Thursday, February 16, 2012

Furniture time-travelogue 2: Greece


The Greeks have long since been acknowledged as some of the greatest architects of the world. It’s only natural that their furniture should also be equally spectacular. However unfortunately there are few examples of ancient Greek furniture existing that could give us a clear picture of their craftsmanship in that area. But what we do have is sufficient for us to glean some information from it.
In the construction of their furniture the Greeks basically used indigenous wood like cedar, pine, cypress etc and much like the Egyptians their work was inlaid with other precious materials like marble and metal.

Classic Greek furniture, with its curves, also had a novel delicacy as compared to any other preceding period. Their sinuous form with the sharp dip of the back is also evidence of their understanding of and an attempt to adapt to the human body.  In this regard the light-weight klismos chairs created circa 5th century BC were extremely popular, especially as evidenced by their frequent appearance on Greek period property and bas relief. Their slender legs swept outward as well as inward giving them not just their flowing shape but also stability. Since then the klismos chairs have made several appearances in furniture fashion around the world from France to England and even America.
The klismos chair

Another popular Greek design was the diphros – backless and with scissor shaped curved legs reminiscent of the Egyptian design. These were often also foldable. The Greeks also seem to have a found a wide use for tables, unlike the Egyptians, though their tables also remained compact and portable, scattered around corners in their homes, used to hold food and drinks.

A representation of the diphros

Interestingly, Greek couches apart from their rather decorative legs were also fairly simple in structure. Consisting of a rectangular frame for the seat and the back, the legs were often turned outward or were built like Greek pillars and decorated with classic motifs. From these couches evolved the ever-popular triclinium that also became tremendously popular with the Romans. In fact various versions of it are visible even today. 


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