Jacques Thirion, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France, Dijon, 1998, pp. 139 and 141.
This ceremonial throne was an emblem of authority, ever since its origin in the early church, known as “ecclesia cathedralis” in latin and represented the church which housed the cathedra of the bishop and the throne endured long after the Middle Ages in its ceremonial function.
After the rich ornamentation of Gothic architecture, the arrival of Italian art into the decorative vocabulary introduced new themes. The cathedra, called a “trona” at the Medici court was used to preside over the feasts and ceremonies of the great and good of the Renaissance and its decorative elements included armrests in the form of consoles such as on the present piece and the arms terminating in heads of lions or rams. However, with the passage of time, the throne slowly evolved into the armchair as we know it today.
Jacques Androuet Du Cerceau(c.1520-c.1584), immortalised it in an engraving dated 1560, illustrated by Thirion, op. cit., p. 139 and reproduced here in fig.1. The cathedra was published as a model for reproduction, along with the seventy other models of cabinets, buffets, tables, beds, covers, stools or benches featured in the fifty-six plates of Du Cerceau’s publication at Orléans. Destined for a large public including carpenters, cabinet makers, wood sculptors, painters and patrons alike, these models were not intended for exact replication but rather as a guide for furniture making. The popularity of these prints did not limit itself to France, and by 1557 the great editor and book merchant from Antwerp, Christophe Plantain purchased these compositions to sell them at the fairs of Frankfurt.
Normally these throne armchairs were crowned with a pediment, and it is now missing on this armchair, as the two holes suggest that there was one originally just as in the Du Cerceau print.
The inside reveals the coat of arms of its commissioner as well as his name set against a background of floral arabesques. In the centre of the right panel are the arms of the Basmaison family: Azur on a pale or, charged with a lion rampant gules, the pale flanked by six roundels, three dextre three sinister one above each other.” An important family of the high-bourgeoisie, native of Vic-le-Comte, they allied themselves with the Sirmond family, from the city of Riom where it died out at the beginning of the 17th century, the Delalande family, Danjoly and Chabrol families (Comte Albert de Renarde, Dictionnaire généalogique, familles d’Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, 1995t. 1, p. 153-154).At the top and bottom are the monograms GD, which have been identified as those of Gaspard Danjoly, a barrister in Riom. He was the husband of Marie de Basmaison, born in Riom in 1608, the fourth son of Amable de Basmaison, was councillor to the king, and controller of finances and receveur de consignation in Riom, married to Catherine de Murat, daughter of Antoine de Murat, procureur general and of Marie Forget. On the left panel feature the same monograms GD and frame a wonderful trireme.The right door features in its centre the monograms of the allied families, notably: Sirmond, Murat, Forget and Danjoly.The left door is decorated with the monograms of the town of RIOM. The trireme has associations as the emblem of the town.
The seat of a magistrate, the cathedra employs all the emblematic values that antiquity had bestowed upon its highest dignitaries. The two terms flanking the seat – which one could interpret as the portraits of Gaspard and his wife – are attired in roman garb, with a toga and cord that descends along the drapery, all symbols of a dignitary, the cord is also depicted within the perspectives of the doors. It was the seat from which Gaspard de Danjoly would plead at the court of Riom. He would not actually sit as one would upon a regular chair, as the seat does not allow for it; but rather would use it as a support all the while giving the impression of standing, in the same way that members of the clergy would seek rest on the misereres of church stalls. The cabinet inside the back of the seat, although shallow, would allow him to place ceremonial accessories necessary to his function. The lock permitting only one owner. The coffer d’entrejambe would similarly allow the storage of various objects.Gaspard Danjoly, as a barrister, perpetuated the work of his ancestor by marriage, Jehan de Basmaison, second of the name, who was a famous barrister of the city of Riom (1529-1592).
Finally it is worth considering the armchair illustrated by Thirion , op. cit., p. 141, with a back with an architectural perspective formerly in the Chateau de la Motte, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, reproduced here in fig.2.
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