Friday, 10 August 2012

The strycsitten of Eugene Viollet le Duc

Eugene Viollet le Duc (1814-1879) was a renowned architect from the 19th century, famous for his restoration work on the cathedrals of Rheims, Amiens, Paris, to name a few, but also for his work on the city of Carcasonne, Avignon and the reconstruction of the Château de Pierrefonds for emperor Napoleon III. He was very much interested in anything medieval - a fashion at that time - and wrote a lavish tome "Dictionnaire raisonne du mobilier francais de l'epoque carolingienne a la Renaissance" on medieval furniture (still for sale as a reprint of the original and a shortened version). His critics often accuse him that he added to much of his own idealistic ideas on the middle ages into his work. This is true, but, in fact, this was part of his philosophy as an architect "to restore an edifice means neither to maintain it, nor to repair it, nor to rebuild it: it means to re-establish it in a finished state, which may in fact never have existed at any given time".

Chateau Pierrefonds, 19th century reconstruction of a medieval castle by Viollet le Duc(Pierrefonds, France).

Whatever his faults, he created 'new' old monuments, which are nowadays major (state) tourist attractions in France. One of them is Chateau de Pierrefonds, a casle which served as inspiration for 'mad' King Ludwig II of Bavaria to build Castle Neuschwanstein (he visited the building site in 1867), which was in turn the inspiration for Disney castle. Contemporary castle "reconstructions" are Castle De Haar in the Netherlands, Cardiff Castle and Castle Coch in the UK, and Haut-Koenigsbourg in Germany.

Chateau de Pierrefonds was planned as a residence for the emperor, but this plan was later changed into use as a museum. This means that the castle is only furnished for a small part, which was also designed by Viollet le Duc. Among the pseudo-medieval furniture is also a large strycsitten, of which I have taken some photos and measurements. 

Statue of Eugene Viollet le Duc at Chateau 



The strycsitten of Violet le Duc

In the imperial state room of the castle a set of five chairs and a strycsitten is centered near the fireplace. They are all designed by the architect. In fact the strycsitten looks very familiar to the one in his "Dictionnaire raisonne du mobilier francais de l'epoque carolingienne a la Renaissance". The back of the strycsitten only moves slightly - 30 degrees - (15 degrees to either side), which necessitates the large seating depth of 116 cm (twice 58 cm). This large seating space is also found in the strycsitten in his book, and is more than double compared to original medieval strycsittens.The strycsitten is lavishly decorated with floral motifs and has flowing organic curves, making the design a crossover between neogothic and art nouveau.

 The strycsitten and the five chairs at Pierrefonds. The style looks like a cross-over between neogothic and art nouveau with its flowing floral designs.

 The side of the strycsitten. The point in the middle is the turning point for the backrest. Beneath the left and right medallions you can see the seating board protruding.

Two medallions at the top of the strycsitten with floral motifs.

The medallion at seating height have carved heads, the bottom medallion a simple floral motif.

The backrest of the strycsitten consists of four panels with openwork floral designs. Between the backrest and the seating board is a 10 cm open space. There are no dowel holes here; this is a 'modern' construction using glue.

The backrest has an angle of 15 degrees (a total of 30 degrees).

The underside of the strycsitten. The seating board is made from smaller planks glued together and is supported by a rail. The medallions are also decorated at this side with a simple floral design, however the middle medallion (photo right) does not have any decoration.

Drawing with measurements of the strycsitten of Viollet le Duc at Chateau Pierrefonds. 
The drawing is based on the photographs. Note that the seating area also has a small angle.

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