What is a Savonarola Chair?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A Savonarola chair is a chair with a distinctive X-shaped frame. This chair is native to the Mediterranean, where various versions were made across Ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, with examples of the chair dating to at least 2,000 BCE. A number of furniture companies manufacture modern Savonarola chairs, including replicas of antiques along with chairs updated for modern aesthetics. It is also possible to purchase antique chairs through auction houses, antique dealers, and specialized furniture stores.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Originally, the Savonarola chair was designed to fold along the point of the X in the frame. This allowed the chair to be used for military campaigns and other outdoor activities. Over time, the design became more ornate, and the chairs often lost their ability to fold as a scrollwork back was added and the chair was outfitted with heavy scrollwork armrests and increasingly elaborate seats. The traditional Savonarola chair used a frame with numerous legs which criss-crossed each other, creating a set of slats along the side of the chair, and this design continues to be utilized in most Savonarola chairs.

These chairs were often covered in fabric webs or pieces for comfort, and sometimes included cushions and other features designed to make them more comfortable to use. Over time, the Savonarola chair came to be viewed as a sign of high social rank, with the chairs becoming quite expensive and thus available only to the upper classes. The basic X of the frame also became quite elaborate, with curves on the struts making up the X which gave it a more stylized appearance.

The chair is probably named for Girolamo Savonarola, a 15th century Italian cleric who briefly ruled Florence. People may also refer to the Savonarola chair as the X chair, Dante chair, or scissors chair. These chairs are closely associated with the Renaissance, a period during which they were extremely popular across Europe. Numerous depictions of the design can be seen in art from this period, and in interior design schemes which are meant to have a Renaissance flavor, a Savonarola chair may be used as a decorative feature.

Although linked with the Renaissance in the imagination, these chairs can also be updated for more modern aesthetics. Modern chairs can be made from wood, metal, plastics, and other materials, and while they retain a look and feel which may be familiar, they have designs which branch out from the traditionally ornate Savonarola chair.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


When I received a promotion, I got to move into the office with the nice Savonarola chair. I had often wished to try that chair out, because it looked so comfortable yet high-class at the same time.

The seat and back cushion are tufted black leather. The leg looks like a diagonal tilde. It is so elegant in its simplicity!

A piece of metal supports the back cushion on each side. It is semi-circular and crosses the legs underneath.

What is really surprising is how supportive this chair is! I could tell by looking that it would be comfy, but I had no idea how sturdy it was!


When her great-grandmother died, my friend inherited some really elite looking furniture that had been passed down for generations. Among the pieces, she received a very interesting Savonarola chair.

The grayish-black leg slats wave in several places. The X is so wavy, it almost appears to be underwater. Arm rests sit atop the slats. The whole piece is made of some type of metal engraved with intricate designs and laden with shiny crystals.

The back rest is the most elegant element of the entire chair. It has so many gorgeous encrusted engravings that it seems to sparkle even in shadows.


My father worked at a television station for over 30 years. When he retired, they gave him a Savonarola director’s chair. Though it is nowhere near as fancy and intricate as I’m sure most of these are, its design fits the basic description.

The legs cross over in an x-shape. They have a metal bar that crosses them in front and in back, and it bends in the middle to allow the chair to be folded. The back has an open space and a piece of navy blue canvas material stretched across it for support. The seat is made of the same fabric.


My friend who collects antiques has a Savonarola chair made of fir and chestnut. It has six slats on each side and a small golden yellow cushion to sit on. The back is open except for the scroll that runs across and joins the thing together.

Though it doesn’t seem like it would be, he says it’s pretty comfortable. He likes to sit in it while playing poker. He thinks its regal appearance intimidates his opponents.

With its wavy open slats and crossed shape, it reminds me of an ironing board. This Italian made chair is fancy in its shiny finish and wavy shapes, but I find the structure overall humorous.


One of my friends is a home decorator and I have seen many pictures of homes she has decorated for families. I remember one home that had two of these Savonarola chairs in their home. They were on each side of a small table inside the big entry way of their home.

This led into their dining room which had dining room chairs that were made in a similar color and ornate design. The dining room chairs were more comfortable for sitting at the table, but they were a close match to the Savonarola chairs in look.

This was a very classy, elegant home where these chairs really matched the decor of the whole house.


I have always wanted a couple of Savonarola chairs because I am fascinated with the way they are built. Their basic design reminds me of a classic camping stool, except they have a back to them, are made of quality material and are very elegant looking.

I don't know how comfortable they are to sit in, and imagine they are not nearly as comfortable as the leather desk chair I have in my office. If I had some chairs like this, they would probably be used to sit on for short periods of time, but they sure look appealing.


I love the unique, ornate look of Savonarola chairs. Not only are they beautiful, but they are also quite practical. Since most of them are not very large, they can be easily folded and moved around as needed.

When you see the exquisite detail you understand why they were once available only for the wealthy. They are not as hard to come by today. I recently saw a Girolama Savonarola chair for sale on Amazon. This style of chair was named after a monk.

They are not cheap chairs, but are affordable and make a nice statement for your home or office.

Post your comments
Forgot password?