Furniture from the Renaissance
Almost every room of the Museum features furniture from old ages, guests can have a look at their ornamentation, study their composition and can recall the flair of living-rooms from the past five decades.
Considering the origin of most of the bits of furniture surrounding us we can say that they have a past of several centuries. Maybe we would not have thought that today’s popular credenza was created in the 15th century and started its conquering expedition. It was originally also meant to store cutlery and its efficient shaping was the proof that it would be used in an unchanged way today. Its lower part was closed by doors and plates, bowls and other dishes were stored on shelves behind then. In the upper part of the furniture we find shelves, or a shelf meant of course not only to store knives, forks and spoons. The top sheet helped serving with a large-scale storage surface. The external ornamentation includes architectural elements as pillars, cornices, smaller statues and wood engravings break with monotonous surfaces.
In the Middle-Ages chests were meant to store things and their number in rooms increased continuously. They were still popular in the 16th century but they were forced to “move” to the back-rooms in the following centuries. One of the elements of travellers’ chests is yet to survive as a key factor. On one of the small Hungarian wardrobes from the 17th century we can witness the lifting grip which was not used anymore, as it would have been impossible to lift such heavy items of furniture with the help of the grips. The impact of old travellers’ chests live on as an element without function on wardrobes which could not be opened from top, but from the side.
One of the interesting items of furniture from the 16th – 18th centuries, the cabinet wardrobe which was less popular in Hungary, than in Europe, however the exhibition of the Ferenc Nádasdy Museum features a larger and a smaller example. Usually the chest of drawers standing on legs was used to be called like this, its rich ornamentation was a sign of the high social prestige of its owner. The cabinet wardrobes were of course not used to store everyday objects, but rather those of higher aesthetic and financial value, which today would be called objects of art. The cabinet wardrobe from the second half of the 17th century bears Baroque elements and even its mere appearance is a sign of the wealth of its owner. The drawers of the wardrobe standing on twisted legs are ornamented by marble mosaics in an artificial marble frame. Apart from the clearly visible drawers the pillars hide secret drawers which have a black and white artificial marble cover-plate. The most probably Southern-German master placed gold inlays on the suitable surfaces of the wardrobe in a skilful way. In the 18th century the commode appeared as a new element in civic and noble homes. This piece of furniture with drawers was especially suitable for storing clothing and underwear. According to generally accepted opinions it is of French origin and was wide-spread among richer civic families. Its varied ornamentation can also be observed at our permanent exhibition. The cherry and nut-tree cover uses the original grain of the wood as ornamentation. The bronze grips further enhance the elegance of this bit of furniture.
Ever since the Middle Ages a special role of the so-called Eastern objects could be observed. In Hungary we can read in inventories from the 16th and 17th centuries about references to Turkish rugs and in the following centuries we can witness the mass appearance of rugs, coffee cups, along with porcelain from Japan and China.
At the same time not all could afford to be surrounded by original objects, coming from remote countries. The need was, however, so high that merchants with a special sense began to have oriental style furniture made in Europe. They marketed porcelain and faillance of Chinese style, yet also the furniture industry adopted some Chinese elements. Our exhibits are a spectacular proof of this.
Chairs are most probably the most practical bits of furniture to serve our comfort. It is enough to read through books presenting the history of great civilisations and we can see the manifold uses of chairs. The throne was the symbol of power from the pharaohs in Egypt to today’s kings and queens, thus their ornamentation was very rich. Very often chairs for the everyday use were made using ornamentation, as the owners wanted to demonstrate their well-being when they offered their quests a seat. The pieces of art ornamenting the castle were not always suitable for sitting as the screws, flower, animal and coat of arms engravings prevented the uses from doing so. The permanent exhibition of the Ferenc Nádasdy Museum shows how the shapes or the simplicity of these very important bits of furniture changed from the Renaissance to the beginnings of the 19th century. The bird ornamentation of the plank chair from the 16th century speak of a skilled master. Habitat culture undergoes major changes from the end of the Middle Ages and actually from the 14th century onwards.
Benches put next to walls soon disappear from civic and noble households and are replaced by chairs. Parallel to this tables are located into the centre of rooms. Péter Apor complains in his “Metamorphosis of Transylvania” (Metamorphosis Transylvaniae), published 1736, about the lack of comfort: “the table was not set and there were no chairs round the table”. The more comfortable armchairs became known and popular elements of parlours. Our exhibition features a Louis-XIV-style version. Each and every epoch of arts history left its mark on the furniture. A walk in the Ferenc Nádasdy Museum helps finding your way in the furniture art of different periods. Room interiors furbished amidst painted walls of parlours bring back the flair of ages long gone.