Celebrated Artifacts: Cross-Framed Chairs


If you’ve seen this kind of chair before you’ve probably equated it with royal court or ecclesiastical uses. X-shaped frame chairs were first used in Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece used by authorities or magistrates. The folding chair for everyday use originated in medieval Italy. It was a light and practical form that spread through Europe during the Renaissance. The form was revived during the Neo-classical period, and continued its popularity through the 19thcentury.

There a few ways to classify these chairs depending on the specific design.


Dante or Dantesca chairs:

Commonly used during the Italian Renaissance. Chairs with four legs the extended to support arm and back rests. The arms end in scrolls and continue all the way up to the back support. Some were folding, and some were not. These chair had legs that formed s-curves. These chairs typically have a boss (a wooden or stone protrusion or knob in an ornamental shape) where the legs intersect. The chairs were apparently named for Dante, the famous Italian poet of the late middle ages, known for the Divine Comedy. We have one of these in our store!


Savonarola chairs:

Another type of x-frame folding chair with arm rests and a back rests, but with several narrow wooden slats, rather than four legs, still in an s-curve shape. This chair is named after the Italian Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, well known in Florence during the Italian Renaissance. It was a possibility that Savonarola did use a chair like this, however, this chair originated before the Renaissance, as an image of this chair with wooden slats, but without a back exists from the 1st century.


Probber Chairs:

Created by furniture designer Harvey Probber during the mid-20th century. This is a practical and updated mid-century modern version of the form that became famous during the Renaissance. Probber focused his work on modular furniture that could be independently created and then used in different systems.

Considering that figures of authority tended to sit in this style of chairs, this might have been a very, very early precursor to the development of the shape of a director’s chair

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Pincer Chairs, Scissor Chairs, or Sedie a tenaglia:

First appearing in the late 15th century, and persisting throughout the 16thcentury, these chairs also use wooden slats for the legs, but fold horizontally, rather than vertically. Mainly produced in Italy, these chairs were also found in the Alpine region of Europe. Because the x frame of the chair is seen from the side, rather than the front, this chair provides the benefit or being able to extend the legs to create a comfortable backrest.