The bergère- a low, comfortable chair. The term means shepherdess in French. In England, they called these easy chairs barjairs–or burjairs. They were first popular in the early part of the eighteenth century.
One can almost see a buck of the ton sprawled upon this exquisite piece of furniture. He would naturally stretch his nankeen-covered legs out, displaying his physique to advantage in negligent contrast.
The Northumberland bergère is on display at the V&A Museum in London, along with other remnants of the now-vanished Northumberland House. The following is a bill of sale from the manufacturer:
‘2 bergeres, from the antique, of your Graces aburra wood, highly polished, & richly carved & gilt with ornamented trusses, foliage leaves, scroll sides, &c the tablet back, & seats stuffed with the best horsehair in canvas, standing on brass socket castors.
To covering the seats, backs, & tablets of the bergeres with grey silk, lined with calico, & finished with silk gimps, & cord in suit £5 18s’
The Northumberlands also commissioned special covers in leather for the chairs, to protect such expensive pieces when the house was closed up. Not just any old Holland covers would do for Their Graces when they were not in residence.
The chair was designed by Benjamin Dean Wyatt, eldest son of architect James Wyatt. His clients, besides Their Graces of Northumberland, included the Prince Regent, the Duchess of Rutland and the Duke of Wellington.
His work on Lancaster House is the subject of this blog’s post from several years ago.
From the 1820s to the 1830s, Wyatt was responsible for a mini-revival of the Rococo, which had fallen out of favor decades before. As you can see, the bergère, while styled in the classical Grecian design, sports gilded scrolling .
Recalling the good times of the ancien régime.
The Duke and Duchess of Northumberland were married in 1817 in Northumberland House, which they renovated extensively during the late Regency. They had no children, so their energies were devoted to many and varied aspects of British public life, which, like their chair, live on today.