The Tomato Chairs

Eighteenth-century Swedish Salon Chairs

The little boy who is racing around, blowing for all he is worth on the whistle he has just discovered, finds time to pause and to state with conviction that the chairs are as red as tomatoes.

This is the signal for the question of the chairs’ colour to be taken up as the subject of discussion among the adults in the room where the two chairs stand. Opinions differ. Someone says English red. An elderly gentleman suggests russet. The boy, however, is not to be deterred: ‘Tomato red!’ After careful consideration one lady diffidently ventures that the chairs may be a shade of mahogany.

Yes, colours can be problematical at times – especially in company that is red-green colour blind. That’s when you have to rely on the judgment of others. After due deliberation, however, consensus is reached. The chairs have been painted with iron oxide pigment. They are, in other words, English red.

These two chairs were bought – after careful consideration – at auction.

The coloured finish is much younger than the chairs themselves. Perhaps it dates from some time well into the second half of the twentieth century. It is strange to the touch, almost as if it is not 100% dry, but still a little sticky.

The chairs are Swedish Rococo with unmistakable English-Dutch features, maybe from the 1760s or 1770s.

The contour-sawn baluster splat has a keyhole piercing. Balusters – almost invariably vase-shaped – are sometimes compared to a pear, although the word itself is said to derive from an Italian term for a pomegranate flower.

The seat is detachable and sits on a wooden frame, so it can easily be re-covered.

Leather covers are quite the fashion, and it’s great fun to bounce ideas with others about the choice of colour. The little boy’s mind, however, is already made up: the leather must be orange, the same shade as for the fruit itself. He seems genuinely perplexed when his opinion isn’t immediately endorsed.

‘What about brown leather?’ suggests a dear friend, who feels it would go well with the red pigment.

‘No, no!’ protests the boy, conceding that the leather could perhaps be dappled black and white to resemble cowhide, before insisting once again that orange would undoubtedly be best.

What was eventually decided before the chair was entrusted to the upholsterer, I do not know. I am, however, left in absolutely no doubt at all that the young man, who at the time had recently celebrated his eighth birthday, had strong opinions about the colour of the chairs and that of their new leather covers.

By Gun Bjerkander Handberg

Note from the Editor:

Hoping that the sun is shinning with all our blog followers. The latest publication PLEASE BE SEATED – WINNIE & BESSIE by Gun Bjerkander Handberg is now available online at Amazon and other online book stores.

This is the third book in the Please Be Seated series and features 21 historic chairs from around the globe.

Order your copy today and support this blog and author Gun Bjerkander Handberg.

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