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Cobra chair

Carlo Bugatti (Italian, 1856–1940)


Medium wood, parchment with painted decoration, and copper Measurements H: 38 1/2 x W: 14 3/4 x D: 21 in. (97.79 x 37.47 x 53.3 cm) Credit Berdan Memorial Trust Fund, Helen Johnston Acquisition Fund, and Decorative Arts Purchase Fund Accession Number 95.16 Location Gallery 20, Bruce Galleries


Carlo Bugatti's Cobra Chair was part of a larger suite of furniture designed for the First International Exhibition of Decorative Arts held in Turin in 1902. The suite represented the pinnacle of his career. Here Bugatti reimagined the traditional form of a chair with its requisite rectangular back, seat, and four legs. The circular seat and back seen in this chair are joined by a continuous curve of shaped wood that is covered in vellum and painted with stylized flowers, dragonflies, and geometric shapes. The back of Bugatti's chair is further decorated with an applied copper disc that, together with its upright posture, suggests the image of a rearing cobra. Although this chair anticipated the Art Deco style of the 1930s and subsequent 20th-century designs in metal and bentwood, it was too radical to be widely accepted at this early date.