A Chair That Truly Shines
A late eighteenth-century chair from Sweden, beautiful, elegant – one of eighteen. Or should we perhaps say ‘one of The Eighteen’? For those in the know, that would send a clear message that this chair can trace its history all the way back to the days of Sweden’s King Gustav III and the Swedish Academy that he founded in 1786.
From its inception the Academy’s motto has been ‘Talent and Taste’, the words enclosed within a laurel wreath, and membership of this erudite gathering has been limited to just eighteen. Indeed, in Sweden the Academy’s members are still often referred to collectively simply as ‘The Eighteen’. The king felt that the Swedish word for eighteen had a finer ring to it than the word for twenty, which had originally been conceived as the number of members.
Say what you want about Gustav III and his era, but no one can really deny that, as the Swedish man of letters, Esaias Tegnér, put it in his eulogy to the Academy in 1836, ‘there shone a splendour over his reign.’
These eighteen chairs with arms were specially commissioned for the Academy and bear the letters EÖM, the mark of Erik Öhrmark, who rose to the status of master chairmaker in the Stockholm Chairmakers’ Guild in 1777. Öhrmark (1748–1813) was one of the late Gustavian period’s foremost and most productive chairmakers.
Many learned men and women have used these chairs since the days of Gustav III. For example, the king himself appointed Count Axel von Fersen the Elder to Chair number VII as one of the original members of the Academy in 1786. The first woman to be elected to the Academy was the author Selma Lagerlöf. She was admitted in 1914 and assigned chair number VII, the same as von Fersen.
Each year the Swedish Academy awards the Nobel Prize in Literature after the members have deliberated on the choice of laureate. Over the years, authors from numerous countries and every continent have received the prestigious prize.
Dare we surmise that these chairs are stuffed and padded full of literature from way back when? And that down the years the members of the Academy (all of whom are elected for life) have fretted and sweated over the decisions to be made, joked and jested, cogitated and contemplated, and maybe even uttered the odd exasperated oath now and again, so that the gilding on the chairs has gradually faded?
At any rate, the chairs were repaired in 1853 and given a make-over in 1917, when they were also graced with new covers from Almgren’s Silk Weaving Company in Stockholm. The chairs were re-covered again in 1985, this time with fabric woven in Venice.
Who can fail to take pleasure in the restrained elegance of this beautiful chair, shimmering and sumptuous, with the laurel wreath motif woven into the fabric in the seat and backrest?
By Gun Handberg Bjerkander
Note From The Editor:
We are looking forward to announcing the results of our🌲Christmas Chair Crossword Giveaway next Tuesday. So if you haven’t yet had a go and submitted your answers, do please look at our blog post from last week.
Best wishes on this Nobel Prize Day 2019