having strong connections to France and seen regularly in that country during
the Renaissance, the Savonarola Chair is a distinctly Italian creation that has
captivated us ever since we were teenagers.
We take pains to keep several pairs in stock at all times but they have
become increasingly difficult to find - especially ones like these - heavy,
elaborately carved, and unusually sturdy.
For more about how such chairs got their name (and the other names they
may mistakenly go by such as "Dante" and "Dagobert") follow
Thisset of chairs commands attention for its most unusual crest rail. It is tall and divided into a high, central
zone and two lower, outer zones. Each
zone is capped by a stylized scallop shell.
The central zone is filled with an escutcheon in whose center is an
inverted teardrop. Dividing the outer zones
from the central one are crouching lions complete with elaborately carved
manes, paws, and tails. These figures
are placed against a background of textured (hammered) walnut resembling the
rustication of buildings such as the Medici-Riccardi Palace in Florence.
Extendingout from the frame in which the crest rail sits are intricately carved armrests
culminating in lions' heads. These
lions seem less ferocious than the ones on the crest rail and have a sleepy,
almost dog-like quality to the design. Completing the references to lions are the chairs' feet in the
lion's paw design, something characteristic of the original Savonarola chair
design but missing from the ones so prevalent on the Web and dating from the
1940s or 1950s.
Unliketypical designs, these Savonarola chairs have additional flourishes of sculpted
decoration on the front ribs comprising the armrests and the legs. Below the seat, the scallop shell motif is
seen again, but this time it is inverted.
The exuberance of ornament makes this pair unique among the dozens we
have offered over the years.
chairs have been rendered non-folding
-- a condition likely responsible for their preservation. The X-shape of the arms, intersecting at the
seat, and extending to become the legs, is unusual and especially
well-constructed owing to eight ribs rather than the typical six ribs on each
side (characteristic of later and less well-preserved chairs). Like all the chairs we offer, they are
eminently usable and comfortable for sitting, not just admiring.
et Objets D'Art 10, Le Mobilier Italien (Editions Fabri, Paris, 1990);
Costantino Fioratti, Helen, Il Mobile Italiano (Giunti Editore, Firenze-Milano,
2004); Rousseau, Francis, Le Grand Livre des Meubles (Copyright Studio, Paris,