The Egg Chair: a History of the Genuine Arne Jacobsen Design

arne jacobsen egg chair historyThe Egg Chair is stunning, sculptural, offers exceptional comfort and has personality. And, as a result, it has achieved the status of a timeless classic.

This, in turn, has granted its longevity. And, it means every new generation can discover the craftsmanship of this iconic design. The designer, Arne Jacobsen, imbued his Egg Chair with an impression of empowerment.

Today the piece of furniture is famous. This is thanks to its ground-breaking design that dates from 1958. Because Jacobsen is a celebrated figure in the worlds of architecture and design, he has made a considerable contribution to the industry of modern design. Fritz Hansen’s furniture makers produce the Egg Chair today. And they still use simple tools to work quality materials employing time-honoured techniques.

The History

leather egg chairJacobsen designed the Egg Chair for the reception areas and lobby of Copenhagen’s Royal Hotel. When he won the commission to design every aspect it included the façade, the furniture, lighting and even the cutlery.

The airline Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) owned the building. Constructed in 1960, it was a grand opportunity for Jacobsen. It allowed him to apply his integrated design and architecture theories.

The Egg Chair was one of the triumphs of this total Jacobsen project. It was in sculptural contrast to the rest of the building’s vertical and horizontal surfaces.

Jacobsen was the first designer to use a foam inner shell underneath the upholstery. Working as if he was a sculptor, Jacobsen wanted to discover the shell’s ideal shape. To do this he used clay to come up with prototypes in his garage at home.

The unique shape he conjured up is what allows the Egg Chair to guarantee privacy. And this even in what could otherwise be busy public spaces. As a result, the Egg Chair is perfect for any waiting areas as well as in the lounge at home.

The Egg was only one of the visionary designs to emerge from Jacobsen’s imagination. Others include the Swan, the Series 7, the Ant, and the Drop.

The Designer

Jacobsen cut his design teeth painting over the raised Victorian wallpaper in his childhood bedroom. And he didn’t cover his walls with childish drawings or even paint the wallpaper a boyish colour like blue. What he did was to paint his room white throughout. And at the time this was a revolutionary thing to do. Indeed Jacobsen was very early to show he was ahead of his time.

modern egg chairIt is hardly surprising that for more than 50 years of the 20th century, Jacobsen shaped the Danish design landscape. And it is not a shock to discover his influences rippled out from Scandinavia. Indeed, he touched architects and designers throughout the world. But his inspiration came from some of the great 1950s modernist designers. These included Ray and Charles Eames.

The designer became prolific. As a result, he directed many projects. They ranged from the complex buildings to the simple. The projects included Denmark’s National Bank (Danmarks Nationalbank) and teaspoons for his cutlery set. And he always worked with a small studio team who were all chosen because of their drive to create.

As a stickler, Jacobsen insisted on a strict consideration of detail. And to show his visions to patrons and builders he would paint detailed watercolours. But his work ethic meant that he could design in one year what others would have been happy to come up within five.

The Chair

The Egg came out of what was Jacobsen’s largest commission to date. Its curved shape was quite unusual for its time. Jacobsen wanted to ensure the hotel’s interior was in complete contrast to its modernist exterior.

To provide a refuge from the harsh glass and steel Jacobsen had the idea for the Egg’s soft, organic lines. And when the chair was first exhibited, the Egg forged its reputation. Immediately it was seen as a landmark in the design of modern furniture. Nor was it only its shape that marked it out. It also used new materials and a revolutionary construction method. The upholstery covered a foam shell. This technique was unique and opened up myriad possibilities for other contemporary designers.

The Craftsmanship

Fritz Hansen continues to manufacture Jacobsen’s Egg chair. It has done so since the chair was first released.

It is still the case that specialist furniture makers at Fritz Hansen’s factory in Denmark craft each chair. And only the best quality materials are ever used.

Each Egg Chair is hand-stitched with a distinctive wave method. What this requires is more than 500 stitches for a fabric Egg Chair. And more than 1,100 stitches go into its leather version. This is a time-consuming process. But it is the type of care and attention that provide the chair’s premium look and exquisite feel.

The quality of a leather Egg Chair is timeless. Each one includes two, premium hides. And this ensures the leather is not disrupted by any seams or joins.

Leather improves as it matures. And this is why leather Egg Chairs improve with age. Indeed, many of them have become treasured heirloom pieces over the years. Passed through generations, the consequence is they become ever more desirable.

The Mark of Authenticity

It is hardly surprising, however unfortunate, that cheap imitation Egg Chairs are available on the open market. But the superior quality of materials and workmanship makes genuine Egg Chairs easy to authenticate. A genuine Fritz Hansen-made Egg Chair stands out. This is because the finish is a taut, smooth surface. And this is only possible with hand-stitched upholstery. If you find the fabric is loose, puckered or creased, there is a high likelihood it’s a fake.

Fritz Hansen now issues every authentic Egg Chair with a unique label. And this identifies each piece as genuine. It’s also worth noting that newer examples come with a “Republic of Fritz Hansen” label on the fabric. Egg Chairs made after 2006 have a red label. Chairs made after 2010 have a brown label. If you don’t see a label, check the base.

There may be a sticker on the cylinder that attaches the top to the base. And this may have “Made in Denmark by Fritz Hansen”. It may also include a four-digit date indicating when the chair originated. But the style of the labels has changed over the years. However, the information should be the same. First edition Egg Chairs made in the late 1950s often come with “FH Made in Denmark” stamped on the leather.

Sometimes the labels stuck to older chairs have come off through wear and tear. If you find no label present, look underneath. There you should find the FH logo, a raised serial number, and “Made in Denmark” moulded into the metal.

Check the Quality

Egg Chair manufacturing quality should offer even more clues about a piece’s authenticity. When you suspect an Egg Chair is counterfeit, study how the furniture’s has been put together. Check the materials used. The craftsmanship of an original will stand out. A key aspect to look at is the quality of the stitching.

An original Fritz Hansen-made chair will have distinctive stitching. This shows the unique wave pattern. Reproductions from other companies have uneven stitching. Some even have a tell-tale tuck-and-roll seam. This means there will be a roll of fabric visible between a seam’s layers. You may also notice that the upholstery puckers at the seams. It should be smooth.

arne jacobsen egg chairThe fabric should also be taut and smooth. In new chairs, there should be no excess when you try to grab the upholstery between your fingers. In an older chair made of leather, there may be material stretch brought about by heavy use. Don’t write these older versions off as fakes if they have a few loose spots.

Also, leather Egg Chairs use two pieces of premium hide to wrap the chair. Any seam down the back indicates a particular leather Egg Chair is a reproduction.

The dimensions of a reproduction chair may also be a bit off. An authentic Egg chair is  demonstrated by its size. If it’s genuine the Egg Chair should stand 107cm tall, measure 86cm wide and have a depth of 79cm (or 95cm when reclined). When a chair doesn’t measure up it is a fake. Dimensions that differ from these imndicate the chair is a copy.

Summary

It should go without saying that genuine Egg Chairs are valuable. It’s why it is so important to know how to authenticate any example that you may run across at a sale or resale shop.

The design is available in a wide range of fabric upholstery as well as leather. The Egg Chair is always combined with a starbase in aluminium. This is on a steel pedestal that has been satin polished. A matching footstool is also available.

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