During the first half of the 19th century the aurists and acoustic instrument makers F.C. Rein & Son supplied many such thrones to those important people with inflated egos and shrivelled ear drums, such as the Duke of Wellington and, in this case, King John VI of Portugal. One might say that deafness is more of a disadvantage to those habitually receiving orders than giving them, and this chair had been ingeniously designed to enhance the authority of the hard of hearing. The lion mask openings in the arm rests required the courtiers to kneel if they had to speak to their king, though note, not to their king directly but through the lions’ jaws. These formidable apertures led to resonators concealed in the seat rails which funnelled the sound into a tube which exited the top rail to feed into one or other defective lug. The chair, à la George Smith, was in fairly ropy condition but the acoustic device was still in working order. Consigned from the estate of the late Arthur Stevens CBE, designer of the world’s first wearable hearing aid, to Phillips sale in London on November 21, it sold to an architect living in Lisbon, for £22,000 (plus 15/10 per cent buyer’s premium).
Regency giltwood chair
This Regency giltwood chair may have been one of the largest hearing aids ever built, but it was intended to serve the same purpose as the smallest, mobile device: disguising the disablity and sparing the dignity of the listener.