“Mobilier Lyonnais” or Furniture from Lyon.
My last synopsis of regional furniture from the provinces of France focused on the furniture from the Bordeaux region. This article is but another brief description of the wonderful furniture from Lyon, France in the Eighteenth century. Due to the unique location of the Lyon many people from various cultures traveled through the city and surroundings in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Many skilled artisans and craftsmen passed through or remained in the area. The city became a hub for banking and commerce with the silk industry becoming the most important trade. There as in Bordeaux and Marseilles was a large upper class whose tastes needed to be satisfied.
Furniture made in Lyon during the eighteenth century was made on a grand scale with elaborate rich moldings and carvings of shells, acanthus, and leaves influenced by earlier Parisian furniture made of natural wood but with Lyon’s own interpretation which became significantly and original Lyonnais. The favored wood was walnut from the area.
Typically resting on bun feet
The Lyonnais Armoire is of grand scale with an architectural body softened by a richly carved and shaped top section where a significant cornice meets. These cornices are can be a single or double arch and the most rare is the triple arch. The doors have thick beautiful moldings often with rich carving of high and low relief. The doors lock with a significant triangular shape locking system on the lock and the key. These massive pieces are typically resting on bun feet or slightly curved legs. The armoires from the surrounding countryside of the city are more plain in decoration and size.
The celebrated buffets with stone tops are modeled from the seventeenth and early eighteenth century buffets from the Ile-de-France region (Paris Region). These early buffets from the Ile-de-France were sober examples made from oak before 1720. The Lyonnais buffet, made from rich walnut, has the same rectangular shape as the early Parisian cousin resting on a plinth (until 1750) however once again like the armoire, they become significantly their own style. The stone tops were used for carving the meat or game. The similar rich moldings seen on the armoires were used on the doors with a central divide often with a carved depression below rich carving. The superb pair of doors with their elegant molding and carving coinciding with the rich carving of the main body is a beautiful and treasured piece for the dining room.
The Lyonnais commode is again similar with regard to decoration as the armoire. The scale is much larger than the Parisian commode and is grand in presence. The earlier walnut commode was rectangular in shape before the highly skilled en arbelete and tombeau shapes were made. Three large paneled divided drawers are highly carved on each side as well as the area surrounding the locking system with it’s richly cast hardware. The extremities of the commode are often carved, the sides are paneled and it is supported by powerful legs.
The most famous maker of seat furniture of the Provinces was Pierre Nogaret (1718 -1771). Born in Paris in 1718 he served as an apprentice and journeyman before he moved to Lyon in 1743 where he became a master joiner in 1745. His work is as highly regarded as Parisian joiners and carvers. He made Regence, Louis XV and transitional style chairs using walnut from the Lyon region and keeping the wood in the natural state instead of the beech wood which was most always painted and or gilded by the Parisian workshops.The most famous contribution he made to the form of a chair is the “coup de fouet” or “whiplash” curve with curve effect of the arm of a chair. This similar design was used in Paris by joiners Nicholas Hertaut and Rene Cresson.
This is but a brief discussion about the significant furniture made from Lyon. I have had the privilege of finding some exceptional examples of Lyonnais furniture through the years however the supply has diminished considerably recently. As always exceptional models are rare. My next article will be about the furniture from an area we are all most familiar with, Provence.