David’s Chair

This early nineteenth-century bergère immediately brings to mind David’s 1800 painting of Madame Récamier. I feel sure the Parisian socialite would have felt quite at home here, with the addition of an exclusive little silk cushion to assure her comfort.

Madame Juliette Récamier, painted by Jacques-Louis David

A mahogany-framed chair, probably hailing from England, with back, sides and seat of woven cane, its graceful, elegant lines are sure to convey an impression of dignified utility in any drawing-room setting. A distant cousin, perhaps, of what we sometimes refer to as tub chairs?

Yes, the nineteenth century did have its bright spots, especially when you consider just how many different types of chair it produced.

A Swede born in, let’s say, 1805, who was privileged to enjoy a long life would have been witness to the gradual demise of Gustavian style, the rise to dominance of Empire style (Karl-Johan style, as it is often referred to here), and the added spice of a dash of Gothic Revival.

If this person were to live long enough to celebrate their three score years and ten, he or she may well have received a 70th birthday present in the form of a soft, well-upholstered “Emma chair” of the type that was all the rage at the time. With its springs, frills, tassels and plump padding on every available surface, the Emma chair was a far cry from the tasteful simplicity of the mahogany chair and its striking rattan canework in a rural English setting. (But, no doubt, a good deal more comfortable!)

Rattan was imported into Europe from around the mid-1600s and became particularly popular for constructing cane seats and chair-backs in England.

The sabre legs are another typical feature on chairs from this period . These curved lines were frequently reserved for the back legs on a chair, while the straight front legs harked back to the idiom of Gustavian style.

After a little research on the internet I discovered an antique dealer in the south of England who is offering a delightful child’s chair for sale – just like the one pictured here, but in a size suited to children. The text describes it as a “good child’s high chair with table.”

Gun Bjerkander Handberg

Note from Editor:

We are excited to announce that very shortly our latest publication Please Be Seated – Winnie & Bessie is being launched in the UK and will soon be available from major online books sellers around the globe. In this beautifully produced hardback book of new historic chairs tales, the latest collection of musings by our blog author and antiques expert Gun Bjerkander Handberg can be found and enjoyed.

Please Be Seated Winnie & Bessie, ISBN: 9780992708498, published by Vind & Våg Publishing House, 2021

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