This fascinating bench seems to be unique to Morbihan (pronounced with a silent “n”), an original Department of Brittany created by the New Regime in 1790–the name in the Breton language is the only Department of France without a French name. While we have noted it as a hall bench its original use seems to have been beside a bed cabinet and it is shown here with a perfect contemporary use as a television stand. 69″ in length it has a flat surface about 57″ wide and timbers that would easily hold a thousand pound weight!
It dates to about 1830 and has some fascinating features including a pair of tills to store valuables (or TV changers!), high sides with great visual impact, and a pair of storage cabinet doors with brass hinges.
The dating of this piece is assisted with those brass hinges as they are most frequently post 1800. Also the smooth undulating apron and only slightly curved legs are indicative of a later period (although they refer to mid-18th century design flourishes). The wood escutcheon is again invariably post-1820.
Let’s explore the details.
Viewing the side we easily see the brass features and one more confirmation of evolving style after 1800—the rolled top of the end with a brass roundel which began to be popular with the Empire about 1805. This feature is based on classical design of Greco-Roman origins popular with the court of Napoleon I. The brass hinges are over steel with brass tips–in the 18th century the hinges would simply have been steel.
Note also that the front and rear feet reflect each other, the side apron reflects the front, and there is bold graduated paneling on the side—clear signs of a cabinetmaker with a keen eye for design and proportion.
The sloped areas on each end are tills—lift-top storage bins for valuables.
You are probably thinking that this mechanism looks very familiar and it is–tills were almost always included inside dowery and blanket chests in every country of Europe and in America.
So how was this used? In the bedroom of country French homes the beds were frequently architectural cabinets crawled into over the long front side–the rest totally enclosed in fine woodwork. On one end a dressing table and toilet area was created and in this small region of France the other side had this intriguing bench! One could store shoes in the cabinets, pile blankets on the surface and each of the couple could keep small valuables in the tills—a wondrously efficient piece of furniture. In 30 years of traveling to France we have seen four examples and purchased two of them–two were too crude and boring. This is not boring! A harmony of beautifully colored ash with great patination it is a true gem. And its amalgamation of uses in the early 19th century make it uniquely useful today!
69″ long, 22.25″ deep, 28.5″ to 39.25″ high $6,800.00