1930s Cesca Armchair by Marcel Breuer
About the Item
- Creator:Marcel Breuer (Designer)
- Dimensions:Height: 32 in (81.28 cm)Width: 23.5 in (59.69 cm)Depth: 23.5 in (59.69 cm)
- Style:Mid-Century Modern (Of the Period)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Place of Origin:
- Date of Manufacture:1930s
- Condition:Wear consistent with age and use.
- Seller Location:Sagaponack, NY
- Reference Number:Seller: 13053.0011stDibs: LU890315225371
Ubiquitous but never boring, the Cesca chair has defined casual elegance in the dining room since 1928. Designed by Marcel Breuer (1902–81) for the Austrian furniture maker Gebrüder Thonet, the original Cesca chair combines natural beechwood caning and modern tubular steel for a sensibility that celebrates both handicraft and industrialization. It’s a paragon of Bauhaus design, embodying the school’s “truth to materials” philosophy and adhering to the movement’s emphasis on mass production. In fact, the Cesca chair was the first-ever tubular steel frame chair with a caned seat to be mass produced — a breakthrough for furniture design.
Breuer got his start in architecture after dropping out of the painting program at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He began apprenticing with a Viennese architect and went on to join the Bauhaus movement in 1921, when he was just 19 years old, eventually becoming a master carpenter at the German arts school. While there, Breuer designed furniture for Sommerfeld House in Berlin, industrialist Adolf Sommerfeld’s private residence, which was conceived by architects Walter Gropius (the Bauhaus school’s founder) and Adolf Meyer. Not long afterward, Breuer’s experiments with tubular steel would yield his Wassily chair, named for his friend, painter and Bauhaus professor Wassily Kandinsky, as well as the Cesca.
Originally called the B32, Breuer renamed the chair in honor of his daughter, Francesca, when Italian manufacturer Gavina began producing it in the early 1960s. Knoll introduced the chair when it acquired Gavina in 1968 and continues to manufacture it today.
And while the Cesca chair’s silhouette has remained the same throughout the decades, Breuer himself later made minor modifications, including the implementation of a shallower curve to the back and the addition of a second piece of steel for the frame to account for both comfort and durability. With the Cesca’s cantilevered construction, Breuer’s design transcended that of the traditional four-legged dining chair, pushing the boundaries of what “everyday” could mean in furniture.
The architect and designer Marcel Breuer was one the 20th century’s most influential and innovative adherents of modernism. A member of the Bauhaus faculty, Breuer — like such colleagues as the architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and the artists and art theoreticians László Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers — left Europe in the 1930s to champion the new design philosophy and its practice in the United States.
Born in Hungary, Breuer became a Bauhaus student in 1920 and quickly impressed Gropius, the German school’s founder, with his aptitude for furniture design. His early work was influenced by the minimalist Dutch design movement De Stijl — in particular the work of architect Gerrit Rietveld. In 1925, while he was head of the Bauhaus furniture workshop, Breuer realized his signature innovation: the use of lightweight tubular-steel frames for chairs, tables and sofas — a technique soon adopted by Mies and others. Breuer’s attention gradually shifted from design to architecture, and, at the urging of Gropius, he joined his mentor in 1937 on the faculty of Harvard and in an architectural practice.
In the 1940s, Breuer opened his own architectural office, and there his style evolved from geometric, glass-walled structures toward a kind of hybrid architecture — seen in numerous Breuer houses in New England — that pairs bases of local fieldstone with sleek, wood-framed modernist upper floors. In his later, larger commissions, Breuer worked chiefly with reinforced concrete and stone, as seen in his best-known design, the brutalist inverted ziggurat built in New York in 1966 as the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Breuer’s most famous furniture pieces are those made of tubular steel, which include the Wassily chair — named after Wassily Kandinsky and recognizable for its leather-strap seating supports — and the caned Cesca chair. Breuer also made several notable designs in molded plywood, including a chaise and nesting table for the British firm Isokon and a student furniture suite commissioned in 1938 for a dormitory at Bryn Mawr College. Whether in metal or wood, Breuer’s design objects are elegant and adaptable examples of classic modernist design — useful and appropriate in any environment.
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