Monday, July 2, 2012

I Love Klismos Chairs


Examples of Grecian Klismos Chairs found on Ceramics

Grecian Klismos Chair
I have a passion for just about everything neoclassical, but neoclassical chairs send me into another realm. And those of you who are addicted to chairs know what I mean. In fact, I have instructed my friends to hold my hand/arm down whenever they see me bidding on more antique chairs... At one point I had over 40 chairs in my smallish shop (and that does not include sofas and benches/stools). I can look at a chair, associate it with the hair style of a certain era and immediately visualize who may have been sitting on it and what she was wearing....just a little distorted (I know).

This a superb example of a Baltimore
painted and gilt  "fancy chair"
The examples of Grecian chairs from the 5th or 4th centuries B.C. are the models from which all subsequent klismos chairs derive. The Grecian chair first appeared in the 4th c. B.C.; was perfected in the 5th c. B.C......and then saw it's first resurrection in Paris of the late 18th c., around 1786-87 and was further developed by the the French Maitre, Georges Jacob. The klismos chair, and Neoclassicism, reached its peak in the early 19th c. with French Empire and English Regency, Swedish Gustavian and German/Austrian Biedermeier.  In the mid-20th century the "Hollywood Regency" style prompted a revival of the neoclassical form.  

Here are a few examples of early 19th c. klismos chairs.

Early 19th c. American Klismos Chairs
Note the beautiful front saber legs terminating in carved paw feet on these gorgeous American chairs that were created in Boston. The swagged backs reference Grecian drape.

Antique Klismos Chairs

Regency c. 1805 Klismos Chair

The chair directly above the pair of Gustavian Blue seated klismos chairs is a Michael Smith designed chair that references the best of English neo-classical Regency design. And the Gustavian, early 19th c. Swedish side chairs are also perfection.

Steven Gambrel Klismos

Steven Gambrel Klismos

Robsjohn-Gibbings Klismos Chair c. 1937,  Metropolitan Museum 

 Now, I'm finally getting to the reason I decided to post on Klismos chairs. I was perusing the Derring Hall site the other day and came upon this fantastic NEW Neoclassical klismos chair by Steven Gambrel.......At first glance, this chair appears to be really great: cerused oak, very dramatic Grecian form, definitely a riff (sp?/real word?) on Robsjohn Gibbings mid-century design as shown directly above.

I love the design aesthetic of Steven Gambrel--I have not seen a single room designed by Gambrel that I would add to or subtract from--that said: I really don't think that the design of these chairs is up to his usual high standards. The form is highly stylized and elongated, but comfortable?....not too sure. Take note of the wood projections to the front of the seats---I can only imagine getting hung-up on these square off pieces of wood. Yes, they mimic the Robsjohn-Gibbings chair, but lack the grace and construction details of the earlier chairs. Also, (in my humble opinion) the legs are chunky and clunky rather than anticipated elegance of traditional Klismos chairs. I think that these chairs come off as impressive and stagey rather than patrician. The cerused oak is gorgeous. I think that you'll get a better idea of what I mean by comparing Steven Gambrel's chair with other examples of klismos chairs. Below are examples additional examples of iconic Robsjohn-Gibbings mid-century chairs. The connection of the first klismos chair to the Gambrel chair is clearly evident. I guess I just wish that Steven Gambrel had stayed a little closer to his personal design criteria.

Robsjohn Gibbings Klismos Chair by Saridis

Robsjohn Gibbings Klismos Dining Chair

Mid-Century Stylized Klismos Salon Chairs

These super elegant Klismos-inspired mid-20th c. Salon Chairs are another example of great American design. I have sold several versions of this chair--they always make a room sing--to bring it into 21st century design, the upholstery could be switched out to a high-end Ikat.

And now............

Mary's Mid-Century Klismos Chairs

Guess where these beauties currently reside? Yep, they are mine. I have a set of 8 of these gorgeous mid-century lacquered and brass inlaid Klismos dining chairs. They date to the late 1940's/early 50's and are in great original condition. Three of the chairs have had their cane seats replaced (you cannot stand on caned seats!!), otherwise they are all original with brass details to the back rail and seat rail.

              AND THEY ARE REDUCED FROM $4800.00 TO $3200.00
                                    FOR MY SUMMER SALE

This is a fantastic price (only $400/each) for a set of eight perfect klismos chairs and in this condition. (Note: I have a period English Regency 54" round solid mahogany table that would be the perfect partner for these great chairs--not listed on my website).

Please check out my website  for more neo-classical pieces that are currently reduced.

(PLEASE: forgive the mis-steps in formatting this post---can't quite figure out the ins and outs--stick with me).

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Mary and Jones (and Cole)


  1. Mary a wonderful post. I too love, love Klismos chairs and the examples are wondrous.

    I agree with you re the Gambrel chair it lacks grace.

    Your set is gorgeous! I wish I could replace my dining chairs with these and a round table!

    Art by Karena

    1. Hi Karena,
      Thank you!! Hope that you had a wonderful 4th. Mary

  2. I love learning something new here.
    Such gorgeous chairs.

    1. Hi Patricia,
      That's exactly why I love this crazy business, something new to learn every day. Thank you for all of your comments. Now, I'm off to see what will turn up today. Have a super day.