Just A Whiff of Elegance..
The fact is that I remember these two chairs much better than the rather fuzzy photo suggests.
It’s all long ago in the past now, but at the time I was part of the family that owned these two golden chairs with arms. At some later stage a tiny round table, topped with a thin slab of stone, had been made in the same style, and the three items of furniture were placed to form an attractive little trio, bathed in light in a beautiful bay window in a grand old city-centre building. It was on the fourth floor, if my memory serves me correctly.
What more could anyone desire than to sit at the tiny round table, sipping tea and eating biscuits?
The chairs were so comfortable that they invited all who sat in them to happily drink cup after cup of milky tea while partaking of far too many biscuits.
The chairs were made in Sweden around the end of the eighteenth century in a style known as ‘Gustavian’ after the Swedish monarch at the time, King Gustav III. (The corresponding style in France, where the genre evolved, is called Louis Seize.) ‘Gilded and with padded rectangular back and seat. Straight legs, turned and fluted, with rosette motifs. Crest rails and seat rails with carved floral ornamentation.’ Thus were the chairs described for prospective purchasers in an auction house catalogue in the autumn of 1977. To borrow the title of a famous song by the Swedish entertainer Karl Gerhard (1891–1964), the two chairs offered ‘a whiff of elegance’.
More than 40 years have passed since then, but when I cast my mind back to those days, I can still conjure up the image of a big, lively rottweiler hurtling around the spacious apartment. She was always so delighted when she was taken to visit the place; it heralded the opportunity for her to scamper around the furniture, dash up and down the hall and corridors, scurry out into the kitchen and then seek out her mistress, who would be sitting in one of the Gustavian chairs, drinking tea in the bay window.
As always, if you just give your memories the chance to crystallise, the outlines become so much clearer, the details far more specific than what may be gleaned from a hasty glance at a fuzzy picture in an old auction catalogue.
Yet this is just a fraction of all the many tales these antique chairs have to tell. For there can be no doubting that they, too, have their own recollections from a couple of hundred years of dramatic events during a long lifetime – of war and peace, pestilence and privation, ragamuffins, drunkards and military top brass, housemaids and well-to-do ladies lipsticked in red, children at play, couples in love, sumptuous drawing rooms and sweet music. Much more than what mere biscuits and a lively rottweiler added to the narrative in the late 1960s.
Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Note From The Editor:
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You can find two publications by author Gun Bjerkander Handberg online now uncovering more tales of historic chair.