Thursday 5 February 2015

Marie Antoinette's Fauteuil de Toilette

There is a chair in my cosy salon that is, I think, the most comfortable in all of England. Many's the evening when I can be found there with my cup of tea, quill moving quickly over the page as I set down my latest tale of Georgian life. It is not the most pretty chair, nor the grandest, but it is certainly a comfortable one! My post today is on the subject of a most particular chair yet this one was owned by a certain executed queen of France and was part of the furniture at the Petit Trianon.

Marie Antoinette's chair
The Getty Museum

When one thinks of Marie Antoinette's glory days, one naturally thinks of luxury and decadence, of excess and largess. This chair, however, is deceptively simple and suitably rustic to assume a place at the Petit Trianon. Although it is now down to plain wood, the chair was originally painted in rustic colours and where it has been recovered in a rather drab velvet, the original upholstery featured a motif of embroidered flowers.

The chair was made in 1787 by Georges Jacob, whilst the intricate woodcarvings and tiny pine cone feet were done by Pierre-Claude Triquet and Jean-Baptiste-Simon Rode. The attention to detail is quite exquisite and when fully painted, it must have been a breathtaking thing to see alongside its companion pieces, all of which were made for the queen's bedroom.

The seat of the fauteuil de toilette is capable of swivelling through 360 degrees and it served as a chair for Marie Antoinette to use whilst her hair was being dressed and make up applied. The low back of the chair was perfect for the queen's attendants to dress her hair whilst ensuring she was still comfortable. No doubt this chair witnessed some of the court intrigue for which Versailles was famous; certainly, as a piece chosen for Marie Antoinette's private rooms, it would have heard one or two things that even the kind was never privy to!

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

I'd love to see a drawing of the original - do you know if any exist?? Was it painted in greens and browns etc?? How superb to have an armchair which actually turns 360! Wow. Remarkable craftsmanship !

Catherine Curzon said...

The rest of the collection, happily retaining some of the original paint and coverings, is kept at the Getty!