The shocking historical past of the chaise lounge

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The chaise lounge, a type of elongated chair that makes mendacity down on it potential, was first utilized in sixteenth century France. Whereas it could appear fairly straight ahead, it has a shocking historical past that you’ll want to examine!

This single piece of furnishings has ties to psychology, artwork historical past, and society that make it an especially fascinating and iconic a part of the historical past of furnishings. It developed in relationship to a specific higher class luxurious of getting leisure time to lounge throughout the day, and requiring a bit of furnishings to take action on that wasn’t the mattress. Whereas the connotations round gender fluctuated over time, the category connotations by no means did. The construction, designed for lounging, by no means turned a staple of a center class family. 


From excavations of historical Egyptian tombs, archaeologists suspect that the lengthy chairs discovered there are the earliest historic examples of the origins of the chaise longue, relationship again to round 3000BC. For the prosperous, the body can be constructed in wooden and have an ivory or ebony veneer. There may be additionally proof of it present in historical Greece and the Roman Empire. Reclining in an extended chair while eating or socialising was regular follow for the Greeks throughout eighth century BC. In Historic Greece, the chair was often called a kline or klinai. The kline can be draped in layers of materials and have cushions propped up in opposition to the headrest. They have been widespread for Greek symposiums; social gatherings the place males would drink and converse amongst one another in rows of those kline couches in opposition to three partitions dealing with the door.

Vintage chaise lounge

For the aim of this text, nevertheless, we’ll deal with the fashionable iterations of this piece of furnishings. The chaise longue (pronounced “shayz lengthy”, the literal English translation from French for which is “lengthy chair”) has in current many years change into extra popularly identified and pronounced as chaise lounge in English-speaking nations. The trendy chaise longue was first popularised throughout the sixteenth century in France. They have been created by French furnishings craftsmen for the wealthy to relaxation with out the necessity to retire to the bed room. It was throughout the Rococo interval that the chaise longue turned the image of social standing and solely the rarest and costliest supplies have been used of their development. At this time, the chaise longue is seen as a luxurious merchandise for the fashionable dwelling. They’re usually used to enhance a house’s décor similar to dwelling or studying rooms, or as a trendy boudoir chair for bed room seating. In the course of the 1800s, the chaise longue developed extra female connotations as a decadent throne for girls to relaxation throughout the day with out having to go to their bed room. It was throughout the French Rococo interval that the chaise longue turned an emblem of social standing and have been ornately crafted from solely the rarest and costliest of supplies.

Kinds of Chaise Lounges 

  • Duchesse brisée (Damaged duchess in French): this phrase is used when the chaise longue is split in two elements: the chair and an extended footstool, or two chairs with a stool in between them. The origin of the title is unknown.
  • Récamier: a récamier has two raised ends, and nothing on the lengthy sides. It’s typically related to French Empire (neo-classical) fashion. It’s named after French society hostess Madame Récamier (1777–1849), who posed elegantly on a sofa of this type for a portrait, painted in 1800 by Jacques-Louis David. The form of the récamier is just like a conventional lit bateau (boat mattress) however made for the drawing room, not the bed room.
  • Méridienne:You’re in all probability most conversant in the méridienne fashion of chaise longue. a méridienne has a excessive head-rest, and a decrease foot-rest, joined by a sloping piece. Whether or not or not they’ve something on the foot finish, méridiennes are asymmetrical day-beds. They have been widespread within the grand homes of France within the early nineteenth century. Its title is from its typical use: relaxation in the midst of the day, when the solar is close to the meridian.


The Chaise Lounge performed an necessary position within the illustration of ladies’s our bodies for fairly a while all through historical past. 4 years after the invention of Laocoön, one other art-historical conference emerged. In 1510, the Renaissance painter Giorgione (maybe with a bit of assist from his pupil Titian) painted the primary reclining feminine nude. Following the pudica pose, Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus (1508–10) covers her intercourse with one hand whereas sleeping atop some material in a picturesque panorama. The erotic show, designed to please its male viewers, was solely admissible as a result of it featured a goddess, slightly than a “actual” girl. In the course of the 18th century, colonial enlargement uncovered artists to Jap cultures—and lots of painters turned fixated as regards to the Ottoman harem. As an alternative of depicting Venus, artists like Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Eugène Delacroix started to color the odalisque (or harem chambermaid) in a equally suggestive, reclining pose. Although she wasn’t a goddess, the odalisque was nonetheless thought of “different” sufficient to sexualize the determine with out reproach. With Olympia, Manet turned the primary identified artist to put a contemporary white girl on this pose—and shocked audiences. Olympia doesn’t lie passively together with her eyes closed, however slightly appears to be like immediately at viewers, confronting their gaze. This then turned a staple of illustration of ladies in portray. 


Indoor chaise lounge in an old navy blue color.

Now, the shape has been a lot critiqued by feminists and artwork historians re-interpreting the place it locations ladies in. Well-known feminist group Guerilla Ladies created a poster with the traditional reclined feminine physique, but positioned an Gorilla head on prime, and pasted it onto a shiny yellow background. The physique is surrounded by textual content that reads “Do ladies should be bare to get into the MET Museum?” They draw consideration to the truth that lower than 4 % of the artists within the fashionable artwork part are feminine, whereas 76 % of the nudes are representing feminine our bodies. In my research of Artwork Historical past in college, the illustration of ladies on chaise lounges appeared ubiquitous. 



The chaise longue has historically been related to psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud initiated using the chaise longue for this function, with the thought being that the affected person would recline on a sofa, with the analyst seated past the pinnacle of the sofa, in order that the consumer wouldn’t see the analyst. Reclining and never having to face the analyst was considered disinhibiting and to encourage free affiliation. On the time Freud started to make use of the chaise longue, it was thought of daring in Vienna to recline on a chaise within the presence of non-intimates. Freud’s personal chaise longue, given to him by a affected person, could also be seen at this time on the Freud Museum in London.

At this time, some psychoanalysts proceed to ask purchasers to recline on couches of their workplaces throughout psychotherapy, and should use chaises longues slightly than extra typical kinds of sofa out of custom. The chaise longue is usually used as visible shorthand to counsel a generic psychotherapist’s workplace in cartoons and different works. So far as I do know, there are not any analysis research utilizing the experimental methodology that discover whether or not or not using the sofa facilitates the method or end result of psychoanalysis, though many analysts and sufferers will inform you from their private expertise that they consider it does. If you happen to’re on the lookout for an intensive dialogue of the subject, Ahron Friedberg and Louis Linn wrote a really fascinating paper, “The Sofa as Icon” (Psychoanalytic Overview, February 2012), wherein they reviewed over 400 articles from the psychoanalytic literature (medical and theoretical) about using the sofa. Personally, regardless of having seen a handful of therapists over time, I’ve by no means had one who employed the lounge chair. 


Within the Victorian Period, the chaise lounge chairs got here into vogue as a respite for tightly corseted girls who wanted to take a breather. These “fainting couches” featured a again with one excessive, curved arm — an ideal backdrop for a dainty arm as the woman in query wilted from the warmth. There’s an episode of “Mad Males” wherein Betty Draper hauls dwelling a luxurious brocade upholstered chaise longue as a result of she felt “overwhelmed.” Whereas it could have been a bit old-fashioned for the mid-to-late-Nineteen Sixties, many formal parlors nonetheless featured some type of the chaise.

Sanitariums for recuperating tuberculosis sufferers within the Swiss Alps featured chaise lounges that resembled a hospital mattress/chaise cross. The connotation, whereas initially masculine, turned totally female, and related to weak spot and sickness. It, subsequently, was a mix of meanings, each connoting excessive class and an entry to leisure time, in addition to the female “structure”. The legacy of the chaise lounge in gendered understandings of well being and psychological well being continues. An extended legacy of prescriptive and sexist science stays on the basis of psychiatric medical therapy for girls. From the primary analysis of hysteria to the present-day disparities in psychological well being therapy, the custom of medicating ladies’s feelings has held fixed. Inside this context, the road between empirical therapy and medicating the lived experiences of ladies grows dangerously skinny. Therapy of psychiatric signs in ladies (by principally males, till just a few many years in the past) has all the time been related to concepts about sexuality and domesticity. Whether or not “over-sexed,” “repressed,” too attentive to their kids, or too withdrawn, psychiatric diagnoses usually centered on ladies’s perceived home failures. The chaise lounge was a part of a system of treating ladies’s dissatisfaction and affordable responses to a unequal society as a psychological sickness, in addition to catering to a view of ladies as essentially weaker than males. 

Even within the Victorian occasions, nevertheless, ladies have been utilizing the Chaise Lounge in writing as a device for exploring different concepts. Within the novel The Victorian Chaise Longue, by Margharita Laski, the charming and infantile spouse of a profitable lawyer falls asleep one afternoon on her Victorian chaise longue, lately bought in an vintage store, and awakes within the fetid environment of an unsightly, over-furnished room she has by no means seen earlier than. That is the story of a visit backward in time wherein a nostalgia for the quaint turns right into a hideous nightmare. The guide was printed in 1953, and I found it at a small press store in London. The novel, with an invalided younger girl because the protagonist, performs on the fears of the unknown, and takes a terrifying twist to the trope of the weak girl in her Chaise Lounge. 

The Fashionable Chaise Lounge 

From the late Twenties and bleeding into the Nineteen Sixties — a la Betty Draper’s period — chaise lounges match the invoice as a “type meets operate” piece. Well-known architects and designers fiddled with the chair’s design, protecting the chaise on the forefront of the prefabrication revolution. Within the Thirties, the chaise longue moved from the psychoanalyst’s workplace to the silver display. Any main girl value her salt — Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Gloria Swanson — draped herself seductively throughout one for photographs and movie shoots, usually clothed in a low-cut, spaghetti-strap satin nightgown. At this time, it stays a staple of photograph shoots for film stars, vogue fashions, and even the occasional enterprise government seeking to infuse femininity into her picture.

In 1928, famed architect Le Corbusier collaborated with fellow Bauhaus cohorts to create a glossy, metal-framed chaise that provided the sitter unparalleled flexibility. A consumer might tilt the body both to lift up the pinnacle and decrease the toes or vice versa. Charles and Ray Eames, the well-known designer duo identified for his or her eponymous molded chairs, created distinct Fiberglass shell chaise lounges with tubular metal legs—a glance that actually embodies that distinct mid-century fashionable fashion. It’s not quite common to see chaise lounges in houses nowadays, however could also be one thing you see in an costly lodge room. Whereas it could appear to have outdated operate, there are lots of methods it may be used now. The chaise lounge could make for the proper studying nook, with a standing lamp positioned proper beside it. 

Tall transom windows bring natural light to the foyer. It opens into the living room complete with a leather sectional and a contemporary chaise lounge.
Tall transom home windows carry pure mild to the lobby. It opens into the lounge full with a leather-based sectional and a up to date chaise lounge.

Whereas, like most items of furnishings, the Chaise Lounge could seem merely a mix of  sofa and a chair, there may be much more to its operate than meets the attention. The historical past reveals the fascinating relationship between inside design, and the social order of sure intervals. We are able to look again and critique the operate of a fainting chair as ridiculous and intensely outdated, however the legacy of those ideologies follows us into the current.