HOME

Antique Chairs - Item 4173

Gothic Bench

 

gothic bench in walnut

(scroll down for additional photos)
 

Item 4173 Gothic Bench in Walnut
Dimensions Width 34, Height 50, Depth 20 (in inches)
Wood Walnut
Country France
Date Circa 1890
Description

This bench is a tribute to High Gothic styling as interpreted by 19th century French craftsmen whose originality and whimsy make this among the most captivating benches we have seen.  In its overall structure, it is faithful to its roots in the so-called Flamboyant Gothic, making generous use of fenestrage  or tracery decoration whose inspiration lies in the elaborate designs of stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals.

As atype of furniture, the bench or banc is one of the oldest forms and like so many others, traces its parentage to the chest or coffre.  By adding a back and arms, the chest became a bench while retaining its storage feature with the lid becoming the seat.  In chateaus, the vestibules or entry areas were typically ringed with benches which were heavily carved and often covered in pillows made of luxurious fabrics or draped with tapestries or carpets.  Benches were also used in the bed chamber, frequently near the fire, in order to block drafts and increase warmth.  A bench remarkably similar to this one is depicted in just such a vignette in the illustration of a 13th century bedroom on Plate XIII of Volume I of Viollet-le-Duc's Dictionnaire Raisonné du Mobilier.  In the main hall of chateaus, a high-backed bench on a dais or low platform served as the seat of authority for the châtelain or owner in dealings with his tenants and vassals (see Figure 2 on page 39 of the Dictionnaire).   Benches were also used at tables for meals in the main hall (see Figure 6 on page 97 of the Dictionnaire).

Otherbenches of a similar design displayed the contrast of happy and sad.  On the front of the left armrest might a frowning or melancholy face whereas on the right armrest would be a merry face.  Here, the expressions on the faces are more ambiguous, although beautifully and intricately carved.

Theskillfully carved fenestrage on this bench is made up of three panels on the back and three below the seat.  In each case, the two outermost panels match.  The panels on the back of the bench use the typical design of pointed arches at the bottom with elaborate curving shapes above.  In the case of the central panel, the area above the pointed arches  includes two hearts, one of which is inverted above the other as when a paper valentine is cut from paper folded at the top of the heart and then opened.  The finials on either side atop the vertical members are three-dimensional flames, the Old French term for which put the flamb in Flamboyant Gothic.

Just asits forbears retained the storage aspects of benches descended from chests, this bench also has a seat which doubles as the lid for the enclosed area below.  In keeping with 19th century reverence for Gothic furniture, this piece is made from solid walnut and has attained a lush patina with age.

 

Reference

Boussel, Patrice, Les Styles du Moyen Age à Louis XIV  (Baschet et Cie, Paris, 1979); 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).

 

Uses

While ideal in an entryway or foyer, this bench would also work well in a living room, study, library or kitchen where its versatility as a storage space would also be appreciated.

 

upper part of gothic bench

 

base of gothic bench

 

carved face on left

carved face on right

 

tracery panel - center

tracery panel  right

 

finial gothic bench

 

interior gothic bench

 

back of gothic bench

 

side view of gothic bench