to say that we sell unique items, but these dining chairs reflect the pinnacle
of French Gothic Revival in its purest state.
They elevate open fenestrage or tracery to the highest levels of
refinement and sophistication in chairs that are comfortable and sturdy. Made of magnificently hand-carved walnut,
with seats of embossed leather in a rose window design, they are almost too
beautiful to sit on or to sell!
Thebacks of the chairs are rectangular, framing a tall, Gothic, pointed arch - not
the S-curve or ogee of late Gothic or flamboyant style, but the simpler version
used to perfection in Chartres Cathedral and its less-renowned but magnificent
contemporary, the parish church of Saint Nicolas in Blois (a favorite of ours,
that just doesn't get enough attention since it is not a cathedral). Mimicking the stone tracery outlining
windows of Gothic buildings, the design of the backs of these chairs involves
arches within arches, specifically a pair of arches further subdivided by
lancet arches, the tall slim arch with cusps near the top. Keeping the Gothic vocabulary simple, the
spaces within the arches are not filled with flowers or foils (the leaf or
feuille of a clover with anywhere from three to five leaves) but rather with
open-work in the form of simple soufflets and spandrels. The base of the main arch is made up of a
rectangular space divided into four right triangles, two of which form a
central isosceles triangle. All the
geometry involved in the central design of arches and triangles reflects the
challenges and skills at work in designing buildings such as Chartres Cathedral
where design and construction were based on units and motifs recurring
consistently - a hierarchy of subdivision partitioning space.
Thetops of the backs of the chairs consist of a frieze with a finial at each end
in the form of a stylized fleur-de-lys at the top, above a base carved in the
form of a Gothic niche. The frieze has
its origins in medieval seating, especially bishops' thrones (chaises
cathèdres) whose tall backs were topped by alternating semi-circles and
finials, called choux frisés (for their resemblance to a kale leaf!), but here
mimicking the stylized fleur-de-lys crowning each side of the chair backs.
Theseats of these chairs are like nothing we have seen before. Sueded leather panels embossed with the
pattern of a rose window cover the seats and are anchored by large, decorative
nails. The petals of the central,
circular design resemble a daisy more than a rose, but we understand that was
not uncommon in stained glass windows either.
The circular design within a trapezoidal framework is a masterpiece of
Gothic style ingenuity. In between the
petals are soufflets mirroring those in the chair backs and both trefoils and
quatrefoils, a variation on the cloverleaf shape.
To saythat it is a miracle that the leather on these chairs has survived all these
years is an understatement. We never
expected to be able to preserve it but, owing to the apparent lack of wear, we
were able to restore the original softness and suppleness of the leather and to
assure comfortable seating for years to come by changing out the springs and
padding. In restoring the leather, we
relied on advice and products from
Preservation Solutions, LLC (http://preservation-solutions.com), whose products
are used by museums in conserving such leather items as saddles and bindings on
Inkeeping with French tradition, the reverse sides of these chairs are completely
unadorned, the expectation being that when not in use they would be backed up
against a wall. Similarly, the bases of
the chairs are a standard, trapezoidal framework with stretchers around the
perimeter, but lacking in ornamentation.
Sturdy and showing the magnificence of the walnut to perfection, it is
evident that the artist expected the focus to be on the magnificent carving of
the backs and on the leather seats.
Aldrich, Megan, Gothic Revival (Phaidon Press,
London, 1994); Ader-Tajan, Collection Bruno Perrier Haute
Epoque (Catalog for Sale at Auction on April 6, 1992 at the Hôtel Drouot,
Paris); Boccador, Jacqueline, Le Mobilier Français du Moyen Age à la
Renaissance, Editions d'Art Monelle Hayot (Saint-Just-en-Chaussée, 1988);
Charles, Corinne, Visions d'Intérieurs, du
Meuble au Décor (Paris-Musées, Paris, 2003); Thirion, Jacques, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France
(Editions Faton, Dijon, 1998); Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène, Le Mobilier Médiéval
(Georges Bernage, editor) (Editions Heimdal, 2003)