folding chairs history : medieval ...........................................................................................................................................................................................

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THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF FOLDING CHAIRS
© designboom

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ancient history
folding chairs / medieval
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the folding stool as a ceremonial chair developed in
two ways : one secular, and the other ecclesiastical.

the makeup of the roman 'sella curulis' assumes,
through the longobard 'sella plicatilis' in steel,
the form of the carolingian 'faldistorium'.
here we notice another typological alteration.
the crossed legs are frontal instead of being placed laterally.
this was to emphasize the crossing 'X' structure which became
a re-inforced symbol of authority.
the most emblematic example is the throne of dagobert I,
king of the franconians (arm- and backrests were added
later). the 'faldistorium' in time acquired arms and a back,
while retaining its folding shape. the most famous,
as well as the most ancient, english chair is that made
at the end of the 13th century for edward I., in which most
subsequent monarchs have been crowned.

in spite of this, it was mostly used in ecclesiastical settings.
we can assume that christianism, (the newly adopted official
religion), was the factor that made this radical change,
as 'sella curulis', such an official symbol, had to be altered to
break with the past and the X, the cross symbol,
to be shown in front view. the 'faldistorium' became
also the archbishop's kneeling stool.
this new function remained through the renaissance.
(in oriental cultures, where the cross symbol had not such
an importance, alteration from side- to front- X has never
been made.)

front- X became the norm untill in the renaissance
the 'chair of petrarca' and the sissors chair / 'sedia a tenaglia'
restored the crossed legs placed laterally.

'endowed ' bishops chairs of the mid 13th century,
with crossed legs normally were not foldable,
the 'X' structure had exclusively symbolic value.

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renaissance

the (pre) renaissance folding stools had an interesting
alteration of their front X by multiplicating the X-s on the
Z axis. visually like an object in opposite mirrors or like a
concertina barrier which expands on the Z axis.
this was an extraordinary stylistic discovery,
giving the stool - that descended from the faldistorium -
the necessary depth, while making it extremely light,
yet strong. the frontal X also gave the armrests.

the typology of the folding 'chair' officially appeared with
the renaissance. in the 16th century we find the the
scissors chair / 'sedia a forbice'.
there are two principal variations:
the 'savonarola' and the 'dantesca', followed by the
pincer chair / 'sedia a tenaglia'.
this chair represents the return of the crossed legs placed
laterally.
both versions have been used since.

the renaissance revived strongly the curved-legs shape,
most probably of roman 'sella curulis' inspiration.
it is to note that the 'savonarola' and the 'dantesca' had
a more elaborated shape of the curved X
- a kind of double curve - giving the illusion
of the left/right side of the frontal X being made out
of a single piece.

another famous renaissance chair is the chair of the poet
petrarca. the 'petrarca' chair with crossed legs was not foldable,
because of its fixed joints, but it could be easily assembled.
the 'X' structure had mostly symbolic value.


the folding chair -
its history as symbol of authority is also traceable in the
following cultures.
see asia





carolingan 'faldistorium'



'sella plicatilis' civic museum, pavia, italy



'hortus deliciarium', a medieval manuscript
is showing herodes on his 'faldistorium' throne,
a front X version chair in a biblical scene.



throne of dagobert I,
king of the franconians



not foldable base of a medieval stool,
X- structure has only a symbolic value.



endowed chair, not foldable





monk writing a manuscript, sitting on a 'scissors stool'



folding 'scissors' armchair



pope julius II and the folding kneeling stool
(detail of a fresco by raphael:
'la messa di bolseno', the vatican museum, rome)



english folding chair 14th century



'savonarola' chairs,
16th century, tuscany, italy



'dantesca' chairs,
16th century, tuscany, italy



pincer chair / 'sedia a tenaglia', ca. 1530
casa bagatti valsecchi, milano, italy



pincer chairs / 'sedie a tenaglia', 1530
palazzo davanzati, florence, italy



'sedia a tenaglia', 'modern version' ca. 1560,
villa maser (andrea palladio), italy



folding chair, ca. 1550,
museum citta di castello, italy



'petrarca' or 'glastonbury' chair, not foldable



variation of the 'faldistorium' stool, 1580



THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF FOLDING CHAIRS
© designboom
(compiled by birgit lohmann - a thesis publication, july 1988, revised in june 2003)

this history timeline is provided for educational purposes only,
no reproduction, re-use or transcription for any commercial purpose or use of the content or images is permitted.
a print-publication will soon be available, for inquieries : [email protected]

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