A quick overview of...folding chairs!

Among the commonest seats in late 15th century, widely attested both by originals and coeval iconography, you can find folding typologies.
Just to mention the main ones, we have the faldistorium, the Savonarola chair, the pincers chair and the Dante's seat. Actually, I think it proper to inform that scholars don't use univocal words to identify them as they are basically X-chairs and variations characterise them by means of very few features (i.e. height and articulated parts).
Italy, my home country, is no exception to all this heterogeneity. Taking a look at the following PINTEREST gallery, you may get a quick taste of it.

During the last months, aiming at soothing somehow my wife's backaches during indoor events, I've been searching for a seat with a suitable seat-back. Now, wishing to avoid the iper-abused Savonarola type, but considering it an essential priority to stick with direct sources, I recently commissioned a pincers chair.
It works using an anteroposterior folding system and its origin is likely to be related to the Roman sella plicatibilis, a sort of solid big chair where the armrests are strictly connected with both the seat surface and the legs through swivel pivots. A few rare late 14th and mid-15th c. examples of this particular folding chair still survive, possibly hailing from the East and imported in Italy via the Siculo-Arabic influence.
We have two well-known examples displayed at Petrarca's House at Arquà Petrarca (see picture) and Bagatti-Valsecchi Museum in Florence:


The big folding chair at Petrarca's House, late 14th c.

Moving on to pincers chairs, you can note they usually show a backseat with a raised part in the middle and peculiar decorations consisting of three concentric circles; the ribs may be wavy or straight and embellished by cuneiform engravings masterly carved by a knife blade tip.
The replica I commissioned to my skillful friend Ezio Zanini (ViduQuestla), whom I hereby seize the opportunity to gratulate and thank, has been inspired by an original chair displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Replica of a pincers chair by Ezio Zanini (www.viduquestla.it)

To my great surprise and satisfaction, I later on discovered that some similar pincers chairs are conserved in Switzerland too, more precisely at the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum in Zurich, in the charming setting of an authentic “Stube” built by Cäcilia Helfenstein in 1489, formerly situated in the Fraumünster. 


The 1489 Stube in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Zurich)

I think it would be quite interesting to ascertain what kind and how many typologies of pincers, and folding chairs in general, can be “dug out” accross Western Europe.  So, I'd like to invite you all to contribute with sort of a "census", creating the base for a future blogpost through which we shall hopefully be able to outline some statistics. Please, leave here following your contributions, comments or suggestions; otherwise you can e-mail the CoStG Homepage Team Staff at homepage@companie-of-st-george.ch

Download
Original article in Italian (PDF)

By Andrea Carloni, Recruit Company member