CHAIR, as article of domestic furniture; a movable seat having four legs, a back and sometimes arms; usually for the accommoda tion of one person. Chairs were much less common, both with the ancients and in the Middle Ages, than they are in modern times; hence the reason why chair and cathedra have retained their appanage of state and dignity. We still speak of the chair of justice, and the chair man of a meeting, and cathedra is now most widely known by its derivative cathedral, the name still given to a metropolitan church.
It was not until the 16th century that chairs became at all common. Our knowledge of chairs of antiquity is derived from monuments, sculpture and paintings, and a few examples in the museums. Ancient Egypt developed a splendid type of ebony and ivory, or of carved and gilded wood, covered with costly stuffs, with carved legs of animals or human figures as supports. A chair much of the same type oomes from Nineveh. Greek chairs stood up straight; and from the frieze of Parthenon we get the chair of Zeus, a square seat, with a bar back and thick turned legs, ornamented with sphinxes' heads and the claws of beasts. Char acteristic Roman chairs were of the same type. The curule chair was like our folding chair, but eventually received a great deal of ornament.
The most famous of all chairs is that of Saint Peter at Rome, which is exhibited only once in a century. It appears to be Byzantine work of the 6th century. It is of wood over laid with carved ivory, representing the labors of Hercules. Another renowned seat is the
For a long time the chair remained the sym bol of honor and power. It appeared in all of the houses of the royalty and nobility. This chair soon acquired a high back and arms, and the lower part was usually filled in, with a panelled or elaborately carved front. The seat was hinged and sometimes closed with a key.
In the Renaissance, chairs became common and less architectural, and from this time on varied with the styles of dress and sizes of houses. They gradually became lighter, and took on a more strictly utilitarian character, becoming smaller and more numerous. After the middle of the 17th century, upholstery began to take the place of the leather seat. The heavy chair of the Tudor period gave way to the slender more elegant form improved by Chip pendale and later by Adam. In France, the chair of the Louis XVI period had an oval back, ample seat, descending arms and round legs. Its seat was covered in tapestry. The Empire brought in low, squat, unattractive but very comfortable chairs.
Some well-known varieties of the present day chair are the BATH CHAIR, an invalid's chair on wheels, to be pushed along by an at tendant, so called from its common use in Bath, England; the FOLDING CHAIR, having seat, legs and back hinged and jointed so that it can be folded up when not in use; ROCKING CHAIR, a seat mounted on rockers; MORRIS CHAIR, a cushioned seat with a hinged cushioned back which can be inclined at various angles. See SEDAN CHAIR.