A yew ‘garlands’ chest front, dated 1664, South-western Brittany Photo credit: CEFA Auctions
For members interested in regional furniture outside the UK, a scanned version of a long out of print booklet on Breton chests and carved panels published in 1976 is now available.
Written by Marguerite Le Roux-Paugam, Les coffres paysans du Leon et de Haute Cornouaille (XVIe et XVIIe siecles) is a study of fifty dated chests from western (or Lower) Brittany. A few of them date from 1550-1600, but the numbers peak in 1630-70 and decline thereafter. She argues that this trend matches the evolution of the area’s prosperity. She shows that there were two sizes of chest; clothes chests of 100-170 cm in width and grain chests of 180-215 cm. Selly Manor Museum, Bournville has an example of each.
These chests have a distinctive style of decoration in that Gothic tracery retained its popularity in Brittany until the 1660s and was combined with renaissance motifs such as interlace. Other motifs include the lively humans and animals also found on carved woodwork in Breton churches. Intact sixteenth and seventeenth century chests are rare but chest fronts and loose panels have made their way to the UK.
The decoration of chests varies within Lower Brittany. The title of the booklet refers to chests in the extreme north-western part of Brittany but the images include chests from south western Brittany, where ‘garlands’ chests are most common. The best collection of Breton chests is at the Departmental museum at Quimper. Enter ‘coffre’
Selection of furniture in the Burrell Collections, now available online via the Glasgow Museums collections navigator
At the Research in Progress meeting at the V&A on 24 February 2018, curators Rachel King and Laura Bauld gave a short presentation on the important collection of 16th century furniture in the Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums, which has around 400 pieces dating to the period before 1685.
The Burrell Collection has a very full and fine selection of early, mostly English, oak furniture. It is both religious and domestic in origin, ranging from choirstalls, to chairs, tables, beds, hutches and court cupboards. These vary in style, from simple to elaborate, and though some are inlaid, few are painted or gilded, with one spectacular exception being the ceremonial bedhead with erotic carved decoration made to celebrate the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves in January 1539/40. The collection also takes in architectural embellishment in wood, such as screens, panelling – including a complete room from Harrington Hall, Lincolnshire – doors, fire surrounds and screens, and an elaborate ceiling from Bridgwater in Somerset.
The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed that we have gradually been making past Journal articles available on the Journal back issues page of this site.
Volumes 1 -23 (1989 -2009) – that’s 20 years of regional furniture research articles – are now accessible to read and download for study and enjoyment. Included are all the special and themed issues of the Journal.
We hope to publish the 2010-2014 volumes shortly. The current issue (Volume 30 – 2016) of Regional Furniture is, of course, only available to RFS members, but the back issues will be published on this website after a three year delay.
This week sees the publication of a blog post by the RFS chairman Chris Pickvance on an important medieval chest at Gressenhall on the Norfolk Museums Shine a Light project website. The Shine a Light Project “seeks to unlock the potential of the Norfolk Museums’ fabulous reserve collections, by making them accessible to all” and Chris’s post certainly does that – looking in close detail at the construction, condition and history of the chest.
The chest at the Norfolk Collections Centre, c.1400s from St Margaret’s Church, Norwich (NWHCM : L1974.29.3)
Another RFS member, Max Kite, has set up his own blog “aimed at raising the profile of James Reilly, a prolific chairmaker, inventor, innovator and entrepreneur in Manchester, England, between 1850-1889” which is worth a look: jamesreillychairs.wordpress.com.
If readers are aware of other online resources relating to regional furniture we would like to hear about them – email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions. Have a look at the Links page to see what’s out there already.
We were contacted recently by Harry Rogers, Secretary of The Association of Polelathe Turners and Greenwood Workers (or bodgers.org.uk) who brought to our attention his fascinating films on green woodworking and making traditional chairs on a pole lathe (www.youtube.com/user/mrwindsorchair).