Bergère

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Not to be confused with Bergères, a commune in north-central France.
A French Empire bergère by Pierre-Antoine Bellange, c. 1815, of gessoed and gilded beech,[1] in the Blue Room of the White House.

A bergère is an enclosed upholstered French armchair (fauteuil)[2] with an upholstered back and armrests on upholstered frames.[3] The seat frame is over-upholstered, but the rest of the wooden framing is exposed: it may be moulded or carved, and of beech, painted or gilded, or of fruitwood, walnut or mahogany with a waxed finish. Padded elbowrests may stand upon the armrests. A bergère is fitted with a loose, but tailored, seat cushion. It is designed for lounging in comfort, with a deeper, wider seat than that of a regular fauteuil, though the bergères by Bellangé in the White House (one illustrated) are more formal. A bergère in the eighteenth century was essentially a meuble courant, designed to be moved about to suit convenience, rather than being ranged permanently formally along the walls as part of the decor.[4]

Pair of Louis XVI marquises à oreilles, 1780s

The fanciful name, "shepherdess chair", was coined in mid-eighteenth century Paris, where the model developed without a notable break from the late-seventeenth century chaise de commodité, a version of the wing chair, whose upholstered "wings" shielding the face from fireplace heat or from draughts were retained in the bergère à oreilles ("with ears"), or, fancifully, bergère confessionale, as if the occupant were hidden from view, as in a confessional. A bergère may have a flat, raked back, in which case it is à la reine, or, more usually in Louis XV furnishings, it has a coved back, en cabriolet. A bergère with a low coved back that sweeps without a break into the armrests is a marquise.[5]

Appearing first in Paris during the Régence (1715–23), the form reaches its full development in the unifying curves of the rococo style, then continues in a more architectural rectilinear style in the Louis XVI, Directoire, and French and American Empire styles.


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The bergère was reupholstered in 1996 with a reproduction jacquard-woven silk based upon an 1815 Tassinari et Chatel document.
  2. ^ The inventory after the death of Mme de Pompadour lists a fauteuil en bergère (Pierre Verlet, French Furniture and Interior decoration of the 18th Century (Fribourg:Office du Livre 1977:177.
  3. ^ The fauteuil differs in having open armrests.
  4. ^ Verlet 1977, "Furniture of comfort and elegance" pp 173ff; the bergère is discussed pp. 177–79.
  5. ^ Model timeline in Madeleine Jarry, Le siège français (Fribourg: Office du Livre) 1973, following p. 356

References[edit]