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Centripetal Spring Chair

Decorative Arts and Design

Thomas E. Warren’s “Centripetal Spring” chair is the forerunner of Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf’s Aeron chair, designed nearly 150 years later. Both are made principally of metal, raised on casters for mobility, rotate on a central column, and allow for adjustment of the angle of the seat. The very different look of the chairs suggests the ways that consumer attitudes toward industrial invention and modernity have evolved over the centuries. Although Warren’s chair bears a patent mark (on the bottom of the seat), he felt the need to mitigate the newness of his invention by concealing its ingenious metal spring system beneath a dense, soft curtain of luxurious passementerie (elaborate trim). Similarly, he disguised his progressive use of cast iron for the frame by rendering it in the backward-looking Rococo Revival style and gilding it. In contrast, the makers of the Aeron chair reveal its mechanical elements, celebrate its recycled man-made materials, and use a monochromatic black to underline the seriousness of the design, all without fear of losing customers.
MEDIUM Cast iron, wood, modern upholstery, modern trim, original fringe
  • Place Manufactured: Troy, New York, United States
  • DATES ca. 1849–1858
    DIMENSIONS 34 1/4 x 23 1/2 x 28 1/4 in. (87 x 59.7 x 71.8 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS On bottom: Stenciled in black " THOS.E. WARREN'S/ PATENT/ American[?] C[?] Tryoy, N.Y."
    CREDIT LINE Designated Purchase Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Cast iron swivel/tilting arm chair, concave back with gilded edge and on outer back rococo hand painted decoration consisting of rocaille decoration of gold against black, fades to lighter central portion with exotic bird in flight, proper left three gold fish in bowl and proper right floral bouquet. Circular wooden seat frame painted black, elaborate open work floral gilt cast iron arm rest supports narrow padded and upholstered arm rest. Sprung seat, back, seat, and arm pads covered in modern machine woven gold and brown dense floral design,original elaborate long netted and tassel fringe ending in large pom poms attached to seat rail. Base comprised of eight large 'C' shaped flattened metal scrolls that converge towards central swivel mechanism, the whole raised on four cast iron open work scrolling horizontal supports, in turn raised on metal casters. Condition: very good
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Thomas E. Warren (American, born 1808). Centripetal Spring Chair, ca. 1849–1858. Cast iron, wood, modern upholstery, modern trim, original fringe, 34 1/4 x 23 1/2 x 28 1/4 in. (87 x 59.7 x 71.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Designated Purchase Fund, 2009.27. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2009.27_threequarter_PS6.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 2009.27_threequarter_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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