Artibus et Historiae no. 72 (XXXVI)

2015, ISSN 0391-9064

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ERIC DENKER and WILLIAM E. WALLACE - Michelangelo and Seats of Power (pp. 199-210)

This article examines a ubiquitous but little noted piece of furniture: the chair. Power and prestige are connoted when a represented subject is seated, and especially when seated in a special sort of chair, commonly known as a ‘Savonarola’ chair. The article investigates the long history of this specific type of furniture, particularly in Italian Renaissance painting, before turning to the message conveyed two eloquent examples of the symbolic power of the chair and its occupant. In two paintings from the ‘Michelangelo Gallery’ in the Casa Buonarroti (by Anastasio Fontebuoni and Cosimo Gamberucci), we see moments in the artist’s life when an x-shaped ‘seat of power’ is central to the narrative episode represented. In each of these works, the chair is a little noticed, yet eloquent protagonist.

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