Friday, February 17, 2012

Furniture time-travelogue 3: Rome


Now Rome, unlike Greece, was not only prolific in its furniture building but also apparently diligent about preservation. But then what else would you expect from nearly the first empire builders in the history of the world.

The Greek style is very strongly reflected in Roman furniture but with the additional embellishment of bronze and stone. The ornamentation on this furniture generally consisted of vegetable and animal motifs. With time the rigidity of the furniture relaxed towards more flowing lines and the ever-present Greek influence became more pronounced.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the folding chairs and the stool make an appearance in Roman history too, except the Romans tended to use it as a chair and footstool combination, the footstool usually being fashioned out of bronze. However the Roman besellium  had cylindrical legs and lateral arm supports but no back rest (think Julius Caesar in Asterix) making them extremely uncomfortable to sit on. By contrast there is evidence of stone chairs with a curved back rest that were so perfect technically that were, paradoxically, very comfortable.

However, the most characteristic piece on Roman furniture remains richly decorated, portable, folding stool with double curved feet called the curule which was mainly used for dignitaries.

A bas relief showing the Roman curule 
Tables were also a popular item of furniture and there is reason to believe that the three-legged wall leaning console originated then as also we see the first signs of a large serving table often with a marble top.   
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