A new coffee table book celebrates the coffee tables — and armoires, dressers,
cabinets and chairs — of Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole past. By Anna Purdy
Seven years and thousands of miles traveled to snap photographs in the homes of collectors as well as museums has culminated in Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadiana Furniture, 1735 - 1835. Published by the Historic New Orleans Collection — a part of New Orleans Historical Society — it is a tome of well over 500 pages packed with pictures and details of every type of furniture you grew up with in Acadiana. Flipping through the verdant field of photography you can’t help but think things like, “My grandfather had that rocker in his room!” Like the Creole-style slat-back side chair or the cypress armoires, most of the pictures are familiar to those who have lived here.
Much of the furniture in Furnishing Louisiana comes from private collections here in Acadiana, and while it certainly is a collectable niche market, many pieces have been in the same home for 200 years.
So why is it there aren’t more books like this about Louisiana furniture? Explanations abound, but the first lies in the complexity of the subject. Early Louisianans did, indeed, import furniture from France, and a French influence is visible on most of the earliest locally made pieces. But other regions and other cultures — Canada, the Caribbean, Anglo America — also made their mark, says John T. Magill of The Historic New Orleans Collection in the book’s introduction. The history of oral tradition in Louisiana life also created a mythology that celebrated Francophone culture specifically and European culture in general. Ties to any other place were downplayed, not to mention that of course records on furniture purchases — by whom and from where — are few and far between during this time period.
A major shift occurred in 1968. This was the year New Orleans celebrated her 250th birthday and a man with the unfortunate, if memorable, name of Felix Herwig Kuntz came along. Kuntz was a lifelong bachelor who dedicated his life to collecting Louisiana treasures. He came from money — one of two sons of Emile and Rosemonde Kuntz. The Kuntz family enjoyed a brief but prosperous tenure as one of the most notably wealthy families in the New Orleans area. Felix was the originator of a collection that included textiles, glassware, metals, ceramics, oil paintings, sculptures and silverware as well as furnishings. In ’68 Felix decided to share his private collection with the world at the Louisiana State Museum in three catalogued exhibitions that ran, because the collection was so immense, from January through July.
The Kuntz collection inspired interest locally and around the world, and as word spread, the unique vision of Louisiana artwork and furnishings established a reputation. Four years later another show appeared from February to July called “Early Furniture of Louisiana.”
Flash forward another two years, and it all gets brought back to Lafayette. The Art Center for Southwestern Louisiana at USL, now known as the much more alliterative University of Louisiana at Lafayette, got a jump start on the U.S. bicentennial by hosting “Louisiana French Furnishings, 1700 — 1830.” This highlighted Acadian furniture and “more sophisticated Creole pieces,” writes Magill. This showing also boasted a symposium comprising collectors, scholars and antique dealers from all over North America.
Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadiana Furniture, 1735 — 1835 pays homage to the woods employed, the hardware, the history and those who made the furniture. And it isn’t just about furniture — it is a sociological and anthropological step back to a time that doesn’t have a lot of written history.
The fact that so many pieces of furniture are still around after hundreds of years shows how well Louisiana style and fashion have stood the test of time.
The board hopes to recover all fees paid, plus one-half, along with what could amount to hundreds of thousands in additional penalties.
Oh, the irony... or something like that.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
St. Patty's Day crafts
The former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.