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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

© Gaetano Pesce
Italian, born 1939
Prototype for the "Pratt Chair" Series

34 5/8 x 18 1/4 x 20 1/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Nina and Michael Zilkha

Arts of Europe

Gaetano Pesce designed the prototype for the Pratt Chair series while was teaching at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In these forms, Pesce explores ideas of craft and mass production, structure, and the human body. The chairs are made on commission in Pesce’s studio: Each chair is unique, owing to way the worker pours the colored resins into the mold, and the setting of the material. The Pratt chairs were made in nine models, ranging from structureless to uncomfortably rigid. The variation in weight-bearing structure is achieved by varying the density of the polyurethane.

This prototype is the first original mold for the series. Handmade by Pesce, the chair was then reproduced in sculpted plaster, from which the final form was cast in resin. The prototype is noticeably thicker than the production models, whose resin “skin” is flexible and appears stretched. It has a matte, opaque surface with little to no translucency, as opposed to the complete translucency of the production chair. The prototype also highlights the development of the decorative vocabulary of the Pratt chairs—only the handprint on the back rail and texturing on the seat are visible. Other motifs that later were part of the production models are not yet seen.