Dan Johnson’s Roman Furniture

September 11, 2015

While other postwar California furniture designers explored futuristic paraboloid forms and free-form biomorphic shapes, Dan Johnson (1918–1979) looked back to Roman antiquity to find inspiration for his signature furniture pieces.


Lot 133, Dan Johnson, Satyr dining table, designed c. 1956, Italy
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

In the mid-1950s, he moved to Rome and opened Dan Johnson Studio, designing furnishings that, as he later wrote to a friend, took “a modern approach to the ancient Roman stuff I appreciated so much.” The pieces are marked by their elegant sculptural quality.


Lot 134, Dan Johnson, Dining chairs (6), designed c. 1958
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

The forms of Johnson’s best-known works–his lithe, graceful Gazelle chairs and tables–were likely suggested by the animals depicted in early CE Roman hunting scene mosaics. The rare Satyr line of tables was inspired by images of the Greco-Roman mythological figure: part-man, part-horse, with a notably long tail, and in many renderings, equine legs and hooves. (Johnson took the further liberty of giving his satyrs a pair of tiny wings.)

Lot 136, Dan Johnson, Gazelle chair, designed c. 1958
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Both the Gazelle and the Satyr lines were made in wood, anodized aluminum, and patinated cast bronze. The 1956 Dan Johnson Studio catalogue offers three- and four-leg Satyr side tables. However, this lot is the only known example of a Satyr dining table.

Tigerman, Bobbye, ed. A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965: Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers. Cambridge: MIT, 2013. Print. 132-133.


Lot 135, Dan Johnson, Desk, designed 1947
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot Information:

Lot 133
Dan Johnson
Satyr dining table
Designed c. 1956, in Italy
28.5″ x 68″ x 36″
Literature: A Handbook of California Design, 1930-1965: Craftspeople, Designers, Manufacturers. B. Tigerman, ed. 2013. 132-133.
Estimate: $15,000–20,000

Lot 134
Dan Johnson
Dining chairs (6)
Dan Johnson Studio, designed c. 1958
Comprised of four side chairs and two armchairs
Side chairs each: 32.75″ x 20″ x 19″
Armchairs each: 31.25″ x 20″ x 19″
Estimate: $20,000–30,000

Lot 136
Dan Johnson
Gazelle chair
Dan Johnson Studio, designed c. 1958
27″ x 24″ x 22.5″
Estimate: $5,000–7,000

Lot 135
Dan Johnson
Hayden Hall, designed 1947
29.75″ x 53.125″ x 25″
Literature: Living In a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965. W. Kaplan, ed. 2011. 139.
Estimate: $5,000–7,000

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