OLD FURNITURE

In his articles about furniture, Ramsay Traquair concentrated on the typology of old Quebec, as well as surveying outstanding examples in primary locations. He started a chapter devoted to this furniture for his book The Old Architecture of Quebec, but ultimately the text was not included in the publication, perhaps due to cost-saving measures. Nevertheless, considerable research was done on the subject.

A 1930 illustrated lecture entitled "Houses and Furniture of Old Quebec" [McGill Archives, L49 in Sader] speaks selectively about buildings containing noteworthy furniture of the 17th century. For example, the Hébert House featured a corner cupboard in Manoir Mauvide and the Villeneuve House had a 17th century period low cupboard with panels. Traquair noted that the Hôpital Général Refectory had weathered dark brown oak tables from c.1680 "very simple but very dignified"; a clock, chairs, a stool, an early 18th c. armchair, a slat back chair and a bureau in the English style from the late 17th c.; and a chairlate 18th century French chair.

Other references to furniture are found in the following articles:

  • "Mural Decoration", JRAIC (Sept-Oct 1926): 183-184.
  • "The Chapel of Mgr. Olivier Briand in the Seminary of Quebec", JRAIC (Dec. 1929): 433-438.
  • "The Old Architecture of the Province of Quebec", JRAIC (Jan.-Feb. 1925): 25-30.
  • "The Panelled Room in the Presbytery of the Basilica, Quebec", JRAIC (Feb. 1930): 48-50.
  • "No. 92 St. Peter Street, Quebec: A Merchant's House of the XVIII Century", Part I, JRAIC (May 1930): 166-171; Part II, JRAIC (July 1930): 264-271.
  • "The Architecture of the Hôpital Général - Quebec", II. Convent Buildings, JRAIC (April 1931): 160-293.
  • "The Church of Ste-Jeanne Françoise de Chantal on the Ile-Perrot, Quebec", JRAIC (June 1932): 147-152.

A manuscript draft for the "Old Furniture of Quebec" chapter, as well as the manuscript for the entire book The Old Architecture of Quebec, are archived at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). In his unfinished chapter on Quebec furniture, Traquair emphasized late 17th, 18th and early 19th century traditional French, English and Canadian patterns made by joiners. In the 17th century period, some furniture was imported from France, others were made locally, like a chest of drawers from white pine from Île d'Orléans. The local furniture made by the joiners was crafted well enough that it was difficult to distinguish between imported and domestic products.

Exceptional sculptors made mostly church furniture, sometimes producing furniture for household use as well. Illustrating simple yet fine furniture made in Quebec until the 19th century is the armoire. Beginning as a marriage chest, then a travelling chest, the armoire became used for the permanent storage of clothing and linen. Two types are identified: the Normandy armoire with a single press or two high doors; and the more common buffet à deux corps with a double press. The latter was usually seven feet high and four and a half feet wide with double doors, a central bar or style, and two drawers between the upper and lower levels, generally standing on legs.

Splendid furniture examples have survived in the Hôpital Général in Quebec City. The collection belonged to Mgr de Saint Vallier, founder of the hospital, who brought most of the pieces from England in 1713. The collection includes English chairs, low-armed "Reuben" fauteuils, stools, a high standing clock, and a Canadian-made birch writing desk . The refectory contains six tables (c.1675), two of which were sold with the hospital to Vallier. Traquair hypothesizes that probably the longest hardwood tables, measuring 11'-9", were English and the four remaining were made in Canada according to a late 17th century pattern for the nuns after 1692. Another fine example of a Normandy armoire at the hospital was donated in 1772 by M. Parent from Île au Coudres.

 

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