An exhibition in the house of a famous writer! Pierre Frey could not have dreamed of a better way to reveal to the general public his heritage linked to the literary world. The result of a scientific partnership, the exhibition, on view until July 24th, offers a glimpse into the intimacy and novelistic creations of 19th century naturalist writers. For this occasion, the Maison Pierre Frey is lending some forty works, most of them unpublished, chosen from the Braquenié and Le Manach collections. Thus, fabrics, wallpapers, paintings, manuscripts, novels and collections of commissions draw the contours of a society in full mutation where textiles are key.
Pierre Frey, partner of the Maison de Chateaubriand
During the XXth century, several rooms of the Chateaubriand house were decorated with fabrics from the Braquenié collection. The new restorations of the Récamier and Chateaubriand rooms in 2019 have renewed the link between this magical place and Pierre Frey. From there, the project of a joint heritage exhibition on fabrics and writers was born. The words "textile" and "text" have the same Latin root, which means "to weave". The term "text", which appeared in 12th century Romanesque literature, comes from the Latin textus, which has the double meaning of "fabric, weft" and "text-narrative". Thus, the act of writing is similar to that of weaving.
The two Houses were destined to meet and collaborate!
UN UNEDITED SUBJECT
Edmond de Goncourt, author of Chérie, La maison d'un artiste and creator of the eponymous prize, provided the guiding theme for the exhibition.
This exhibition lifts the veil on the relationship between 19th century naturalist authors and fabrics in their private lives and in their writings. It is divided into four sections: textiles among writers, textiles in the novel, the fabric trades and a focus on the host of the exhibition, François-René de Chateaubriand. He was not very interested in fabrics but his works, especially Atala, have been widely reproduced on printed canvases and in the decorative arts.
THE WRITERS AT HOME
Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, as well as Jean Cocteau later… These writers were particularly invested in the design of their homes. From the pierced basket to the knick-knacker, through the inspired amateur or the eclectic, each of them developed a very personal relationship with fabrics. Their writings, the portraits of the homes of great men, a new literary genre at the time, paintings, engravings and bills allow us to trace their personal tastes. The collections of Braquenié's commissions are a first-rate historical source. Throughout the pages, we meet Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, George Sand and many others...
FABRICS IN LITERATURE
Naturalist novels are full of realistic details about decoration and textiles. Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Emile Zola or Guy de Maupassant have widely used them to characterize their characters, their social status, their ambitions but also metaphorically to evoke the hidden bodies of women of the Second Empire, marked by prudery.
The important place of the cloth trades in the novels, favored by the industrial revolution, lifts a veil on the factories, the department stores, the upholsterer, the grisette, the laundress or the salesman. Reality is put at the service of fiction. Zola or Balzac sometimes force the line slightly to depict colorful characters and narrate an intrigue with multiple twists.
FABRICS TO TOUCH AND TO SEE
The writers use a precise terminology, twill, brocatelle, velvet, brocade, etc., that the readers easily understand as the taste for fabrics is so developed at the time. This vocabulary refers to particular techniques but also to selling prices known to all. Thus, in a single word, the authors projected their readers into a place and determined the social comfort of the characters.
Today, this vocabulary is less used, which is why a textile gallery allows visitors to become familiar with the fabrics mentioned in the novels by touching them and discovering their definition. A way for everyone to dive back into the 19th century classics with a new perspective.
On the other hand, they remain very evasive concerning the color: blue, yellow, green, etc..., constitute the essential vocabulary used. While the 19th century is marked by the discovery of chemical dyes, generating new chromatic ranges. Maupassant underlines the difficulty of naming them: "Who will be able to indicate their shades with words? See the pinks and the reds, the whole range of red lilacs, pink lilacs, orange lilacs, and the greens so different, so delicious, so new, innumerable, unspeakable, that our eye distinguishes today without our mouth knowing how to define them yet. “