The curved arm and leg supports have a disk intersection with geometric intarsia. Small inlaid geometric designs decorate the front and the top of the curved arms. The rounded base rails have accolade-shaped undersides. The leather seat and back have tooled ornamentation. This chair is the third variant of the X-shaped “folding” armchairs in the Robert Lehman Collection that document the history of a valuable type. Two early works (Nos. 159, 160) were likely made in Spain by Hispano-Moresque craftsmen before or about 1500. The present one is covered with a much simpler decoration that seems to be the Italian interpretation of medieval Cosmati work, but its shape is a diluted version of the Spanish masterpieces. Only the front “facade” and arms of this chair are ornamented with inlaid, stylized star motif roundels that contrast with the vivid grain of the elm wood.(1) The type seen here was produced in great numbers during the Renaissance.(2) The decoration corresponds to a group of Italian chests and is often cited as certosina intarsia, which has its roots in the medieval period. It derives from embellishments in stone mosaic or wood and other materials produced in Lower Italy and Sicily where the Moorish tradition was employed by Western artisans, the latter inspired by taracea.(3)
Catalogue entry from: Wolfram Koeppe. The Robert Lehman Collection. Decorative Arts, Vol. XV. Wolfram Koeppe, et al. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 236.
1. Thornton, Peter. The Italian Renaissance Interior, 1400 – 1600. New York, 1991, pl. 379, illustrates a type of Annunciation by Filippo Lippi (ca. 1406 – 1469) depicting the Virgin Mary on an elegant combination furnishing (perhaps a letuccio with an integrated praying bench or prie-dieu). The seat’s back is inlaid with friezes of geometric ivory or bone intarsia a toppo.
2. See, for example, Schottmuller, Frida. Furniture and Interior Decoration of the Italian Renaissance. 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1928, p. 177, fig. 412.
3. Fuga, Antonella. Artists’ Techniques and Materials. Los Angeles, 2006. [Translation of Tecniche e materiali delle arti. Milan, 2004.]