims of a beastly blowtorch?

What an uncha(i)ritable way to be treated. Yet, despite it all, it’s good that they still have one another – that they’re a pair, a couple.

Now it’s up to their new owner to alleviate their suffering by helping to patch them up.

Starting with new seats may be a suitable pick-me-up, and the right choice of seat cover should raise their spirits further. Just think what a touch of rouge or a dash of lipstick can do for us when we’re feeling horrid and harried.

Rococo style originated around 1730 in France, where it is often called Louis Quinze after the French king of the time. Furnishings had sensuously undulating surfaces, asymmetrical lines, curvilinear forms and, not infrequently, a little sculpted seashell here and a tiny sculpted flower there. Rococo style is light, graceful and whimsical. The pomp and grandiosity of the Baroque era is just a fading memory: instead, the scene is set for shepherds and shepherdesses to take the stage.

These two salon chairs with their gently curved backs, pierced baluster-shaped splats and curved legs with an H-stretcher have English-Dutch forbears. The double-curved front legs – cabriole legs, as they are known – have their origins in China and date back to the 1600s. No wonder thoughts turn to all those English Queen Anne chairs that exhibit these elegantly bowed legs, often terminating in a ball-and-claw foot. The cabriole legs of the Rococo period are a legacy of previous eras, but with gentler curves than their predecessors displayed. That’s the way things are, of course. We are all related in one way or other, even if we are separated by land and sea.

This type of chair is known as Swedish Rococo – fairly compact and, in most cases, easy to place. It’s a character that readily assures a chair of star billing in any room, where it easily becomes the dominant topic of conversation. A cup of strong coffee may be necessary, however, as there is a tendency for comments and opinions on the subject to be sharply divided on occasions.

What prompted someone to buy these chairs in such a forlorn condition? Maybe the answer lies in the fact that the purchaser already has a pair of Rococo chairs at home and longed for a few more. There is an antique dealer in the family and a furniture restorer, too. Provincial work is much appreciated and the temptation to save the chairs seemed hard to resist. Perhaps the new owner is simply a hopeless romantic, for whom rickety and dilapidated antiques are nothing to disparage, especially when skilled craftsmen are close at hand, should their assistance be required.

After contemplating the chairs for a while, I am struck by the recollection of Rembrandt’s famous painting, ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp’. Could this not possibly be the anatomy lesson of a chair, with an invisible Doctor Tulp? Look carefully. There are some striking similarities, are there not?

‘The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp’ was painted by Rembrandt in 1632 and is housed at the Mauritshuis Art Museum in The Hague, Netherlands.

By Gun Bjerkander Handberg


Our latest book, Please Be Seated – Winnie & Bessie by Gun Bjerkander Handberg is now available online. It features interesting historic chairs from all over the world.

Please Be Seated – Winnie & Bessie

Filled with tales of historic chairs (and some rather wonderful dogs who enjoy sitting on them too!), it is a charming book penned by our blog author Gun Bjerkander Handberg.

Order the book on Amazon or wherever you buy your books online.

ISBN: 9780992708498

Publisher: Vind & Våg Publishing