Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Early Louisiana Furniture @ The New Orleans museum of art.

Louisiana Armoire in the Louis XV style made in New Orleans is made of Mahogany, walnut with light and dark inlay with cypress as secondary wood, circa 1800-1815. The overall design of this armoire is 18th century French Louis XV style. The inlay and brass drawer pulls are influenced by the Anglo-American influx  into New Orleans and Louisiana in the early 19th century. The monogram of the original owner at the top of the armoire is a fine example of the lending of French Creole and Anglo-American styles incorporated into one piece.   


Louisiana cabinetmakers under Napoleonic rule earned job titles as elite as ébéniste and doreur, building and gilding furniture for plantation owners. The artisans’ ranks included slaves, free men of color and immigrants from Germany and the Caribbean. But they developed a signature Louisiana style.

They inlaid blond swags and customers’ initials on cypress armoires and modeled sling-back mahogany porch chairs after thrones that Spanish conquistadors had brought to Mexico. On cherrywood bedsteads with tapered posts eight feet tall they attached iron rods for drapes of mosquito netting, essential during Louisiana summers.

A Louis XV side table made around New Orleans is made of cherry and cypress as secondary wood, circa 1770-1810. This type of delicate one drawer table are very rare. They were used originally as tea table, dressing tables and side tables. 


The topic of Early Louisiana furniture had long been ignored, partly because of some Northern bias among decorative arts scholars. “In 1949, Joseph Downs, then curator of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, infamously stated that ‘little of artistic merit was made south of Baltimore,’ A decade ago, the Met at last acquired a piece of early 1800s Louisiana furniture: a mahogany armchair with checkerboard inlay that is now tucked into a shadowy corner of the American Wing’s mezzanine.


Antebellum made New Orleans coin silver



Antebellum made New Orleans coin silver


A view of New Orleans taken from the plantation Marigny a Acquaint dated November 1803 by J.L. Boqueta de Woiseri 


A view of New Orleans taken from the plantation Marigny a Acquaint dated November 1803 by J.L. Boqueta de Woiseri 


A portrait of a free woman of color oil on canvas painted by French artist Antoine Callas circa 1822-1825. Louisiana had the largest population of free lacks citizens of any state in the South during the time of slavery. 


Antebellum New Orleans’ portraiture exemplifies how portraits act at the junction between social life and art because the paintings reflect the colorful history of the city and the resulting tricky social and racial relations. In the eighteenth century, as colonial control over New Orleans changed from French to Spanish, people living as slaves gained more power for social mobility and the ability to buy their freedom. These individuals and their descendants, along with an influx of French-speaking refugees from Saint-Domingue by way of Spanish Cuba, accounted for the abundance of free people of color in New Orleans and its surrounding parishes. The population of free people of color in Louisiana peaked in 1840 at 25,500, however that number decreased significantly as the Civil War approached and the social and political climate of Louisiana changed, becoming less tolerant of the coexisting of races. Still, for a city situated in the Deep South, this significant presence of free people of color living in the cosmopolitan port city of New Orleans was very unique.


She is holding a gold box. 

A portrait of a free woman of color oil on canvas painted by French artist Antoine Callas circa 1822-1825. Louisiana had the largest population of free lacks citizens of any state in the South during the time of slavery. 

She wears a bright yellow and green striped pattern tignon, a headscarf worn—under penalty of law—by women of color in Louisiana. In 1786, Spanish colonial Governor Don Esteban Miró passed this sumptuary law enforcing “appropriate” public dress amongst women of color, free and enslaved. In his edict, Miró describes, “free negro and quadroon women,” as “detrimental,” referring to them as the, “the product of their licentious life without abstaining from carnal pleasures.” Miró was, “Suspicious of their indecent conduct [and] the extravagant luxury in their dressing” (Edict of Good Government, 107). In an attempt to temper their attractiveness to white men and associate them with enslaved people who wore kerchiefs, free women of color were ordered to cover their legendarily beautiful hair, and to refrain from “[excessive attention to dress]”(107). Miró’s early edict responded to the perception of mixed-race women in New Orleans as “licentious” and sexually immoral and the bright yellow hue of this creole seductress’ tignon underscores these associations. That said, through wrapping their hair in sumptuous fabrics (and, perhaps, drawing influence from the West African gélé), women of color, like those featured in the portraits by Collas and Fleischbein, transformed this object of constraint into an enduring trademark, one of revolutionary beauty and pride. In many ways this tignon became a symbol of solidarity and a cultural asset.

Antoine Louis Collas’ 1820s Portrait of A Free Woman of Color Wearing a Tignon, the sitter exudes confidence, wealth, and gentility. The work is apparently self-commissioned, as evidenced by the sitter’s perceived control in the manner and style of the painting. The sitter dresses modestly, wearing a simple black gown with a lacey white shawl. Aside from her brown skin, only the tignon she wears—a trademark of free women of color that will be discussed later—signifies her racial status; however, its bright yellow and green striped pattern render it as a beautiful fashion statement, the rich fabric and design complementing her face somewhat like decorative jewelry. This lush fabric, the small gold trinket box she holds, and the portrait itself announce the woman’s wealth and status. The sitter poses with regal refinement and a strong sense of self as the artist paints her in the same conventional style used for white female sitters. 

 The char to the right is called a Campeachy chair made in Louisiana circa 1820-1830. It is a variation of a lolling chair. This style of chair originated in Campeche State in the Yucatan of Mexico.


 The char to the right is called a Campeachy chair made in Louisiana circa 1820-1830. It is a variation of a lolling chair. This style of chair originated in Campeche State in the Yucatan of Mexico.


Highpost Bedstead Federal period made in New Orleans of walnut, circa 1810-1820. The bed has a melon-shaped headboard which is a unique feature in early Louisiana beds. The headboard has graceful swag and tassel inlay.

Highpost Bedstead Federal period made in New Orleans of walnut, circa 1810-1820. The bed has a melon-shaped headboard which is a unique feature in early Louisiana beds. The headboard has graceful swag and tassel inlay.


Oval tilt-top table in the Neoclassical style made in New Orleans of poplar, circa 1800-1820. This table original belonged to the Puig family of New Orleans. This type of table known from Spain to Scandinavia but is rare in America. This Louisiana made example is supported by a revolving neoclassical lyriform brace. Creole style side chair made of Louisiana mulberry and other woods circa 1780-1810


Creole style side chair made of Louisiana mulberry and other woods circa 1780-1810





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