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French Gothic Antique Bench 5340


gothic antique bench
Price $3,675
Item 5340 - Width 49, Height 59 Depth 21 (in inches)
Wood - Oak
Date - Circa 1890
Country of Origin - France
Additional photos below

Benches remain among the most popular forms of furniture in the style of French Gothic Revival, and it is no wonder. Not only is a bench an inviting canvas for the master carver to work his magic with elements of gothic design, but it harks back to the middle ages as a comfortable form of seating and a practical form of storage. In the process, it validated the status and good taste of its owner.

In chateaus, the vestibules or entry areas were typically ringed with benches, heavily carved and often covered in pillows made of luxurious fabrics or draped with tapestries or carpets. Benches were also used in the bed chamber, frequently near the fire, in order to block drafts and increase warmth, as illustrated in the treatise by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (cited, below). They were also used as seating at tables in the main hall of a chateau.

The skillfully carved fenestrage or tracery on this bench includes four panels above the seat and four below it. The panels at either end match each other as do the two in the middle.

bench tracery panels

The four panels above the seat are based on a design involving lancet arches supporting quatrefoils framed by circles or elliptical shapes. In the center of each quatrefoil is an intricately carved blossom, a design also used to fill the space between the tops of the lancet arches and the frames of the quatrefoils.

gothic panel 1
Top left-most panel
gothic panel 2
Top left middle panel
gothic panel 3
Top right middle panel
gothic panel 4
Top right-most panel

The four panels comprising the front of the base of the bench involve tracery without lancet arches.

bench tracery panels

As with the top, a theme of the tracery is the quatrefoil but this time each one is contained in an elliptical-shaped frame tapering to a point at top and bottom (just as the quatrefoil does). The two panels at either end have only one quatrefoil at the center but the hint of ones, divided in half longitudinally, on either side. The two panels in the middle each have two of the tall, elongated quatrefoils. Tracery designs based on triangular shapes fill the balance of the empty spaces on these panels. Unifying the design with that of the panels on the upper part of the bench, the blossom is at the center of each quatrefoil.

gothic panel 1
Bottom left-most panel
gothic panel 2
Bottom left middle panel
gothic panel 3
Bottom right middle panel
gothic panel 4
Bottom right-most panel

On the ends of the base of the bench is yet another tracery design unique from the others. Two quatrefoils are framed with circles but lack the blossom in the middle as on each of the panels that face forward. Four tracery figures are contained in a central, oval shape — two quatrefoils and two mouchettes or curved figures ending in a point on one end. Blossoms separate this central shape from half-moon figures on either side.

bench gothic railing

Crowning the upper part of the bench, above the four tracery panels, is a railing in a half-moon design united by a horizontal piece of oak at the top of each semicircle. The upper tips of these semicircles are punctuated by a smaller version of the carved blossom found at the center of the quatrefoils in the panels shown above. The blossom for the center-most point is missing and has not been replaced.

bench gothic railing

At each end of the railing is a finial or spire sitting atop a square column into which a lancet arch has been carved. In design, they are fairly simple. The central spire is ornamented with crocketing (stylized, furled acanthus leaf) on either side. The top of the spire has a slightly broader top ending in the shape of a fleur-de-lys.

bench finial left
bench finial right

It is when we look at the armrests of this bench that we find its most captivating figures, especially for dog-loving antiques dealers such as ourselves. The end of each armrest is carved to show the head of a dog, complete with expressive eyes, detailed muzzle, and ears flattened back against the head. Each head is slightly different, imparting a distinctive personality to the pooch.

dog armrest left
Dog's head on left armrest
dog armrest right
Dog's head on right armrest

Viewed from above, the detail of the dog's head makes it almost impossible not to pet it.

top of dog's head

Where the armrest meets the back of the bench, there is a graceful scroll design unfurling into an acanthus leaf.

bench armrest scroll

The door to the bench's storage area runs almost the full width of the seat, providing ample storage space for pillows or other items to adorn the bench.

gothic bench seat
gothic bench interior

Overall, the bench is in very good condition. The oak has developed a rich patina with the grain visible yet muted.


Boccador, Jacqueline, Le Mobilier Français du Moyen Age à la Renaissance (Editions d'Art Monelle Hayot, Saint-Just-en-Chaussée, 1988); Boussel, Patrice, Les Styles du Moyen Age à Louis XIV (Baschet et Cie, Paris, 1979); Piat, Florence, Les stalles de l’ancien Duché de Bretagne, (L'Université Européene de Bretagne, Rennes, 2012); Thirion, Jacques, Le Mobilier du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance en France (Editions Faton, Dijon, 1998); Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène, Le Mobilier Médiéval (Georges Bernage, editor) (Editions Heimdal, 2003).


Whether guarding an entryway, at the head of a table, or in any room of a house, this bench stands ready for several more centuries of enjoyment by lovers of Gothic furniture.

gothic bench reverse side