Antique chairs, as we know them, are of extreme antiquity and simplicity.
Although for many centuries: and indeed for thousands of years, it was an solely an article of state and dignity rather than an article of ordinary use by common people.
This may explain why there are so few antique chairs in existence from earlier than the 16th Century.
“The chair” is still extensively used as the emblem of authority in the House of Commons of Britain and in public meetings. It was not, in fact, until the 16th century that chairs became common anywhere.
The chest, bench or stool were until then the ordinary seats used in everyday living, and the number of chairs which have survived from an earlier date is exceedingly limited; most of such examples are of ecclesiastical or seigneurial origin.
Antique chairs may or may not have armrests; chairs with armrests are termed “armchairs”. In the French language, a distinction is made between fauteuil and chaise, the terms for chairs with and without armrests, respectively.
If present, armrests will support part of the body weight through the arms if the arms are resting on the armrests.
Armrests further have the function of making entry and exit from the chair easier although entering or exiting from the side becomes more difficult.
Other Types of Antique Chairs
A couch, bench or other arrangement of seats next to each other may have armrest at the sides or arm rests in between.
The latter may be provided for comfort, but also for privacy (for example, on public transport and in other public places), and in some park benches, to prevent homeless people from lying down or sleeping on the bench.
Arm rests reduce both desired and undesired proximity between people seated side by side.
A loveseat, for good reason, has no armrest in between two seating positions.
Our knowledge of the chairs of any great age is derived almost near entirely from monuments, sculptures and paintings honoring the rich or powerful from the past.
Very few actual examples exist of chairs from before the 1500’s but there are some in the British Museum and in the Egyptian museum at Cairo.