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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Spanish Chairs

THE wider and more intelligent interest in interior decoration has caused furniture designers to delve into the past and bring forth forms of furniture and examples of the use of brilliant colors with which heretofore only the connoisseur was familiar. The results of this movement are to be observed in the chairs of Spanish design now being made. In the past the kind of chair which was appropriate for a Spanish interior often reflected the dull though beautiful effect of highly tooled but dark leather upholstery. Or if colored leather was used it had the rich sombreness that age achieves. And fabric-upholstered chairs of Spanish style confined themselves mainly to the dark, rich tones that time gives to brocades and velvets.

While old chairs are still sought by those who like the antique, and even new chairs are upholstered with old leather and velvets, many of the reproductions now being made reflect in their rich hues the gorgeousness which many a faded example of Spanish chair once had when it was made for a grandee two or three hundred years ago.

One of the newest forms thus resurrected is the chair of the eighteenth century, when the French influence was beginning to be felt in the Spanish arts. These graceful side chairs carry curving cabriole front legs with straight back legs and have a back consisting of a curved top with a central pierced splat and two slender side supports. Also Spanish, although not so well known as some other Spanish furniture, is the lacquer, which in red with gilt stripes covers the wood of these chairs. These lacquered chairs achieve a gay and southern air by means of a striped mohair or a tapestry cover on the seat.

In that comprehensive book, "Spanish Interiors and Furniture," by Arthur Byne and Mildred Stapley, mention is made of red and green lacquered furniture which in the seventeenth century was developed in Catalonia and Andalusia. Other types more elaborate than those just recently reproduced were made, and doubtless before long some enterprising furniture maker will resurrect them to add to the brightness of our interiors.

Of the more orthodox styles of Spanish chairs there are now to be had those with rectangular lines and embossed leather backs and seats. Ornamented with brass and iron nail heads, the tooled leather is in bright reds, greens and blues, with traditional touches of gold or silver. These chairs of tooled leather or of velvet and brocades re-create much of the effect of some of the ancient examples before time had toned down the color.

But the most brilliant effects are achieved by upholstery in old Spanish designs which may be used instead of leather in many varieties of chairs. Stripes and crossbars in contrasting effects as well as bright hues in cut velvet make these sidechairs and armchairs of walnut-the typical Spanish wood in furniture-objects of beauty, and they are also comfortable.

Everyone, however, does not want vivid new upholstery or tooled leather on his Spanish chairs. So one may buy old pieces of silver or gold cloth with designs of velvet appliqued upon them. These precious pieces came down from old bits of fabric such as altar decorations and wall hangings. There are also modern weaves that simulate even the worn places in an antique piece of velvet.

The tall backed chair of carved walnut, similar to the Charles II chair but yet distinctly Spanish, is still a popular form. These slender chairs with bright seat pads are always decorative adjuncts to a dining room; in a hall they give a not too somber "ancestral air." Another type of chair that depends for its effect upon the carving of the wood, and not on either fabric or leather, is the reproduction of an early Spanish piece in whose carved spindles and turned legs the work of Moorish craftmen is evident. These early carved pieces, together with some peasant chairs decorated with flowers and scenes on the backs, are suited to rooms that have sought craftmanship in their furnishings.

Even the famous Savonarola or Dante chair, which in spite of its name was originally an important piece of Moorish furniture, is now being displayed, brightly upholstered, with geometrical designs touched with red and green color on its curved arms and legs.

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