The chair in Alien Covenant: 2017’s most significant furniture piece in a movie?

carlo-bugatti-chair-alien-covenant-feature

What’s the significance of the Carlo Bugatti chair in Alien Covenant?

Alien: Covenant is a bloody horror with enough aliens, spaceships and gore to be keep the average cinema-goer suitably entertained, yet there is a philosophical heart to the movie which explores a deeper concept: Creativity.

carlo-bugatti-chair-Alien-Covenant

The synthetic David seated in the Carlo Bugatti Throne chair in Alien Covenant

The film opens with Weyland Corp’s synthetic David who we met in Prometheus (brilliantly – and camply – played by Michael Fassbender, who also plays Covenant’s new synthetic – Walter) sitting in a distinctive Carlo Bugatti Throne chair next to an Eileen Gray E1027 Side Table. David recites his knowledge of the design and art pieces which inhabit the futuristic white room, to his creator Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce): The Carlo Bugatti chair, a Steinway piano, the painting The Nativity by Piero della Francesca (which, note, shows Mary kneeling in adoration before a newly-born Christ) and the Michelangelo Renaissance marble sculpture…. you guessed it: David. All exemplary in their relevant fields of art and design.

Carlo Bugatti throne chair in Alien Covenant

This Throne Chair is made of walnut and blackened wood, and inlayed with pewter, copper, brass and bone details, with hammered copper reliefs and calfskin upholstery. Made in 1905 in Milan, by Carlo Bugatti, known for his eclectic, imaginative designs.

“If you created me” David asks of Weyland, “Who created you?”.
“All art and design are meaningless in the face of the question where do we come from” he answers (or words to that effect).

Michaelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

the-nativity-piero-della-francesa-alien-covenant-chair

The Nativity (1470-75) by Piero della Francesca. The National Gallery, London.

David proceeds to take a seat at the Steinway piano and plays Wagner.

David seated at the Steinway piano in Alien Covenant

David seated at the Steinway piano in Alien Covenant

The film also ends on Wagner – Das Rheingold: Entry of the Gods into Valhalla (1869) and in between these two pieces of outstanding creativity, let’s just say the aliens have “evolved” a little!

So back to that chair in the opening lines of the film. Why is it significant?

The Throne chair by Carlo Bugatti and was made in 1905. An Italian sculptor and furniture maker, Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940) also had great interest in architecture, science, animals and nature. He was most prolific around 1900 and strove for originality with his work, choosing unusual materials and taking inspiration from far and wide – from the Gothic era, Japan, Islamic art, North Africa and Orient–inspired exoticism. The highly decorated and unusual shapes he often employed are most likely a reaction against the onslaught of factory produced pieces of the time resulting from the industrial revolution. Bugatti’s designs are striking, immediately recognisable and truly creative.

This set him apart from all trends at the time of the early 1900s and he gained increasing popularity at international events and expo’s. His fantastical furniture feels animalistic which echo’s David’s interest in zoology, anatomy and experimentation which become apparent later in Alien: Covenant.

When Queen Elena of Italy met Carlo Bugatti at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts held in Turin in 1902, she praised him for his “Moorish-style” furniture. His answer was suitably haughty: “Your majesty, this style is not Moorish – it’s my own!”.

alien covenant chair Some other Carlo Bugatti chair designs

Other examples of Carlo Bugatti’s chair designs

Creativity ran in the family too: If you’re wondering if there’s any connection to the French car maker, you’d be right. Carlo’s first son Ettore founded the Bugatti car company in 1909. His other son, Rembrandt, became a famous sculptor.

It’s fascinating that the Alien: Covenant film set decorator chose the Eileen Gray side table – a classic piece of furniture design which has the very essence of modernism embodied in it’s tubular steel base and glass top – to place next to such a highly decorated and exotic chair. Both completely different styles, yet both seek to push the boundaries of design and creativity.

Eileen Gray E1027 Side Table

Eileen Gray E1027 Side Table as seen in Alien Covenant

The table’s cleverly proportioned, distinctive form has made this height-adjustable table into one of the most popular design icons of the 20th Century. It is named after the summer house E 1027, Maison en Bord de Mer at Roquebrune Cap Martin, that Eileen Gray built for herself and for her collaborator, Jean Badovici. Likewise, the secret code-name comes from her: E is for Eileen, 10 for Jean (J is the 10th letter of the alphabet), 2 for B(adovici) and 7 for G(ray).

Many will take Alien: Covenant on face value, but if you dig deep you will find philosophy and symbolism. And for that reason we raise our hats to the one and only Ridley Scott.

Top Tip: Before going to see the movie, it’s helpful to shed some light on the plot with 20th Century Fox’s teaser video the Last Supper and The Crossing prologue which reveal what happened to crew members Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and the synthetic David after the events of Prometheus.

So where can I find one?

We were surprised and delighted to find a Carlo Bugatti Throne chair currently for sale. Just One Eye have one for sale priced $29,500.

So incredibly rare, it’s very fortunate that a Carlo Bugatti chair is also currently available from Pamono in their “Exceptional” category. This side chair shown below, is made from walnut with embossed copper and pewter inlay, vellum seat, and back painted with stylized flora with original silk tassels is dated circa 1900.

Walnut & Copper Side Chair by Carlo Bugatti, 1900s

Walnut & Copper Side Chair by Carlo Bugatti, 1900s. £18,750, available from Pamono

Walnut & Copper Side Chair by Carlo Bugatti, 1900s.
£18,750
Shop now

The Nativity by Piero della Francesca resides in the National Gallery, London and is available as a print from the online print and poster shop Art.com and Art.co.uk.

The Eileen Gray side table is available £579 from Aram > who hold the Worldwide license for Eileen Gray’s designs.

eileen gray side tables

A matching pair of vintage French adjustable chrome and glass side tables in the manner of Eileen grey’s iconic E1027.  Buy now from Pamono >

A matching pair of vintage French adjustable chrome and glass side tables in the manner of Eileen grey’s iconic E1027 are currently (at the time of posting) available from Pamono for £1,063.00. Buy now >

You will also find vintage versions on Ebay and also on Etsy ‘though beware of copies. Anything below £500 is likely to be an unlicensed copy.

Find out more about Steinway piano’s at Steinway.co.uk or visit the London showroom at 44 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2DB. Coach House Pianos sell many new and old Steinway piano’s through Ebay.

About the author -


Paula Benson

Film and Furniture founder / Co-Creative Director at Form. Passionate about interiors, design, art, film, music and mind over matter.

Posted in: Feature on May 9, 2017
Film Title: Alien Covenant
Film Year: 2017
Director: Ridley Scott
Object Type: chair table painting piano
Object Sub-type: Carlo Bugatti throne chair Eileen Gray side table Michaelangelo David Piero della Francesca Steinway piano
Object Designer: Carlo Bugatti Eileen Gray Michaelangelo Piero della Francesca Steinway
Object Shop: Just One Eye Aram National Gallery Steinway
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

16 Comments

  1. Lucille Bonato

    Hello,
    I’m looking for information about the white room, is it a house build by an architect ?

  2. Paula Benson
    Paula Benson

    Hi Lucille. We’re pretty sure it is a purpose built film set. Much of the film shot in Sydney where the film crew took over Fox Studios Australia. Sets were built on massive stages there, as well as at a nearby exterior location. Several exterior scenes were also shot in New Zealand.

  3. Be Oliveira

    I am Inspired!
    Just read your link via R.Branson’s tweet about Form and about your film&furniture Project.
    Congratulations!!!
    Ah, and all my 15 years that I lived in London Hampstead Heath was always my place of choice for many memorable walks. I know it like the palm of my hand as said in a brazilian expression.

  4. Paula Benson
    Paula Benson

    Glad to hear your inspired! Sign up to our newsletter and follow on social media to keep in touch. And indeed – Hampstead Heath is a wonderful place. There is a film (romcom) coming out soon called Hampstead inspired by the guy who lived in a secret shack on the Heath. I don’t think any of the furniture in said shack will make it to Film and Furniture though!

  5. Mike

    Hello, in the scene where the character Daniels packs Bransons belongings after his death I think I spotted an IKEA stool “Marius”, cloud you please confirm/deny this?

  6. Paula Benson
    Paula Benson

    Hello Mike. You may well be right, but we can’t recall the exact stool in that scene. If you find a film still of that scene, please do share it so we can identify it.

  7. Zach

    Regarding the chair, i think there is another element of symbolism: a 2nd complementary throne chair can be seen back in the shadows against the wall in the scene. The 2 chairs look as if they should be side by side but we can see from Weyland’s attitude he is not interested in sharing the throne.

  8. Paula Benson
    Paula Benson

    Excellent point Zach…

  9. Guille

    In the first scene, I like know the name brand of the cup of tea and gold spoon, any idea?

  10. William

    @ZACH: I’ll have to re-watch for that!
    You said:
    “The 2 chairs look as if they should be side by side”

    Is it possible their original configuration could have been the setup of the top left piece of furniture in the picture (above, in the article) of the four chairs, with the caption “Other examples of Carlo Bugatti’s chair designs” ?

  11. Paula Benson
    Paula Benson

    Not sure Guille. That needs some investigation!

  12. Alexander

    The chair also looks as if it has some of the symbols from Predator engraved in it. You can see it as Mr Weyland is sitting in it on the post that comes up on his right side. Are these markings original, or is it an allusion to the Pedator/ AVP markings found on the gun retrieved in the AVP Requiem by Ms Yutani at the end of the movie? Or is it hinting that Buggati ran into the Predator race in 1904, since in the first Alien vs.Predator movie, it mentioned that the Predators visited the Whaling station in Alaska and wiped out the whole town while performing the rite of passage for the Teenage Predators who fought the Alien species back then?

  13. Alexander

    What do the symbols on the Carlo Bugatti chair mean? Especially the ones on the base of the tall protruding post, are those Predaror symbols?

  14. Paula Benson
    Paula Benson

    Hello Alexander. We don’t know the answer to your question I am afraid, but as far as we are aware – the chair in Alien Covenant is an exact replica of the Carlo Bugatti chair from 1905 and therefore all markings are original to his design of that time and we believe it was chosen simply because it is an outstanding piece of design and culture, as is are all the pieces of furniture, art and sculpture in the White Room.

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become a Film and Furniture member

Sign up to receive inspiration, 6-8 times a year direct to your inbox

This website is mainly for entertainment and educational use. Some links within articles are monetized i.e. We sometimes receive a small payment if you click one of those links and purchase a product or service on that site. We tell you this in the spirit of openness and please rest assured that all our recommendations are vetted and genuine. All images: copyrighted to the original image maker and/or film company. Film and Furniture logos © Film and Furniture. All written content copyright © Film and Furniture.