remains rare and exciting to find not only a set of 8 French dining chairs
intact but also that they would be made of oak and upholstered in Leather. These chairs are also unique in that the
leather is embossed with a repeating design on the seats and with a monogram on
leather on these chairs is wonderful - supple and richly decorated but clearly
very durable. The pattern on the seats
is a variation on the arabesque design so beloved by furniture designers in the
Renaissance as well as its revival in the 19th century (see for example, items
3307, 4113, and 4157). Magnificently
executed, it contrasts the pebbly texture of the seats with several different,
smoother textures within the overall design.
monogram on the upper back of each chair is flamboyant, incorporating the
letter "B" surrounded by an escutcheon. Topping and surrounding the right side is a fearsome griffin,
captured in the moment of landing and grasping the frame with one claw. Its mouth is open, and its head turned,
gazing back toward its wings (see, for example, mirrors 4132 and 4177). Its tail wraps around the side of the
escutcheon, coiling its way to the base of the design. All in all, a wonderful action scene is
depicted, the griffin frozen in time.
Whoever the "B" was, he or she had a fertile imagination and a
love for Medieval and Renaissance heraldry, chivalry, and artistry.
overall design of the chairs is architectural in nature, harking back to Roman
designs that were revitalized in the Renaissance. Each back is comprised of three arches, elaborately carved,
between the two, outer vertical members.
These vertical members are intricately carved in an interlacing pattern
of leaves, showing the attention to detail in designing and executing a part of
a chair that is typically less ornamented.
the arches is the main section of the back, in leather, with the monogram
described above. Capping the back is a
magnificently carved railing in open tracery incorporating the acanthus leaf,
that staple of Renaissance design and beloved element of 19th century
re-interpreters. Atop the rail, at each
side, are small finials (pinnacles) echoing the larger one, a toupie that
unites the diagonal and gracefully curving elements of the stretcher supporting
the chair. The fluting that defines the
bun or bulging shape of the toupie is repeated, but with the narrower portion
at the top, in the embellishments forming the base of each of the legs.
aspect of these chairs that makes them not only unique, but remarkable as
modern seating, is the design of the decorative nails used to fasten the
leather to the wooden frame. They are
brass nails in an intricate circular design so popular in the late 19th century
style known as Henri II but seen rarely today.
disparate elements of the vocabulary of Renaissance design with the
personalized monogram and the scary griffin, the designer of these chairs
expresses a dedication to flawless execution while creating and preserving a
new style known to the French as Henri II.
Francis, Le Grand Livre des Meubles (Copyright Studio, Paris, 1999); Thirion,
Jacques, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France (Editions
Faton, Dijon, 1998); Wainwright, Clive, The Romantic Interior (Yale University
Press, New Haven, 1989).