What’s the allure of a steer horn chair?
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    Auction Finds

    Antique armchairs with a religious flair

    I wasn’t sure what style of chairs they were, but I knew that I liked their shape. The three armchairs shared the seat of a French provincial sofa with beige damask upholstery. Someone had placed the chairs squarely on top of the sofa – either to save space, to feature them or just for convenience.

    Sitting there together, they were pretty impressive in their uniformity. They looked to be antique, with dark wood supports, and curved seats, arms, legs (two of them) and feet. Each also had an impressive back – one in the shape of a lyre and the others, shields – all different but with the same use of beautifully carved bas-relief designs.

    An up-close view of one of the Renaissance Revival Savonarola chairs.

    An up-close view of one of the Renaissance Revival Savonarola chairs.

    They reminded me of chairs made for a house of worship, and perhaps I had seen some there. But what type of chairs were they? Only one way to find out: I Googled.

    I found that the chairs were also a mystery to several other people, some of whom inherited them and wondered how much they were worth. One site called the style “Edwardian.” Another site said it was a savanrola-style chair; another, a Savonarola-type chair, and another, a late-Victorian “X” frame chair.

    The auction chairs were actually Renaissance Revival versions of the original Savonarola chair, with a few alterations. The Savonarola chair has an X-shaped base that curves into its arms. It has been around since the 15th century and practically every European country had its own version of it, an auction-house furniture expert noted in a newspaper article.

    Full views of two of the Renaissance Revival Savonarola chairs.

    Full views of two of the Renaissance Revival Savonarola chairs.

    The chair was popular near the end of the 18th century, again in the mid-19th century, and again as part of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 20th century.

    It is based on an even earlier chair from ancient Rome called the curule, which was a folding chair especially preferred by military commanders for its portability. The Savonarola chair was named after the Florentine preacher and reformer Girolamo Savonarola when one was said to have been found in his cell/room in the Convent of San Marco in the 15th century.

    Savonarola chairs

    Three Renaissance Revival Savonarola chairs waiting to be sold at auction.

    Savonarola was a critic of the leadership of the Catholic Church, among other things, and was beheaded in 1498. This type of chair was used for religious purposes and by royalty. It was said to also have been popular in France in the mid-16th century.

    Savonarola chairs made during the Renaissance Revival period in the 19th century had high backs and ornate carvings. The style was desirable in this country around the same time.

    I wasn’t around when the chairs sold, but I’m sure that they did. And I hope for a good price.

    Savonarola chair

    A Renaissance Revival Savonarola chair.

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