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Stool

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    late 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oak, carved

  • Museum number:

    968-1897

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Physical description

Joined stool with pierced seat, two legs with pierced tracery rosettes and cusped arches, joined by a pierced stretcher held with tusked tenons.

Construction of plain sawn oak showing a plane nick on most surfaces
The seat with raised field, and chamfered around the edges, and with a circular, cusped opening crossed by a bar, which is carved with leaf ornament. The opening is surrounded by a wreath. The two legs have been tenoned into the seat, each using two, angled rectangular tenons (3 of them wedged). Note that the tenons are irregular (more difficult to cut this way, and would be strained when the stool is lifted by the seat, although they are angled and have been wedged, but note that one wedge has been inserted along the long side.

One leg has a pierced rosette with 6-pointed star tracery, the other with trefoil tracery, while the cusped, ogee arch on each leg has been carved on its inner as well as outer face. The legs now have rounded edges but were probably finished with a flat chamfer that has worn. The rail joining the legs is pierced with tracery and rosettes, and is tusk tenoned.

On the underside of the seat carved III V [the V shape carved out not just lines].
The tusks replaced. One leg has a spliced-in repair

Thicknesses of the members: stretcher 30mm, seat 30mm, legs 32mm

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

late 15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Oak, carved

Dimensions

Height: 45.5 cm, Length: 43.5 cm, Depth: 28 cm

Object history note

Bought from Monsieur Fulgence, 50, rue St Lazare, Paris for £19.17s

No very closely comparable stool has been identified although broadly similar stools are known:
Paris, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, PE 1074; oak, French c1480
New York (Met.), inv. 47.101.71 French or S Netherlands, 15th century

See also SYMONDS, R.W.: Furniture Making in 17th and Eighteenth Century England. An outline for collectors. (The Connoisseur, London, 1955), figs.98-100.

The decorated seat carving in particular seems unusual, in comparison with other carved stools eg Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Gruuthouse and Our Lady of the Potteries (both Bruges Museums). Note however the elaborate pierced carving on the trestle table c1480, acquired by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 2011.

The use of very knotty oak seems surprising for a highly carved object of apparent ambition. While the feet may all have been cut down equally, the stool feet do not obviously appear to have been reduced, and it is worth considering that the height of the stool may be lower than others of this date, often perched upon (ie higher than a modern seat). All the decoration speaks of a unified piece, there is no evidence of old timber being reused, but the sophistication of the arches (chamfered on either side) and roses on the legs seems somewhat at odds with the rather lumpen finishing of the leg immediately under the seat. The numbering on the underside appears to suggest that it was one of a set of similar stools.

The authenticity of this stool is not certain. At about 500 years old, this is a barely plausible survival, given the sort of use to which such an object was normally put. However, if this is a 19c fake, then it seems a very good one. It is unlikely that a sufficient number of growth rings could be read in order to obtain a reliable dendrochronological dating.

Historical context note

See Corrozet on the buffet stool.
Tusk tenoning was well established before the 15th century. The use of tusk tenons on a highly decorated stool may seem unusual when a stool would not have needed to be knocked down, and where tusk tenons are often reserved for invisible surfaces eg the back of cupboards or built-in choirstalls.

Descriptive line

Oak stool, carved with leaf ornament and Gothic tracery. French (Norman), ca. late 15th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Fred Roe, A History of Oak Furniture (London 1920) plate V
W.G. Paulson Townsend, Measured drawings of French furniture in the South Kensington Museum (London 1899), part 8, plates 78-9
C.H.Hayward, Period Furniture Designs (1956), p. viii, 1
Mediaeval (medieval) stools by Fred Roe, in Connoisseur Jan 1932 pp.23-6, fig. IV
'the well-known Normandy stool from the Peyre collection [sic] now in the Victoria and Albert Museum'
Middle of the 15th century. Notes the 'graceful splaying out' of the legs
Murray Adams-Acton, Domestic Architecture & Old Furniture (1929), fig.15

Labels and date

STOOL.
FRENCH (NORMAN): late 15th century
Carved oak, perhaps originally painted.
968-1897.

Stools and benches were the common form of seat-furniture in mediaeval living-rooms, while chairs, regarded as symbols of authority, were reserved for the master of the household and for guests of honour. [Pre-2006]

Production Note

Northern France

Materials

Oak

Techniques

Carving

Categories

Furniture; Renaissance (French)

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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