Friday, September 19, 2003

Sella Curulis Inspired 19th Century American Federal Furniture Designers

"The ways in which ancient Greek and Roman designs served as inspiration for classical revival furniture in early 19th-century America are explored in the Yale University Art Gallery's newest exhibition, 'Curule: Ancient Design in American Federal Furniture' . The sella curulis, one of the principal emblems of political authority in ancient Rome, had two hinged S-shaped legs at each end, with a seat frame created by fitting notched side rails onto the fixed front and back rails, with a leather seat stretched between them.

A 16th-century version of the sella curulis is depicted in a drawing from the gallery's collection by Giulio Romano of a scene in which the stool is transformed into a chair for the Roman general Coriolanus. Also in the exhibition is a group of early 19th-century books of architectural and decorative designs by Thomas Hope, George Smith and Charles Heathcote Tatham, published in England, in which the sella curulis is featured. American craftsmen drew upon these, as well as French publications by Pierre de la Mésangère, and Percier and Fontaine for their versions of curule-based furniture.

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