Very few pieces of Greek furniture survive, so the main sources are the illustrations on pottery and a few remaining stone-carved items. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to identify the main furniture types. It is not surprising that the main categories resembled Egyptian prototypes but there were other developments that had a long-lasting influence.
The most important of these was the introduction of the couch as a development of the Egyptian bed. It was used not only as a bed but also as a sofa for reclining upon. This developed stylistically into the Greek sofa with its well-known curved head and footboards.
Seating arrangements were based on a range of stools and chair types. Stools were basic four-legged versions or box-like constructions. In addition there was the diphros, a four-legged stool with stretchers. The famous
klismos chair form (Figure 1.2), originally with well-proportioned outward-curving legs and a back panel at shoulder height, gradually developed a top-heavy back board, thus making it rather clumsy in appearance.
The use of chests is evident but no such item as a cupboard was made, as most items were hung on the wall. Low tables were used for dining purposes, then subsequently removed.
Due to the plentiful supply of timber, the Greeks avoided the need for veneers and it was only in Roman times that the art returned. However, materials such as marble, bronze, inlaid ivory and precious stones were used to decorate important pieces of furniture, often in conjunction with wood.
Etruscan furniture often relied on Greek models. The main Etruscan contribution to furniture-making was the use of bronze for tripods, candelabra and a particular circular casket called a cista. They also produced a chair type which was based on a barrel shape, having a back made in either wood or sheet bronze, curving round to form arms.
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