“White…room…Chair. Throne Chair. Carlo Bugatti throne chair. Principal component walnut and blackened wood.Pewter, copper, brass. Some restoration.” Alien: Covenant Novelisation
Carlo Bugatti’s extraordinary furniture designs stand alone in the history of decorative arts. Indeed, the name for his Milanese furniture business testifies to the fantastic nature of his work: C. Bugatti & C., Fabbrica Mobili Artistici Fantasia (C. Bugatti & Co., Artistic Fantasies Furniture Factory).
Bugatti’s ideas were much inspired by Moorish, Islamic and Japanese design and he was no doubt influenced by the general European interest in Orientalism during the late nineteenth century. It is, nevertheless, Bugatti’s idiosyncratic combination of these cultural styles that make his furniture so unusual. His approach to furniture design was to treat it as an opportunity for artistic creativity.
Carlo Bugatti was the son of a sculptor and stone carver and studied at the Accademia di Brera, Milan, and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where he developed an early interest in architecture. Around 1880 he had turned his interests towards cabinet-making and by 1888 had established a commercial furniture workshop in Milan, producing handcrafted furniture to his own designs. However, details of Bugatti’s life remain sketchy and the first visual documentation of his work does not emerge until 1888 when he exhibited at the Italian Exhibition in Earls Court, London, from which nine pieces of his furniture were illustrated in the Queen, The Lady’s Newspaper. Bugatti made a strong impression on the British, being awarded a diploma of honour and subsequently receiving one of his most notable interior design commissions, the bedroom for the English society figure Cyril Flower, Lord Battersea. The furniture for this commission reflects Bugatti’s characteristic style of the 1890s, which incorporated a variety of oriental design elements and the use of unusual materials.
Throne chair c.1900 encapsulates Bugatti’s mature style of this period. Signature features include his use of ebonised wood inlaid with metal, which has been described as Moorish but, equally, may owe as much to Japanese inspiration as to Islamic. The inlay was achieved by carving the designs into the wood and then filling them with molten metal. On the front stretcher these inlays appear to reference a foreign script but in other areas they represent plants and birds in a pseudo-Japanese fashion. Bugatti also incorporated a variety of unusual materials into his furniture, such as fringing and tasselling, which added an exotic flavour and softened the hard-edged geometric style. His use of vellum is also particularly characteristic and Bugatti often decorated it with plant motifs in a soft brown wash. He often framed these panels with strips of copper beaten with geometric patterns, seen to great effect on the circular back and around the arms and seat of the Throne chair. Bugatti’s employment of asymmetry contributed significantly to the individual nature of his work. Its use is striking yet his furniture never appears unbalanced or out of proportion. It is completely grounded and rich with exotic ornament and imagination.
There is so much symbolism in the choice and placement of this chair and how it is used in the prologue.
We see David sitting in it, Weyland off to the side observing him. David sits upon Weyland’s throne so to speak, and in the P.Weyland files we find out that Weyland viewed David as his one true offspring and caretaker who will protect his legacy in this life and the next.
This chair is made up of many parts, and despite its varying materials it still remains a beautiful creation and balanced in every way. Much like David’s Ovomorphs. There I said it, I was skeptical too when I discovered to my horror that David would be the creator of the Xenomorph. But after combing through all of David’s illustrations he had done on Planet 4 in relation to his research you can definitely see how he created them. Like the David sculpture in the Prologue, it was just a copy but it still retained an air of creativity on the part of the sculptor. Just as the chair had been restored, so had the engineer’s creation to a certain extent. The engineers used the eggs in ritualistic sacrifice to cleanse them of their sins, the resulting deacon would then wipe out the population. A flood would cleanse the world. So that they could seed the planet and start a new.
It was brought to my attention that there is another chair far away and against the wall, not looking over world as Weyland’s chair. There is no creator of Weyland looking over him because his creators are gone. When the crew of the USCSS Covenant arrive at planet 4 it is empty, the throne is empty, there is nothing.
“There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing” - David 8, Prometheus & Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia
Carlo Bugatti’s work represents one of Art Nouveau’s most eccentric variations. Highly innovative in almost every respect, Bugatti’s work made use of unusual materials, primarily exotic woods, vellum, parchment, and nacre, to create very unique, unmistakable work that seem at times more meant to be appreciated as sculpture than actually used. Apart from making chairs, cabinets, desks, and tables, he also produced a limited amount of silver, textile, and ceramic work, as well as musical instruments, screens, mirrors, and wall decors for his most fully-designed interiors. His work falls in primarily two unique phases and styles: the first occuring from the late 1880s until around 1900, and the other from 1900 until he stopped producing furniture in 1918. The two styles have many similarities, but are also highly distinctive.
The first phase of his design is dominated by a certain interest in exoticism. His works of this time draw heavily from Moresque, Arabic, and Japanese design, which he synthesized in a very modern version of Orientalism. His design of this period is dominated by strongly geometric furniture covered with decoration evoking Japanese screens, Islamic geometric patterns, and text resembling kanji and kufic script. Ogee arches, spires, columns, jagged edges, and tassels are common decorations of his furniture at this time. Dark wood predominate and define the strongly sculptural forms, while painted vellum or mother-of-pearl inlays provide most of the decoration. His furniture of this time is also defined by a predilection for asymmetry, though this is not always the case.
The second phase of his work is defined by his four interiors done for the Turin exhibition. Here his work becomes even more sculptural and geometric, but rather than favoring the rectangle, his work becomes more and more curved. Vellum becomes the main material, with whole pieces in furniture completely covered with it. The exotic imagery become less pronounced and are replaced by highly geometric insect and bird motifs. It is perhaps these works that are the most obviously Art Nouveau of his work, with the surplus of curves and insect motifs. However, they maintain a highly unique character, their subdued, pastel decoration and large expanses of off-white color having a very modern feel that predicts the predominantly single color furniture of the International Style.
Bugatti’s style was always unique even from other Italian designers, who tended generally either to imitate the floral style of French Art Nouveau designers, follow in Renaissance and Islamic Revival styles, or design works that looked forward to the heavily angular machine aesthetic of the Futurists. Bugatti seems to draw a little bit from all three traditions, but his work also seems to draw a bit from a love of primitive culture. His use of vellum, covered with pale decoration and cryptic pseudo-script, seem to remind one of old manuscripts and lost civilizations. His style is thus one highly suitable for the end of a century and beginning of a new one. It both looks back to the styles before it while feeling very strongly like the first breath of an entirely new one.