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"Proust" Armchair

Designed by Alessandro Mendini, Italian, 1931 - 2019. Made by Atelier Mendini, Milan, Italy, 1989 - present.

Made in Milan, Italy, Europe

Designed 1978; made 1998-1999

Painted wood, painted upholstery

42 1/2 x 40 x 40 inches (108 x 101.6 x 101.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift (by exchange) of Mrs. Adolph G. Rosengarten, 2000

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Alessandro Mendini was a member of Studio Alchimia (founded 1976), a group of experimental Italian designers who rejected the strict principles of modernism, and embraced ornament, symbolism and craftsmanship. For the "Proust" armchair Mendini selected a ready-made Rococo revival chair and had it hand-painted with Pointillist brushstrokes derived from a painting by nineteenth-century French painter Paul Signac. The pattern consumes the generous, scrolling form of the chair, covering both the upholstery and the carved woodwork.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    One of the first examples of postmodern design, this armchair rejected the undecorated geometric forms, industrial materials, and functionalist values of classical modernism. Inspired by the idea of creating an ironic object linked to a historic literary figure, Italian designer Alessandro Mendini determined to make an armchair suitable in form and decoration for French writer Marcel Proust. After studying Proust’s visual and material world, Mendini selected a ready-made Neo-Rococo-style upholstered chair and had it hand-painted with juxtaposed dots of pure color, a technique inspired by the pointillist canvases of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who were contemporaries of Proust. Kathryn Bloom Hiesinger, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 386–387.