Jean–Baptiste–Claude Sené (French, 17481803); Carved by Nicholas François Vallois; Possibly gilded by Chatard
Beechwood, carved and painted, upholstered in pink silk; 18 1/4 x 27 x 20 1/4 in. (46.4 x 68.6 x 51.4 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1977 (1977.102.9,.10)
This curule folding stool was part of a set of sixty-four supplied for the royal palaces of Fontainebleau and Compiègne in 1786. Each consists of four cross members of lightly curving S-shape, the upper section fluted, the lower carved with ivy trails terminating in paw feet, and the central bosses carved with a rosette. The stretchers are carved with an ivy wreath tied by a ribbon. The overall design is based upon the Roman sella curulis, or magistrate's chair, ultimately derived from the X-frame of ancient Egypt. In post-Roman history, the sella curulis was given the role of episcopal faldistorium (the medieval Latin term for folding stool) as the Roman Catholic Church communicated its authority in Europe by adopting some of the trappings of power associated with the ancient empire. In French court etiquette of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the interplay of various forms of seating (or of standing in relation to sitting) was a visible demonstration of the hierarchical social structure and corresponded closely to liturgical roles in the church. Published memoirs of the duc de Saint-Simon, Madame de Sevigny, and others elucidate the important social function of chairs and stools such as this.