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Wardrobes in Normandy (2) :
the Viroise by Claude Vilars


If Vire can pride itself on a glorious historical past, it was not until the 19th century that a very typical furniture production came to perfect, in the blue granite houses, nestled in the greenery of the Bocage, the decorations of the Virois and the surrounding region.
It is recognized, I believe without question, that the work done in the Bocage Virois (Vire and a periphery of about 20 km) has a plus which is characterized by a finesse of sculpture, a power and a nervousness that make the details come alive, a general harmony that makes one think of a well composed music.

These cabinets "in wedding dresses" are there to delight the eye and at the same time to soothe it; finished poems, they are the constant testimony of our traditions.

The Bocage Virois has always been an active center for carpenters. To our knowledge, one of the first to leave a trace is Thomas Blanvillan who made benches for the church of Mesnil-Clinchamps in 1535. Then "the year 1609 on Saturday 9 May" François Gaucher and Colas his Son, delivered, also to Mesnil-Clinchamps, "the large bench with back and four chairs that rise and fall" all for Four pounds.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, some workshops worked for the region. However, we have to wait until the 19th century to see the production of this region literally explode. Why did this happen? Several answers which however are grouped together:

1) Development of the industry

Napoleon's army used a lot of cloth to dress its soldiers. The "fullers" of Viareggio knew how to take advantage of this demand and make the most of it. This ease of living, quickly known, favored the installation of craftsmen. The eternal "snowball effect" of a successful region.

2) The sedentarization of the workers

Particularly between 1811 and 1814 - a period during which the Empire authorized men who had married to return home after too long a war. If most of them returned to agriculture, the most qualified ones found, with happiness, scissors and gouges.

3) Reaction to the official style

The best sculptors see, at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the lines of the furniture are purified (in particular in the spirit of G. Jacob), the veneer triumphs, reserved to the cabinetmakers. These simplified features will, moreover, promote the development of the first mass production of furniture! Yes - already They must then take their talent elsewhere.
There we have three essential conditions: financing - manpower - know-how or knowledge.  All these criteria are involved in the price of a Norman cabinet.

A continuation is given to this article: Wardrobes of Normandy (3): the sculptors.

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