19th century chair as a Transformer

"Armchair" by George Jakob Hunzinger, patented in 1869 from artic 1996.439
Armchair” by George Jakob Hunzinger, patented in 1869

I might have gone too far. I have come up with three different Transformer names for this 19th century armchair in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

This armchair looks like a Transformer. Autobot or Decepticon? The red padding would have you think Autobot (the Autobot’s insignia is red), but those Decepticons are tricky! It could be a red-colored Decepticon.

What would its name be?

It is an armchair, so we could name it Harmchair. That would be a great Decepticon name (I was inspired by the Decepticon name list provided by sparxmind).

The artist who created this chair is George Jakob Hunzinger. Anonther great Transformer name—Hunzinger.

The medium for this chair is “Ebonized walnut with gilt decoration”. Giltfire would be a great name.

The chair’s description on the Art Institute’s website details the inscription:

Stamped on the rear of the left front leg: “HUNZINGER/N.Y./PAT. MARCH 30/1869

Yeah, ok, some sort of manufacture inscription. You know the chair also has a Decepticon or Autobot insignia stamped on it, but the museum just didn’t bother to include that detail. Because—why spoil the surprise!? Shhhh! Keep it a secret that an actual TRANSFORMER is on display.

Rather amazing that the chair is on display. Most times when I encounter something random from their online collection, the artwork is not on display.

This chair must be significant in some way

1. The chair is on display, not tucked away in storage.

Only 6% of their public domain artworks are on display. (3,151 on display of 55,599 artworks)

2. It was purchased by the Art Institute in 1996.

When something seemingly random pops up from the Art Institute’s collection, the artwork is usually donated. Especially an older donation from the early 20th century.

Sometimes I wonder how the museum went about donations in its beginning years. Did the museum think, “Ooooh man, this major donor just gave us this unusual item. We have to accept it, because they give us so much money.”

With this chair, the Art Institute recently sought this specific chair out, and bought it in 1996 from Andrew Van Styn of Fourth Quarter Antiques in Baltimore. The addition is very intentional on the museum’s part.

3. The chair was included in a book.

Published in 1998 by the museum in the book “American Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I” (this is an affiliate link).

I don’t know how much the chair gets mentioned in the book. Maybe it’s just a little photo, and that’s all. Or maybe there’s an entire spread that talks about how this chair was so awesome, and is a precursor to the Transformers brand. I’ll soon find out as this book is coming to me in interlibrary loan in about a week.

Side notes about the book: 1. About the affiliate link. If you buy the book for $33, I get about $1.50 at no extra charge for you). 2. How cool that the cover is one of my favorite paintings, the croquet painting by Winslow Homer.

Back to the chair being on display. Maybe we can get more of a hint about this chair by looking at the other art on display in the same room. Gallery 174 houses this absolutely amazing work.

"Sofa" by Charles A. Baudouine from artic 1976.394.jpg
Sofa by Charles A. Baudouine, 1849/54

Look at this thing! With three distinct parts united together, it’s gotta be a Combiner like Devastator. You can even see its face right there! This thing IS a Transformer.

The head is totally the head of a Transformer. Not even hiding it. He’s saying, “Yup, I am a Transformer. My alt mode is this crazy American Renaissance Revival sofa. “Come, sit on me. If you dare!”

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