Chaise longue à reglage continu,
Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret,
Production: since 1930
Manufacturer: Thonet Frères, Paris
Size: c. 70 x 56.6 x 156 cms
Material: chrome-plated and varnished
steel, fabric, steel springs, rubber
Compared to the social ideas of the Bauhaus and its minimal designs, French tubular steel furniture, which was influenced by Art Deco, could be considered luxurious. The extravagant shapes and combinations of materials corresponded to the needs of Parisian society for a decidedly modern quality of life and comfort.
The few furniture designs which Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret sketched in cooperation with Charlotte Perriand included different drawings of chaises longues. However, not a single item had ever been realized; except for a few bookcases which, however, must be classified more as permanent fixtures of the open, spacious buildings that Le Corbusier furnished in a technical, functional manner and conceived of as “machines for living:’ His approach called for sparse and functionally related furnishing, e.g., like Thonet’s armchair “No. 6009,” the modernness of which was rediscovered through its predominant use in Le Corbusier interiors. Charlotte Perriand, whose nickel-plated copper furniture had just been introduced at the 1927 Paris autumn salon, joined the studio Le Corbusier shared with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret at the end of that year. Between 1928 and 1929, presumably to a great extent based on Le Corbusier’s sketches, the three created different pieces of furniture such as a swivel stool, tables, armchairs, and a chaise longue. Included among these designs, which are all highly regarded today, is this chaise longue which is undoubtedly one of the most famous items of twentiethcentury furniture. In 1928, in a perspective interior view, Le Corbusier sketched the chaise longue which consists of a padded surface bended sharply twice and resting on the edge of the foot section, supported at the head by a column. In newspaper advertisements of the same year, the Paris physician Pascaud publicized an anatomically shaped lounge chair with an adjustable back piece and neckrest, the so-called “Surrepos.” Surely Le Corbusier was also familiar with a rocking chaise longue, equipped with an adjustable back: Thonet’s “Rocking Sofa No. 7500.” But Le Corbusier, Jeanneret, and Perriand did not wait until the “Surrepos” was on the market and approached the idea from an entirely new perspective. They designed a multifunctional structure which made the reclining surface, fixed on a pair of bows, independent of the base. Since this section rests loosely on the H-shaped supports of the base, its inclination can be adjusted continuously. The rubber sleeves around the crossbeam of the support prevent slipping when someone uses the chaise longue. When the reclining surface is lifted off the base, the bows serve as runners for a rocking recliner.
The different parts of this chaise longue also visually communicate the dynamic of its versatility, even with regard to such details as the inclination of the H-shaped supports, whose oval crosssections are similar to the wings of an airplane. (They were tear-shaped in the original model.) Le Corbusier, who was fascinated by the aesthetics of machines, also called this chaise longue a “relaxing machine.” In the first model, which was produced by craftsmen under the supervision of Charlotte Perriand for a library of the villa Church in 1928, the ends at the foot and head sections of the chair were still welded on and thus interrupted the continuous line of the tubular steel frame. An example of this type of chair was exhibited by Le Corbusier, Jeanneret, and Perriand at their “L’equipement d’une habitation” stand at the 1929 Paris autumn salon. In the next model, designed for the gallery in the villa La Roche in 1928, this formal inconsistency was corrected. The original scale drawings of this model, which the three designers passed on to Thonet, coincide with the contract signed in 1929 and formed the basis for production, which began in 1930. The example shown here was probably a Thonet prototype. The elliptical profile of the bar between the front and back sections of the base is already like those used in the Thonet massproduced versions. Unlike here, in the original as well as with the mass-produced design, the front and back sections of the base were at the same height. Thonet advertised this piece of furniture in a 1930 catalogue with a canvas or calfskin covering. In the meantime the chaise longue was produced again by the Swiss Embru Company under license from Thonet and from 1965 until the present by Cassina. MSC
Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret,