A chair fit for a Pharoah
Attention to detail shows artisans’ skills
When Jim Howell walked into the massive, disorderly antiquities hall at Cairo Museum in 2003 he was immediately taken by the throne of the ancient boy pharoah Tutankhamen.
‘‘It just struck me, the aesthetic of it – I just thought it was beautiful,’’ he said. ‘‘The first thing that came to my mind was ‘have a go at reproducing it’.’’
The chair is in the classic style known as the Windsor design, in which the back and legs are lodged into the seat, he said. The western Windsor chair was developed in the middle ages – from the fifth century until the 15th.
‘‘The Egyptians developed this and it was lost from sight for 3000 years,’’ Howell said.
Back in his Papakowhai home he began five years of work to determine the throne’s exact dimensions and design details and then four more years of meticulous work to build the replica.
Howell’s throne will be displayed at Pataka from July 4 till 21.
Howell has also replicated fretwork that was missing from the original and the ivory is mammoth ivory rather than elephant, which now has legal protection.
The original was made of Lebanese cedar, which is also protected, so Howell has substituted walnut, which is a close match.
‘‘To me it looks very much like the original,’’ he said.
The chair contains 57 mortise-and-tenon joints, and the side rails appear very slender.
‘‘Making this reproduction has given me a tremendous respect for the original artisans,’’ he said. An accompanying footstool carries carved depictions of Nubians with their hands tied.
‘‘The symbolism is of them being there under the Pharoah’s feet – subordinated,’’ Howell said.
Howell will be at Pataka to talk about making the throne from 10am until 11.30am on Sunday, July 7, as part of the Festival of Wood Skills.
Robbie Graham will talk about artistic wood-turning and Allan Sanson will conduct a hands- on scroll- sawing workshop.