The Long and Wonderful Life of the Peacock Chair

Scrolling social media, one may notice a resurgence of the iconic Peacock Chair. Typically constructed of wicker with a pedestal hourglass form base and broad and tall backrest, it's a chair that's been an important and timeless staple of photo shoots for everyone from Edwardian era children to celebrities and moms-to-be, regardless of economic status.

Ironically, while the peacock chair was initially produced by prison labor in the Philippines, it later became an important symbol of freedom and eminence.  The first photograph taken with the peacock chair was an unnamed inmate of the prison and her child.  The chair debuted in the U.S. in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 and its popularity ebbed and flowed until it finally exploded in the 1960s.  Since then, several artists have used the peacock chair for album covers or as a prominent feature in their performances, including Dolly Parton, James Brown, Outkast and Beyonce.  

One of the most powerful and recognized of these images features Huey Newton, African American revolutionary and leader of the Black Panther movement. Surrounded by the trappings of an African king, with a direct gaze at the camera, he exudes power and leadership.  With this image, the chair became politicized, a symbol of Black power.  It often took center stage at Black Panther rallies, even when Newton himself could not attend.  

As ever, the peacock chair has proven itself to be a timeless accessory in both photo shoots and home design.  Most recently it experienced a redesign as the Wakanda throne in Marvel's Black Panther film.  There are few pieces of furniture that are as successful at establishing cultural relevance as the Peacock Chair while also being wonderfully utilitarian.


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