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.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
Three bedroom traditional or four bedroom traditional in Lafayette
Our fav dress for all seasons
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
Shoppers familiar with Louisiana-based Rouses Market might be surprised when they walk into the new third location set to open at the Corner of Johnston Street and Duhon Road south the Acadiana Mall on Wednesday.
Noted architect and co-founder/principal of Architects Southwest receives highest honor given to former student.
Know an innovator, job creator and visionary with a penchant for hard work? We want to know that person.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.
Actually he’s not, but in this age of say anything, which the Harson campaign has perfected, we thought, ‘What the hell?’
Easy on shape, big on style
Four bedroom Lafayette home or a four bedroom Scott home
"This week, the Advertiser Editorial Board announced endorsements of Lafayette Parish School Board candidates. While I respect the newspapers’ right to make these endorsements, I do not agree with them."
In the vein of her literary hero Ernest Gaines, San Francisco Bay Area writer Natalie Baszile transforms a crop that’s mundane to some into a lush, beautiful thing and creates a world within her characters where relatives arrive in steady waves “like a river’s rising tide” and the soil is “dark and rich as ground French roast.”
If you care about the wellbeing of Louisiana’s college students, vote against Amendments 1 and 2.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Off a narrow gravel road running between a handful of mostly abandoned lots near a Mississippi River levee, down past sprawling oak trees and thick weeds, a lectern framed by banana trees has been set up in front of three short rows of folding chairs.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to New Orleans this weekend to stir up voter support for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Saints coach Sean Payton has spent much of his team's erratic season trying to build his players up.
The Daily Advertiser has weighed in on this year's LPSB elections with nine endorsements.