WRITTEN BY MUSEUM SERVICES MANAGER, EMILY WOLVERTON
Issue No. 63 of Minis Magnified will be broken down into three parts, each magnifying a couple exquisite seats in our collection.
Take a Seat! Exploring Some of the Whimsical and Historical Chairs in our Collection. Pt. 2 of 3 | Read Pt. 1
While we’re at it, let’s look at another table with a hidden seating agenda. Known either as a chairtable or a tilt-top table, this unique piece of furniture is another example of 18th century innovation, based on utilitarian principles. Although featured in our Shaker Kitchen, the chairtable was a common piece of furniture for many groups of American colonists and continued to be a staple for pioneers headed West. The chairtable’s primary function was to act as a chair, with the table-top folded back so that the chair could be against a wall, thus saving precious space in small homes which often consisted of just one large shared area. When a table was needed, the chairtable transformed. Most chairtables included one more practical purpose: additional storage space, typically in the form of a small lidded chest (like the examples shown here) or as a cabinet with a pull-out drawer. Since the chairtable in our Shaker Kitchen is on display in table-form, it is a pleasure to point out that sometimes there is more to a piece than meets the eye.
I would be remiss to discuss the chairs in our collection without mentioning our replica of the iconic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. One of the most recognized pieces of modern furniture in the world, this lounge chair was created by the husband and wife duo of Charles and Ray Eames in 1956, just one of their many collaborative design masterpieces. Owning one of these chairs was and still is an expression of refined taste and social status, so much so that miniature replicas such as this one have become highly sought after collectibles in their own right. Our replica is in 1:6 scale, otherwise known as “play scale,” where one inch in miniature equals six inches in the full scale. This model was produced by the world-renowned Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, faithfully crafted using the same components as the original chair: wood, leather, and metal (cast aluminum). The Vitra Design Museum collection includes over 224 iconic modern chairs, and since it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region, Weil am Rhein is known colloquially as “Stadt der Stühle” (city of chairs).
William R. Robertson is a legend among miniature artisans. Working in wood and metal, he produces some of the most highly sought-after fine scale miniatures in the world. Robertson is uncompromising when it comes to accuracy, known to build his own customized tools in order to ensure that his miniature reproductions are produced by the most historically accurate methods. All of his fine scale masterpieces are fully-functional, including this architectural stool, which can be found in A Tribute to Erté, (Brooke Tucker, 2004). The stool is an exact miniature replica of one manufactured by Keuffel & Esser Co., an American drafting instrument company founded in 1867. The seat can actually be raised and lowered and the stool can roll on its steel casters. This architectural stool is right at home in Tucker’s piece, an homage to the world-famous artist and fashion designer, Erté.
Stay tuned for Minis Magnified Issue No. 63 pt. 3: Bliss ABC Furniture and the Palace Commode.