Round Back Chair
Corner or Round back Chair, after a French example
Batavia, 2nd-half 18th century
Unidentified wood, cane.
92 x 78 x 51 cms
Round back chairs were made in India, Ceylon and Indonesia in various styles for European consumption throughout the eighteenth century, starting with the so-called 'burgomaster' chair in the late seventeenth century. This chair, in French rococo taste, is popularly known as a corner or bureau chair, but whether it was actually used as such seems unlikely. Judging from eighteenth-century illustrations of social activities in the East, these chairs were generally arranged along the walls of reception rooms or on verandahs, where much formal entertaining was done, according to Veenendaal. Jan Brandes and Johannes Rach depicted 'corner chairs' arranged side by side in long rows on front verandahs of houses in Colombo and Batavia. (see: J. Veenendaal, "Furniture in Batavia", in T. Eliens (ed.), Domestic interiors at the Cape and in Batavia 1602-1795, Zwolle, 2001, p. 39, pls. 26, 27). Could the popularity of these chairs - with their open construction, wide rounded fronts, and arms set back from the front seat rails - be attributed to the need to accommodate the voluminous hoop skirts of European women which were fashionable at the time?
One such example is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and others are illustrated in Veenendaal, p. 107 and Eliens (ed.), cat. no. 29"
Deon Viljoen Fine Art, Furniture from European trading posts at the Cape of Good Hope and in South-east Asia 17th - 19th centuries.