Pair of Italian Fruitwood Louis XVI Side Chairs circa 1780 | Antique and Art Exchange

The History of Seating

A dear friend was interested in knowing more about caning. In case you are unfamiliar with this technique, its the weaving of narrow strips of wood or, most commonly, rattan palm into intricate mesh patterns that provide flexible support in a good proportion of antique furniture. It is also worth noting prior to springs and foam, it was not uncommon for burlap straps to be woven together to add support to seating and hold wool or cotton padding in place. Often fancier pieces incorporating this technique were topped with a feather cushion.

I find the history of seating and its development over time fascinating. For most of human history people would sit on benches, stumps or naturally formed ledges. This still rings true in many parts of the world. Archeological sights place the development of thrones and chairs back almost 6000 years. Egyptians used weaves similar to caning to add flexible support and strengthen seating. It is only been in the last few hundred years that chairs have become more commonplace. In terms of chronological development, I imagine seating began with the invention of the stool or bench, and then with the development of the bench with a back, and chairs with arms. These days, its hard–amusing, even, to imagine life without chairs… but I assure you of two things: First, I have only sat on a couple of great chairs in 50+ years. The rest are just OK. Second, most of world is quite content with their beds and benches, and are otherwise happy to lean, squat or sit on improvised surfaces. A great chair is amazing. I strongly suggest you try to find one that you can spend some time with. I am convinced even 1st class airlines seats are the work of the devil.


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