Modeled after a traditional American Windsor chair, Hans Wegner’s Peacock chair strips the form to reveal its construction while retaining aesthetic, decorative impact. The chair reveals a modernist approach to designing around the human body and using natural materials. The seat is made of paper cord: when the chair was first designed in 1947, shortages caused by World War II prevented Wegner from using jute. Fellow designer Finn Juhl gave the nickname of ‘Peacock,’ seeing the chair’s flattened spindles and magnificent arc resembling the bird’s plumage.
With the Peacock Chair, Wegner discovered just where the soul of the chair lies: in the top rail. Perhaps his work in bending the Chinese chair's top rail had led to the recognition that the chair's greatest potential for expression was found there. The Peacock is a bold example of expressiveness. Finn Juhl, the most avant-garde-seeking and form-challenging furniture designer of the time, gave the chair its appreciative name. Thus, it became the first in a series of designs with animal names by Wegner's hand: his creations would eventually be christened cow horns, buffalo, bulls, oxen, bears, dolphins, and other animals. Yet the poetic interpretation of animals was not what most interested the modest, rational cabinetmaker. He left it to others to name his fantastic but unpretentious designs.
Dimensions: 41 3/4 in. H × 27 1/2 in. W × 20 1/2 in. D Seat: 22 1/2 in. x 19 3/4 in. x 12 in. at back
Seat: 14 in.
History of the Peacock Chair:
The Peacock Chair was costly to manufacture. Its large arc is not steam-bent, as on the Windsor chairs, but laminated from several pieces of wood to make the form precise and stabile. The Windsor chair's rounded spindles are not comfortable for the back. Wegner was aware of that fact in 1944 when he designed his rocking chair for Johannes Hansen.
As a result, the spindles in this later project flatten at the top where the shoulder blades rest on the wood. The flattening on the Peacock's back is not considered a decorative feature but is, instead, the consequence of ergonomic considerations. The Peacock's flipper-shaped armrests were originally made of teak, to match the teakwood table the chair was supposed to accompany. Though symbolic and decorative enough to please a postmodernist, everything about the Peacock Chair is founded in practicality. Its large, translucent fan shape fits well in bright, open Modernist spaces, where furniture should not interrupt the eye's flow through the room and out into nature. The chair also decorates walls and floors with its ornamental shadows, which reverberate with historical references.