• Henry van de Velde Graf Kessler Diplomat's Chair
The design of this chair is closely linked with one of Henry van de Velde's most spectacular creations, a pillar of the Belgian designer's popularity after 1897, particularly in Deutschland: the Secessionist's or Diplomat's Desk. The earliest version, which was more playfully organic in style, was created for the artistss friends and patrons Julius Meier-Graefe and Eberhard von Bodenhausen.

Not long afterwards a more austere version of this piece was made, which took up a great deal of space - it was nearly three metres wide - with a matching chair. Forming a suite with matching print cabinets and bookcases, these pieces were exhibited to great acclaim and often published. The present chair was often ordered without the expensive desk, which, adjusted to today's purchasing power, cost about 12 500 Euro.

After his contract with the "Hohenzollern Kunstgewerbehaus" in Berlin was terminated, van de Velde was constrained from 1901 to develop new models since he had had to forfeit the copyright to his earlier work for five years. The desks repeatedly ordered during the Weimar period went back to the successful design of 1898/99 yet turned out to be more compact, much simpler and, therefore, cheaper.

The elegant design of the chair matching the desk, however, remained essentially as it had been originally conceived, with only a few minor changes in the detailing of the stetchers. Reflecting the use for which it was intended, the chair radiates strength, repose and concentration on the mental work its owner did. A salient feature of Henry van de Velde's seat furniture is the meticulous attention he paid to line, choice of material, statics and finishing, an approach revealing his artistic philosophy and his claims to sensible design.

Depending on who commissioned it and in compliance with individual clients wishes, this chair was made in various hardwoods such as oak, mahogany and stained oak. The same holds for the upholstery, which was of leather or various upholstery materials, held in place by studs or braiding. A few of these chairs are extant, in private collections and museums (Paris, Musée d'Orsay; Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum; Weimar, Bauhaus University and Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar).

Henry van de Velde