'Burgomaster' or 'roundabout' chairs appear first to have been made in the former Dutch colonies of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India in the late-seventeenth century and are distinguishable by their semi-circular back, round caned seat and six legs joined by radiating stretchers. While the earliest surviving examples have caned oval medallions and turned legs and stretchers, the form and decoration of this chair - the six acanthus-decorated cabriole legs, scrolling stretchers, pierced foliate medallions, and constricted clawed feet - are typical of those made in the second half of the eighteenth century. These chairs were exported chiefly to Holland and then sold in England and other European countries where, probably because of their Dutch origins, they became known from the mid-nineteenth century onwards as 'burgomaster' chairs. Made of native woods, Indonesian examples were typically constructed of teak and were commonly decorated in scarlet lacquer while Sri Lankan models were often made of satinwood (see chairs of virtually identical form in J.Veenendaal, Furniture from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India during the Dutch Period, Delft, 1985, pl.128 and 129). As early as the eighteenth century, Dutch cabinetmakers produced copies of this popular form in oak and walnut.
This example was part of the Maxwell family collection at Pollok House, Glasgow, a property owned by the family for over 700 years. It was on public display from 1966 when Anne Maxwell Macdonald presented the house to the City of Glasgow. The house is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
Burgomeister chairs appear in the collections of many of England's great country houses including Grimsthorpe, Lincolnshire (an example is shown in the Entrance Hall in C. Latham, In English Homes, vol.I, London, 1909, p.59), Kingston Lacy, Dorset (illustrated op.cit, p.341), and Lyme Park, Cheshire (P.Macquoid and R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, vol.I, London, 1924, p.229, fig.75). Other examples of this form are illustrated in P. Macquoid, The Age of Mahogany, London, 1906, p.61, figs.49 and 50.