The Klismos Chair

March 16 2011, 11:17am

This chair, one of a set of four neoclassical chairs in our collection,  is derived from the klismos chair, a Greek invention that evolved from a simple throne. Splayed, sabre-form legs and uprights connected by a concave backrest are characteristics of these chairs, which became popular in the late-18th and 19th centuries for their gracefulness and lightness of form, as well as their reference to antiquity. The present chairs are illustrative of the variations on the klismos form that occurred at the end of 18th century during the Neoclassical period in Italy, when furniture was relieved of ornament in favor of simple lines more closely modeled on its classical forbears.

The design of the present chairs, each with an open back centered by a pierced roundel, is closely related to a set of ten documented chairs in the Villa Borghese, Rome, carved by Lucia Landucci in 1784 (right). Landucci was the daughter, or possibly widow, of Antonio Landucci, principal intagliatore (carver) responsible for the refurbishment of the Villa Borghese. Not much is known about Lucia, but there exists documentation of payments made to her for furniture commissions for the Borghese Palace, including payment for a table made for the Stanza di Apollo e Dafne in 1785. (The table unfortunately no longer exists, but was recorded in drawings by French architect Charles Percier, who visited Rome circa 1786-91.) A reinterpretation of the chairs was also found in the former living room of Queen Friederike Luise at Schloss Monbijou, a Rococo palace in Berlin built in 1706 but destroyed during World War II. Monbijou was redesigned as a gallery to display the Royal collections and opened as a Hohenzollern museum in 1877. The chairs can be seen in situ in the museum in a photograph circa 1930 (left).