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.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue — the second in the last four months.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
C & C Technologies, HIT Fitness, R3 Sciences, the Acadiana Symphony Association and the United Way of Acadiana recognized for innovation.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra has decided to end its traditional Independence Day spectacular known as Red White & Boom.
Under the deal, Teche shareholders would get 1.162 shares of IberiaBank for each share of Teche stock.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The must have pieces this season
Dave Perkins, LCG Comp Plan honored along with local architects and designers at the 2014 INDesign Awards
Greg Manuel’s Lafayette-based residential development company is taking advantage of exponential industrial growth in Lake Charles.
Longtime Lafayette retailer ventures online.
It’s not how aggressive or conservative you are — it’s planning for risk that matters most.
Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.
Regional bank bids farewell to Downtown May 30
ABiz takes a look back at the most noteworthy moments for the local banking industry over the last year.
Most experts say short-term interest rates will be unchanged through 2014, but long-term rates are inching up.
Largest recruitment event in Acadiana returns May 21 to the Cajundome Convention Center
A lawyer’s ad should only be a starting point, as there is much more to consider when seeking quality representation.
Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.
The annual juried competition recognizes excellence in architecture, interior design and historic preservation in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.
Cypress Bayou GM hosts open house.
New hires, promotions, transfers in Acadiana business
The scion of a landmark Four Corners restaurant climbs back into Lafayette’s culinary scene as franchisee for a popular burger chain.