Title   Stoele, Matte (Search for the image)
Translated title Chairs, Mats
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a chair caner (`stoelmatter’)

Code of occupational group 94250
Description A man wearing a broad-brimmed hat sits on a box in a town square holding a rushbottomed chair on his knees. He is repairing the matting on the chair, as is evident by the two bundles of osiers near his feet. Behind him at the far left is a completed chair. He talks to a standing chair-mender who has tucked a bundle of long osiers under his right arm. Raising his left arm and hand, this second man holds three chairs balanced onto his shoulders and over his head. Behind them at the far right is a structure with a thatched roof; a church is in the back- ground to the left.

Chair frames were produced by joiners or turners and then sold to the caners or matters who finished them with seats of straw, reeds or willow osiers. The chair seats wore through with time but could be replaced by itinerant craftsmen. Patience and nimble fingers were needed, along with glue and the fibers being woven. There was not a large outlay in tools and supplies required for repair work.

Chairs are shown lined up for sale on the bridge near the Weigh House in the 1620 townscape of Alkmaar by an anonymous artist. While there are many genre paintings which show people sitting on such rushbottomed chairs, the chair-mender is not a familiar motif. Cornelis Dusart's
drawing of the chair-mender in the collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library shows a solitary figure making his way across a country road with chairs loaded onto his back and shoulders for resale. He, too, has a bundle of osiers tucked under his arm.

Jan Luyken's depiction of the chairmaker shows him sitting on a loosely woven floor mat as he fits the rushes together on a ladderback chair in joiner's shop that also employs a wood turner. Luyken's view is of a much more industrialized workshop producing chairs than the itinerant caners shown in Bramer's drawing. Chairmakers in Amsterdam belonged to thesame gild as other woodworkers and counted on the master of the furniture shop to supply materials, the itinerant caners probably got their supplies from the same sources used by broom makers and basket weavers. Some in rural areas might have cut their own willow osiers.

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

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