These tall, handsome chairs are outstanding examples of the leather tooler's art combined with intricate carving of their walnut frame. Evoking Renaissance style in the base and front stretcher, the real focus of attention is the design embossed into the leather. We believe that this is what must have inspired the designers for the TV production of Wolf Hall to use a pair of similar chairs in the home of Thomas Cromwell for the episode that aired on April 26, 2015.
The decoration of the leather seats is floral, incorporating various elements of vegetation and feathers in a central figure and border. It is the design of the back, however, that presents an enigma. Within the central element is the figure of what appears to be a South American Indian wearing a headdress and brandishing a spear. Such a design is not generally found in Renaissance furniture from Italy, but was very popular in France. This is attributable to a sort of 16th century theme park created in Normandy by the ruling aristocracy and populated by 50 Indians from Brazil whose feather headdresses and elaborate earrings sparked a revolution in fashion and design reflected in the intricate carvings covering cabinets of the time. While we cannot explain the design's presence in Italian chairs, the mystery of their origin makes them even more intriguing.
In keeping with our policy, we have cleaned the chairs but have not restored the leather out of fear of damaging it and with the expectation that the buyer would want to preserve this wonderful example of Italian craftsmanship.
Antiquités et Objets D'Art 10, Le Mobilier Italien (Editions Fabri, Paris, 1990); Costantino Fioratti, Helen, Il Mobile Italiano (Giunti Editore, Firenze-Milano, 2004); Rousseau, Francis, Le Grand Livre des Meubles (Copyright Studio, Paris, 1999).
In overall design, these chairs with their narrow, high back could be used as dining chairs but really call for more attention, and dramatic lighting making the beauty of the tooled leather more visible, as side chairs in a foyer or entryway.