History of the Chair

The chair of Hetepheres I, the mother of Khufu

Chairs are known from Ancient India and Ancient Egypt and have been popular in the Western world from the Romans and Greek era onwards. They were in everyday use in India from the 2nd Century, China from the twelfth century, and were used by Native Americans.

Surviving models of chairs from ancient Europe are often ornate works associated with nobility and royalty. During the Renaissance era, chairs came into more widespread use, their design echoing the changing furnishings and costumes of the period. Distinctive designs were developed in England and France. In modern times the range of chair Materials and designs has increased enormously. Let’s look at the complete history of the chair today.

Egyptian chairs

Egyptian chairs appear to have been of royal splendor and richness. Ivory and ebony were used to ornate these chairs. They were carved of wood and metals. They were covered with precious materials and supported upon representations of captives’ figures or beasts’ legs.

Egyptians considered that the chairs need to express natural forms to evade creating chaos in the universe by building an artificial object. This trend is seen all over Egyptian manufacture and art. An armchair in proper preservation located in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings is astonishingly similar, even in minute details, to that “Empire style” which accompanied Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt. The most prehistoric monuments of Nineveh represent a chair without a back but with carved legs ending in bulls’ hoofs or lions’ claws. Others are supported by figures by animals or like caryatides.

Greco-Roman Chairs

The oldest known form of Greek chair records back to six or seven centuries BCE. On the Parthenon frieze, Zeus sits on a square seat with thick, turned legs and a bar-back; it is ornamented with the feet of beasts and winged sphinxes. The typical Roman chairs were of marble, also decorated with sphinxes. The curule chair was creatively very similar in form to the contemporary folding chair but ultimately received a good deal of embroidery.

Medieval chairs

The Maximian chair in Ravenna’s cathedral is thought to record from the heart of the 6th century. It is round, made of marble, with a high back, and is carved in soaring relief with figures of scenes and saints from the Gospels—the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the flight into Egypt. The smaller spaces are filled with carvings of flowers, animals, birds, and foliated embroidery. The Chair of St. Augustine, recording from at least the early thirteenth century, is one of the earliest cathedrae is not in use.

Another very old seat is the “Chair of Dagobert” in the Cabinet des médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It is sharpened with the chisel and partially gilt, of cast bronze; it is of the faldstool or curule type and nursed upon legs terminating in animals’ feet and heads. The seat, which was apparently of leather, has been dissolved. Its attribution depends solely upon the record of Suger, abbot of St Denis in the 12th century, who added arms and a back.


In the Renaissance era, European chairs moved from the elites to whoever could afford to buy them. Once the concept of privilege faded, the chair quickly came into general use. We find almost at once started to reflect the fashion of that era. No furniture pieces have ever been so like an index to sumptuary changes. It has varied in shape, size, and sturdiness with the fashion not only of lady’s dress but of men’s also. Thus, the chair that was not, even with its arms deliberately suppressed, too ample during the various reigns of some form or other bands and farthingale, became monstrous when these bumps disappeared. Again, the costly laced coats of the swell of the 18th and early 19th centuries were so intimidated by the ordinary form of the seat that a “conversation chair” was produced, which enabled the first buck and the comfortable ruffler to sit with his face to the back, his precious tails hanging unimpeded over the front. The early chair almost always had arms, and it was not until towards the end of the 16th century that the smaller form grew popular.

English chairs

Although English furniture arises so greatly from foreign and Italian and French models, the oldest forms of English chairs are owed but little to extrinsic influences. This was particularly the case down to the end of the Tudor period, after which France began to establish her mark upon the British chair. With sober and somber back, the squat variety, carved like a paneling piece, gave place to more slender, taller, more elegant form. The framework only was cut, and attempts were made at decoration in new directions. The stretcher particularly offered opportunities that were not lost upon the cabinet-makers of the Restoration. From a mere inflexible cross-bar intended to strengthen the construction, it blossomed, almost suddenly, into an elegant scroll-work or an extremely graceful semicircular decoration connecting all four legs, with a vase-shaped knob in the center. The legs and arms of chairs of this period were scrolled, the splats of the back often conferring a rich arrangement of scrolls and spirals.

20th-century and modern chairs

The 20th century saw increasing technology use in chair construction with such things as metal-legged chairs, all-metal folding chairs, molded plastic chairs, the Slumber Chair, and ergonomic chairs, recliner chairs (comfortable chair), beanbag chairs, butterfly chair, the pod or egg chair, laminate and plywood wood chairs, and clean massage chairs.

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