Saturday, October 3, 2009

The More You Wish You Didn't Know: Savonarola Chairs

savonarola chair from Pelazzo Vecchio

In The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, the bad guy, Mal'akh, lives in a house with "a Piranesi etching, a Savonarola chair, a silver Bugarini oil lamp."

What the heck is a Savonarola chair???

Savonarola: Crazy priest who lived in 15th-century Florence, known for burning "immoral" books, dresses, and paintings.  That is, at least until the Florentines got tired of him and executed him.

A chair: Something you sit in.

How do these two things go together?  Well, it turns out they actually don't; the Savonarola chair is a fold-up wooden chair that dates back to Roman times and has been popular throughout Europe at various times.  But it was especially popular in Italy during the Renaissance, so it somehow acquired the "Savonarola" moniker.  They're also called Dante chairs or X-chairs.

As for the other items--Piranesi is a 19th-century artist famous for etching imagined prisons, or carceri, scenes; and Bugarini was a famous Italian silver smith who made neo-classical oil lamps, also during the 19th century.  So I guess the point of that sentence is... this guy is moneyed.  And also enjoys all things Italian.

the more you wish you didn't know

Next time... curious codes!

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