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Part of the furniture on display comes from the Château de Villeneuve-Lembron in Auvergne, property of Rigaut d’Oureille (1455-1517), seneschal of Gascony and the Agen region, and equerry, butler and diplomat to Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I. The château’s main building, separate from the outbuildings, has a ground floor with a gallery with spiral staircases at both ends. The staircases lead up to the first-floor composed of large rooms: a reception room with a huge fireplace, a private room, an antechamber, a dressing room, a study room and a lavatory. Emphasis was given to prestigious architectural elements such as the spiral staircases, the gallery along the facade and the chapel.
The major bequest of medieval and Renaissance art made by the collector Emile Peyre (1824-1904) to the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs enabled the creation of the museum’s first medieval room in 1905. The current period room, created in 2006, is composed principally of this bequest and the donation made in 1917 by Marquise Arconati-Visconti in memory of the antique dealer Raoul Duseigneur, comprising a fireplace, panelling and stained glass windows.
In the bedroom, it was the bed that dictated the arrangement of all the other furniture. The ornate oak canopy bed has two columns sculpted with delicate cable moulding, fleurs-de-lis, balls, diamonds, palm leaves and Rigault d’Oureille’s coat-of-arms (“d’azur à la bande fuselée de sable, posée de travers”). The vivid colours illustrate the medieval aspiration for light, and the green curtains evoke the meticulously depicted interiors characteristic of Flemish painting. The other typical pieces of bedroom furniture are the high-backed bench with a chest concealed beneath the seat, the dresser, on which an ewer and glass were often placed, and a scabelle, a lightweight, portable stool that could also serve as a table on which to place a book, fruit or a light meal. For family meals, a trestle table with tablecloths was placed in front of the fireplace then put away in the dressing room or small storeroom adjoining the bedroom.
Furniture varied little from one region to another in 15th-century France, with only its ornamentation changing as tastes evolved, often prompted by developments in cathedral decoration. This period saw both the persistance of a very conservative gothic style and ingenious, incredibly modern inventiveness, notably in the making of transformable and pivoting furniture.