This highly worked antique chair features some of the deepest relief carvings we have seen in a chair of this type. In areas where French is spoken, such as Western Switzerland, the chair is often called an escabelle, which translates to “footstool”. It is also sometimes referred to as a sellette or a scabelle. People of German descent also have several names for this style of chair: stabelle (which means “table”), a bauernstuhl or a brettstuhl (“peasant chair” or “board chair”), or sidele. The Italians called their chair a sgabello, which means “stool”. In Italy, sgabello were often used in hallways, up against the wall, while in France they were typically used as side chairs.
Despite the abundance of names, the escabelle is easily definable. The origins of the chair can be traced back to the Gothic period when high backed chairs with armrests were produced for feudal lords. These chairs mimicked the thrones of royalty and clergymen. Eventually, simpler forms of these seigneurial chairs were crafted without the armrests for common citizens – they were the sellette or scabelle chairs mentioned above. However, it was not until the Renaissance period that chairs truly became popular. During this time, construction was usually the same: a carved backrest was wedged into the seat, while the legs were typically driven into the bottom of the seat and attached via pins or dowels. These chairs were usually decorative; comfort was not something to consider when producing an escabelle.
As with most Renaissance style escabelles, our chair has a familial coat of arms carved onto the chair back. A military cuirass and shield are superimposed over a selection of spears, axes and halberds, which in turn are arranged on top of a background with a hammered motif. At the apex of the chair back, a bird sits atop a helmet. The sides of the well shaped chair back are comprised of an acanthus leaf rinceau and a repeating pattern of shields that terminate into a volute. The seat has concave sides with a central rosette medallion surrounded by geometric shapes. The front of the top of the legs has more of the repeating shield pattern. Beneath this is a central cartouche of two foliate leaves that are stacked on top of each other. On either side of the cartouche is a stylized dolphin that rest upon volute feet.
This 19th century Swiss escabelle chair, with its exquisitely detailed carving would be a wonderful decorative addition in any room needing a unique standout piece.
CONDITION: Very good antique condition with minor rubs and losses to carvings. Wear commensurate to age and use.