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The form of the present set of neoclassical chairs is derived from the klismos chair, a Greek invention that evolved from a simple throne. Splayed, sabre-form legs and uprights connected by a concave backrest are characteristics of these chairs, which became popular in the late-18th and 19th centuries for their gracefulness and lightness of form, as well as their reference to antiquity. The present chairs are illustrative of the variations on the klismos form where furniture is relieved of ornament in favor of simple lines more closely modeled on its classical forbears.

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Greek marble statue of Poseidioppos, resting on a klismos chair. Vatican.

The backrest of the chair takes the form of winged rectangle, or tabula ansata, a favorite form for votive tablets in imperial Rome. The ansate can be found on sarcophagi, soldiers’ shields and monuments, and often bears an epitaph or dedication. The chairs also feature a Greek key motif on the seat rail.

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Dedicatory plaque. Roman Britain, about AD 222-235. British Museum.

At the center of the backrest, the arms of Talbot of Devon is illustrated. The talbot is a now-extinct white hunting dog, believed to have originated in Normandy or England, often used in heraldry.

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Arms of Talbot of Devon.