Sunday 23 July 2017

Medieval furniture at Saumur castle

Left: Saumur castle in September 1440 from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, (musée Condé, Ms.65, folio 9v). Right: Saumur castle in July 2017.

Saumur castle has been immortalized by the illumination of the month September in the 'Tres Riches Heures de Duc du Berry'  (around 1440), likely by Barthemeus van Eyck. The castle mostly has remained the same on the outside as the 14th century illumination, though having less fancy pinnacles now. The castle was rebuild in 1367 by Louis I of Anjou, grandson of Philip VI, who had the old round towers replaced by octagonal ones. The comfort of the castle was further improved by Count Rene of Anjou, known as the good King Rene, who called it the 'château d'amour'. In the 16th century, the Italian Bartolomeo added bastions and star-shaped curtain walls to the castle. The castle now houses a small 'Musee des arts decoratifs', which has some medieval furniture - several chests as well as an armoire.

The armoire dates from the end of the 15th century and is made from oak. It originates from France. The armoire has two sets of double doors each with their own lock. Inv. No. 919.13.2.5.
Left: The front of the armoire has four rows of linenfold panels, while the sides have three rows of linenfold panels. 
Right: Detail of the door hinge.

 The linenfold patterns end in hearts and clovers.

A simple oak chest with linenfold panels dating from the end of the 15th century or early 16th century. Originates from France. Inv. No 2001.2.1. The right triangular support for the leg is missing.

Left: The side of the chest has two panels. 
Right: The hinges for the lid are on the inside, while that for the lock is on the outside of the lid. 

Left: A supportive rail is connected to the lid with wooden dowels and iron nails. 
Right: The underside of the chest has one supportive rail in the middle.

Another overview of the chest.

Oak chest with small linenfold panels dating from the 15th century. Originates from France. Inv. No. 919.13.4.3. 
The lid has a different patina, and probably is a replacement.

The lock is fitted with three decorated iron clamps to the chest.

The sides of the chest.

A decorated oak chest dating from the 15th century from France. Inv. No 906.0.851. The chest is constructed with dovetails resulting in a legless bottom. The chest therefore has to rest on a separate frame, in this case a modern one.  

The lock seems to be replaced as there is a repair behind it and the lock hinge is missing as well. 

Left: The chest is connected by dovetails, but also reinforced by iron corner brackets. Right: The lid is newer that the rest of the chest, which also explains the missing lock hinge.

A richly carved chest with the arms of France and Brittany on it. It dates from the 15th century from France and is made from walnut. The chest has its original frame, which is also decorated. Inv. No. 906.0.850. The lid is also a replacement here.

The carved rose and tracery patterns are all different.

Left: There is only a bracket at the top of the chest corner. The dovetails are well visible. 
 Right: The most right carved panel is a lion.

Left: The lock is decorated as well, the lock hinge is missing. Right: The side of the chest is very plain. 
Iron corner brackets are on the front and the back of the chest, as well as on the chest frame.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

(Re)visit of some medieval French iron ornamented chests

A previous blog discussed some French chests ornamented with iron bands, which included some medieval chests from the Musee du Noyonnais. I happened to be in Noyon a few days ago and took the opportunity to visit the museum and study the chest in more detail. Actually the chest originated from the treasury of the Cathedral de Notre Dame in Noyon, next to the museum. (The museum used to be the bishops palace long ago.) Besides the chest there were more interesting medieval furniture items which are also shown in this post.

The cathedral of Noyon.

The Musee du Noyonnais or the former Bishops palace.

One of the original door of the bishops palace has remained. It is an unequal double door with a decoration of early gothic arches. Remnants of a red colour remain.

 The decoration of the door is nailed to it. One of the decorations is the head of a devil.

Chest number MN 1664. It dates after 1139-1175; and according to dendrochronological dating after 1216. It is made form oak and decorated with forged iron bands. The construction is partly that of a simple six-boarded chest, but with addition of mortise and tenons to connect the legs with the front and back boards. The thickness of the oak boards is around 4.5 cm; the boards for the lid are slightly thinner, around 3.5 cm. The chest is constructed from single boards. Also here, the lid is different, as it was made from three smaller boards.

The lid consists of three boards held together by iron bands: a simple hinge, three decorative hinges with floral designs and another simple hinge. On the front there are two lock hinges. The central lock closes from within.

Details of the decorative ironwork on the lid. There are two curious round plates nailed to the lid (one shown on the right photo).

The central front lock. Also the rim of the lid is reinforced by metal strips.

Left:  The hinge for one of the side locks. The hinge folds around the corner of the lid. Right: The right (and also the left) lock is fixed on the outside of the chest.

The bottom of the chest is also made of three boards. Only the two outer iron bands go completely under the chest. The bottom boards are chamfered and enter a groove in the sides of the chest.

Left: The floral pattern of the front of the chest. The single oak board has been cracked and split in several places. You can see the dowels for the mortise and tenons in the legs. Right: One of the legs is reinforced with some iron bands.

The side of the chest. Iron bands also fold over the backside. 

 Chest number MN 1665. It dendrochonologically dates from 1191-1192. The construction is that of a simple six-boarded chest, reinforced with iron bands. All sides consist of one single boards. The lid is split in two, but the grain of the two parts connect to each other. 

 Left: The side of the chest. Right: The grains of the lid continues. A small rail is nailed to the underside of the lid.

There are five hinges on the chest; two of them also function as lock hinges on the front. 
Likely the middle hinge did this as well.

Left: The central lock is replaced. You can still see the holes for a larger lock-plate. Right: The left lock.

The right lock (plate) also seems to be remade, but the original lock-hinge was retained.

Chest number MN 1666. It dates after 1227, and dendrochronologically after 1254. It is a hutch type chest with two decorated forged iron bands. The thickness of the oak boards of the legs are around 3.5 cm; the boards for the lid are  thinner, around 2.5 cm. The sides of the chest are constructed from two boards; the front from 3 boards. The chest has two lids, each made from two boards. 
Left: Like the chests from the Luneburger convents, the lid pivots on a wooden pin. A wooden rail also reinforces the lid. Right: The boards of the lid are nailed to a hidden rail on the inside.

 One of the dowels of has caused a split in the leg. An iron nail above replaced it.

 The two lock-plates are different. The left lock plate has some decoration on it.

The underside of the chest consist of three boards with a supportive rail in the middle. The decorative iron band folds over the edge and is nailed to a bottom board.

 The legs have some chip-carved decoration as well. On the left you can see an oak restoration of the leg.

The floral decoration on the left and right side of the chest. 

The side of the chest. 

Chest MN 1667 is of later age and dates from the second half of the 15th century, early 16th century. The single oak boards of the chest are connected with dovetails, and reinforced with iron edges. The chest stands on a separate foot. Curiously the chest has two iron handles on each side. Three sturdy iron hinges and large locks keep the chest safe.

The Noyon cathedral once had a large 13th century armoire with similar iron floral decorations as the iron decorated chests, or the armoire in the Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris. The armoire has three large doors with three smaller door underneath. It was likely used to store relics or sacristorial goods. Photo taken from a descriptive leaflet in the Musee du Noyonais.

A bit of unusual piece of furniture is this charcoal burner or brassero made of iron and copper alloys. For religious purposes this charcoal burner was used to create the ashes for ash Wednesday and to  light the paschal candles during the Liturgy of Holy Saturday. In secular live it was used as a movable heating device.The brassero dates from the early 14th century.