It’s time for a break. Stop reading about all the crazy stuff that’s happening out there. Stop promising to close your Facebook account. Stop sharing hilarious tweets about how we’re all fu*ked.
Instead, let me take you on a beautifully random tour of vaguely furniture-related stories, anecdotes and thoughts. I can’t promise to change your life. I can’t even promise to entertain you. But I might be able to give you some light relief.
So, let’s go.
300 bastard and 36 legitimate children. That’s how many the most famous French king is said to have fathered. Maybe they should have called Louis XIV ‘the son king’ instead of ‘the sun king’. Speaking of sons, some believe that he is not the real child of Louis XIII – instead he is most likely the result of Anne of Austria’s fancy for the blue-eyed Duke of Buckingham.
Now you might be thinking “Kim, why are you talking about a bunch of virile aristocrats from the 1600s? Is it because their four-poster beds were particularly inviting?”
To which I’d reply: “Don’t be so vulgar! Although yes their beds were quite inviting, especially the big ones called ‘lits collectifs’ (of which there is an exquisite example at the Victoria and Albert museum in London).
Also, did you know that, after bathing (contrary to popular belief, they were obsessed with personal hygiene back then) and having their sleeves sewn on (they were sewn on and removed daily) aristocratic women in the 17th Century would lay in bed all day and receive their ladies in waiting in their bedroom. They’d talk about all sorts of salacious stuff in their corsets and big skirts. There’s even a type of chair called the ‘caquetoire’, which loosely translates into ‘gossip chair’.
And the female aristocracy, up until the late 16th Century were entirely shaven-headed after marriage. Even their eyebrows were completely plucked. Whereas men would enhance their bodies with fake stomachs or ‘panserons’ (they didn’t want to look like poor hungry people) and fake calves (strapped to their skinny legs, so they’d look nice and muscular under their brightly-coloured tights). And then of course their hair and beards would change depending on what the flavour of the day was (mostly long, curly hair during Louis XIII and Louis XIV’s reigns). And of course only the men would wear heels.”
At this point I’d probably take a breath and you’d either punch me in the face or ask me to answer your bloody question.
No, the reason I’m telling you this is because I had another exquisite history lesson today. You see, furniture has always played an important role in the home (and palace). In order to understand the progression of furniture design you need to comprehend the context: cultural, religious and political. And in return, furniture can often tell a story about a certain point in time.
You might imagine the furniture students of 2190 asking “why did they start integrating gun-holsters into all furniture after 2016?”
I hope you enjoyed the light relief whilst it lasted.
p.s. Just for laughs, here are some photos from three lovely Renaissance chateaux in the Loire Valley (mostly 16th Century – François I)