Centripital Spring Chair
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.
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) (show scale)
On bottom: Stenciled in black " THOS.E. WARREN'S/ PATENT/ American[?] C[?] Tryoy, N.Y."
Designated Purchase Fund
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
This item is not on view
Thomas E. Warren (American, born 1808). Centripital 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)
overall, 2009.27_threequarter_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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What does the the spring allow the chair to do?
The spring mechanism was designed for comfort. The patented springs were originally designed to absorb the shock of high-speed movement to railway car seats. Here the mechanism has been applied to a domestic object. The chair also rotates 360 degrees, tilts in all directions and has little caster wheels -- the entire thing is made for movement!
Why is this in the museum?
The Aeron chair is part of this exhibit because it is considered a masterpiece of ergonomic design - objects designed especially for the human body!It is displayed next to the Centripetal Spring Chair to illustrate the evolution of the office chair over time. Both chairs were innovative in their day!The Centripetal Spring Chair used seat suspension springs that were originally developed for train seats. The designer was nervous that the spring would look too industrial for a private home, so it was concealed with elaborate fringes.
What's the age difference in these two chairs?
The Aeron chair was designed in 1994 and the Centripetal Spring chair was created around 1850, so almost 150 years.
Though the Aeron chair is common in many offices today, its ergonomic, multi-adjustable design was revolutionary when it was first produced!
Agree - I sold many of the Aeron’s - thanks.
Why were they so small?
I've never seen that chair as particularly small. but the design could be seen as a bit dainty or fragile. The chair was made in the Rococo Revival style, which developed in the mid-18th century and emphasized curvilinear silhouettes and realistic depictions of nature.