Reproduction British early 20th century painted artist’s frame
Most chairs in art are occupied: Frans Hals’s Portrait of Willem van Heythuysen tipping back on two legs of his; Raphael’s Madonna della seggiola; and perhaps the chairs with most personality, in the portraits of the various popes. Raphael’s Pope Julius II, for instance, with its massive golden acorns, advertizes his membership of the powerful Della Rovere family. But the most famous empty chairs, Van Gogh’s paintings of his and Gauguin’s chairs in the Yellow House at Arles, are famous because they are also portraits of the owners. There is a similar quality to Stephen Rose’s leather library chair; it possesses character, which may be its own or that of its occupant. It is solid, sturdy, made and upholstered for comfort; Victorian and also masculine in its brown leathery comfort. It has had a long, useful life which has polished its back and seat, but also worn them through: it recalls Rembrandt’s self-portraits in old age, in which a similar palette of ochres, charcoals and browns summons history and personality through an unsparing examination of change and decay.