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From the darkness to the light: Set of 8 Gustavian painted sidechairs, circa 1790

We are proud to be offering this exquisite set of Gustaviansk side chairs. As we mentioned, Gustav III stole away to Paris unnoticed to study their design, and these are perfect illustrations of what he came up with. Impeccably restored by the Stockholm Museum and acquired just last week, these represent the fulcrum point between the wane of Bold and Gold and the rise of Neoclassicism, birthing what we know of as Danish and Swedish modern.

At first glance, you are convinced that these are 1920's, and then you look underneath the seat, and see the hand hewn quality and the thickness of the frame is much thicker than it is today. And with that, we thank the dry and cold climate of Northern Europe.

Gustav did his own little take on these seats. We begin with the white paint signature to the region, famed for its ability to reflect light, light so direly needed in the epic and long winters of the North. Each carved surface contributed to this strategy as well: every apron bead, column, and foliage motif. Coupled with what was originally bone-white paint, they reflected as much light as possible. It was an earnest attempt at disco balls in the 1790's.

Later on, and with the advent of more light, this decorative functionality gave way to the ultra-minimal Swedish modern look. And we see those seeds here as well. The shield shaped back, though a direct copy of the French, is cleaner and simpler than it's inspiration, as is the paired down seat. It was still a time for big dresses, so the seat is overscaled to the back, more of a perch than a lean-in. We imagine perpetual dusks with the maidens upright, light shimmering to its best ability, beckoning a tranquility.

As always, we trace the surfaces, the construction, and the finishing to its roots and listen to the conversations in design that trace back millennia. For example, the Garrya husk foliage, refers to Pompeii and Herculaneum. That foliage truly had the longest design career of all traveling all the way from near-ancient Italy through Mediterranean and Western Europe to, in this case, the northern seas of Sweden.


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