Welcome to my A to Z Challenge on the subject of HOME.
What do the Récamier, Méridienne and Fainting Sofa have in common? Three reclining chairs of the past and present home décor that have in common one idea: Relaxation. Ancient population understood the benefits of relaxation and included it in their daily life.
For Egyptians, Greeks and Romans the idea of relaxing often on the ‘kline’ – a type of day beds – was part of the daily routine as early as the 8th century BC. The modern Greek word ‘symposion’ or “symposium” means ‘to drink together’ in a party atmosphere with music and conversation while even conducting business. The Romans adopted the daybed for reclining in the daytime and during meals and at night they slept on. This type of daybed was widely used in the Orient as well, where there was no distinction between sleeping furniture and daytime furniture.
(Madame Juliette Récamier above)
Récamier Sofa (above) took the name from Madame Juliette Récamier, a French society leader, whose salon drew Parisians from the leading literary and political circles of the early 19th century. After Madame Récamier’s guests were well fed, she would preside over the discussions while reclining on a sofa, usually wrapped in a yellow shawl. That’s how Jacques-Louis David depicted her. It seems that a bit of gossip is appropriate with a Récamier: Madame Juliette Récamier married at the age of 15 Jacques-Rose Récamier, a rich banker nearly 30 years her senior and a relative of the gourmand Brillat-Savarin, who wrote a few books on the philosophy of cooking and taste. Fantastic books, I read them all and strongly suggest them. A rumor arose that Jacques-Rose Récamier was Juliette’s natural father who married her to make her his heir. The Récamier marriage was never consummated and Juliette remained a virgin until at least the age of forty.
Méridienne – a type of asymmetrical day-bed (above) – has a high head-rest, and a lower foot-rest, joined by a sloping piece. Every grand house of France in the early 19th century had one for every room. Its typical use was for resting in the middle of the day, when the sun is near the meridian, a practice still in use in the South of Europe and Mediterranean basin.
(Edouart Manet above – Fainting Sofa)
Fainting Sofa has a back raised at one end, often wraps around and extends along the entire length of the piece. Fainting sofa deserved separate rooms in the 19th century home décor, only used by women to faint on, due to their tight corsets restricting blood flow. However, another peculiar use of this chair made it go down in history. Sex between married people was intended only for procreation. Society’s false modesty prevented women of high social background from taking care of their men’ frivolous sex desires, it was considered an indecent behavior left only for prostitutes. That constricted way of thinking caused female hysteria, considered a real ‘disease’ that needed to be treated by home visiting doctors and midwives through manual pelvic massage. It was a recurrent need often requiring hours for the intimate procedure to work, thus creating a room for privacy and a chair for comfort was of the utmost importance.
(Méridienne in my client’s home)
We cannot build our future if we don’t know history. Today, when possible, I like to place one Méridienne chair or Fainting Sofa in my clients’ homes and I can’t help smiling…..Ciao,
Copyright © 2013 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. She is well-know for designing custom furniture. She cares to make spacious and functional pieces, but she doesn’t forget to introduce the element of surprise, sinuous lines, attractive shapes and colors in the style fit for each of her special clients. She is the author of RED – A Voyage Into Colors, Check out her three books on