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Middle Ages Furniture in France

- 1515

No different from anywhere else in the world the arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture developed far ahead of that of furniture and woodwork in medieval France, due to, as we have seen in the general article on medieval furniture, the lack of a settled, secure lifestyle, and the lack of a sufficient number of individual clients to support the furniture making trade.

What little furniture that was produced in the middle ages of France has of course mostly long since rotted away and we are left with only a few examples, jealously guarded by museums, the earliest of which dates back to the late 12th century.

Metal Furniture

The Dagobert Faldstool

Faldstools or fauldstools, portable folding stools, were made by goldsmiths throughout the middle ages, of metal, but covered with silk or other material, and were used by high church dignitaries and nobles when it was necessary for them to be seen by large numbers of people. They likely derived from military camp stool designs, but with heavy Roman footprints.

Dagobert Chair
"Dagobert chair" made of gilt bronze.

The Dagobert faldstool, or throne, seen above and below, is said by some to have been the work of St. Eloi of the 7th century, with possibly the three pierced plaques that form the back added by the Abbe Suger in the 12th century. Recent research suggests it was made in Saint Denis, a thriving goldsmiths' centre, in the late eighth or ninth centuries.

Wooden Furniture

Obazine Cupboard

Found in the Church of Obazine, otherwise called Aubazine, in the Correze district, the late 12th century cupboard pictured below is likely the oldest piece of extant antique French furniture. It is made of 4 inch thick oak beams, done in such a simple, crude way that it was clearly made by carpenters, probably the same men who built the church which housed it. The strap-hinge ironwork is not for decorative purposes alone, but helps to hold the joints together, and is done in a style copied from (Romanesque) architecture - architecture and furniture always have a symbiotic relationship but in this piece it is more pronounced than usual, - although fairly typical of much medieval furniture, - it is as if a building were cut down to size to form an item of furniture.

Obazine Cupboard
Obazine Cupboard.

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