A Collection of European Marriage or Dowry Furniture
Coffer from the Beneton Collection.
Armoire from the Beneton Collection.
Pieces from the collection can be viewed at the Battersea Antiques and Decorative Fair between 24th and 29th April 2012.
Download the catalogue (2MB pdf)
From the middle ages onward it was common practise in eastern Europe for girls aged as young as 12 and over to start receiving dowry furniture: maybe a bed, then followed by an armoire, a table, chairs, and other necessary pieces to start a home.
Often such pieces are painted with specific details of the area, family... they were commissioned pieces and the quality and detail are reflected in what could be afforded.
The collection contain many good examples of such pieces, many are dated and cover the late 18th century to the mid 19th century.
Images of love, unity and fertility are shown with the exuberance of full blooming flowers, cornucopias represent abundance, tokens of love too: hearts, turtle doves and other birds, often they face each other as if longing to touch and showing commitment. One shows a religious connection, No. 62 a panel representing Saint Barbara.
The pieces that are dated and some with initials, are almost certainly painted to commemorate an important date, coming of age or the marriage year perhaps. Many have their original locks and keys which are a work of art in themselves.
The collection was formed over several years and has lain untouched in storage for the last twelve years, gathering dust and not enjoyed. In cataloguing these pieces it is impossible not to be moved when looking at the painting, the na´ve colourful, vibrancy of them, looking further at them, questions arose: who are the people who owned them, where are those houses and scenes from? the happiness that must have been shared using such every day pieces of furniture.
You get a real feeling of touching and be part of living history of the piece that can be enjoyed again and into the future.