The Chesterfield sofas are an indisputable and attributed symbol of the English Classical Style.
Traditionally in leather, but also in its fabric versions, this unmistakable icon of quality upholstery is always in fashion.
Its documented historical origin dates from the early 19th century when it was used to set the exclusive and elitist London social clubs, where only members of the male gender were allowed to enter. In the following decades, it passed to the salons of the British houses of the high society and later it was popularized until becoming an icon of the British decoration and the classic English sofa par excellence.
According to legend, although there are several versions of it, its origin is due to the 4th Earl of Chesterfield: Philip Dormer Stanhope (September 22, 1694 – March 24, 1773), statesman, diplomat and man of letters, patron of Voltaire and known by the Letters to his son, a compilation of the correspondence he had with his natural son.
Apparently, Mr. Stanhope ordered the realization of an armchair to a local artisan expressly indicating that it was “hard and robust”, with arms and back to the same height to force to sit with a straight back. The Earl of Chesterfield had noticed that the usual armchairs did not allow his service staff to keep their posture upright and correct, which tarnished the dress or uniform of his butler and therefore commissioned a special armchair that would meet his strict standards of style.
The legend continues and places us on the count’s deathbed, where his last words before expiring, were addressed to his lackey, to whom he indicated that they gave a seat to Mr. Dayrolles, a young diplomat who had come to be interested in his godfather and benefactor. The loyal employee, probably tired of the rigidity of the chair that his lord had imposed on him for years; he interpreted the latter’s will at the bottom of the letter, insisting that the visitor should take the furniture with him and compel him to do so despite the sonorous protests of the interested party.
Mr. Dayrolles, who we assumed had to carry the heavy piece of furniture for a long distance, noticed the armchair upon arriving at his house: an object of magnificent purity, upholstered with a beautiful brown leather studded with large and deep buttons that looked like to shape it. In other words, it was a completely timeless masterpiece.
We do not know exactly how the armchair in question was reproduced later, but we must imagine that it was due to the orders from the circle of friends of Mr. Dayrolles, among whom the armchair caused admiration.
Of aristocratic origin, it was soon adopted by the bourgeoisie and the upper class as the epitome of refined style. The proliferation of male clubs first between London society and later in the rest of England, made it a fundamental and essential piece in salons of British high society, offices of liberal professionals, bankers and newly rich. In short, anyone who could afford it had to have a Chesterfield to prove or pretend their social status.
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