Reference #: EF1234
Height: 24 ¾ inches (63 cm.)
Width: 30 ¼ inches (77 cm.)
Depth: 17 inches (43 cm.)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, New York
The cartouche-shaped chair back is designed with a crest rail forming armrests fitted with lidded compartments and a shaped, hinged shelf adjustable on an iron ratchet. Fashioned with a flared seat above deep rails which are carved with shell motifs, floral and foliate sprays, the chair is fitted with a posterior drawer. Raised on cabriole legs headed by shell motifs, the chair rests upon leaf-carved feet.
The modernizing of old houses and the new concept of informal living in intimate surroundings gave rise to an astonishing increase in the variety and importance of furniture and especially of chairs. Prompted by a fastidious clientele, many of whom were women, menuisiers and ébénistes introduced various types of furniture suited to the size and purpose of the newly designed, smaller appartements. Specialized small tables appeared to satisfy numerous activities including sewing, gambling or serving chilled drinks; any number of charming pieces unknown to previous generations were there to meet each momentary need. Fashion also demanded a variety of seat furniture including the coiffeuse, the fauteuil de bureau, the voyeuse, the cockfighting chair and the watercolorist’s chair as discussed here.
This piece bears certain similarities to the cock fighting chair upon which one sat backward and rested his elbows on the padded extensions of the crest rail. Differentiating this model from the cock fighting version is the leather-upholstered painting surface adjustable to several angles and the swiveling containers beneath the armpads where the artist stored his equipment. Closely related to this piece in both carving and form is a bidet chair by Canabas (see Related Examples above) which similarly employs a very broad seat rail providing the carver an ideal surface to demonstrate his abilities. The carving of the present example is harmoniously integrated with the chair’s serpentine silhouettes, energetic moldings and vigorously sculpted floral decor with rocaille and scrolled foliage. Imparting an energetic and sprightly rhythm of unconstrained, graceful movement, it indicates the mark of a highly accomplished sculpteur.
Having attained an unparalleled height of cultural awareness, eighteenth century aristocratic society in Paris demanded that each young lady and gentleman study the arts of music, literature and painting. Extremely popular at the time was the art of watercoloring, an elegant pastime which was facilitated by the use of a watercolorist’s chair. Few chairs of the ancien régime were made with such a specific leisurely activity in mind. This well thought out indoor version, unusually practical and decorative at the same time, was capable of storing the full array of tools necessary for watercoloring. Often upholstered with leather, it was easily cleaned with a damp cloth helping to retain its original appearance. A very rare type, made in different variations for both men and women, watercolorist’s chairs were customarily commissioned by eager dilettantes and by grateful patrons as gifts to their favorite artists.