Pair of John Henry Belter Rosalie Meridiennes … or are they Recamiers?

by John Werry on April 18, 2008

Pair of John Henry Belter Meridiennes/Recamiers in the Rosalie with Grapes pattern

Kaminski Auctions of Beverly, MA is selling these twin John Henry Belter Meridiennes/Recamiers on the 26th of April. Condition seems to be fine on these two, which appear to be in the “Rosalie with grapes” pattern, though the image is small enough that I can’t guarantee the grapes are there. Some close-up images requested from Kaminski could confirm. If these were the “without grapes” version, I believe the skirt and knees would be missing the added decoration, which further confirms my suspicions.

It looks like these pieces generally garner $5,000-$5,500 when sold as individuals (see here, here, and here) and if you get the pierce-carved variety, you might be fortunate to secure $33,500 like this pair achieved. The listing for the above pair states that the starting price is $1,000 and expected range is $2,000 to $4,000. The details are here at the listing.

If someone can educate me on the fine points of distinction between a recamier and a meridienne, I’m all ears. It seems that I see them used somewhat interchangeably, albeit possibly incorrectly. Why have two French words for the same thing?

I’m familiar with the reclining habits of Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard Récamier, for whom the recamier is named; just not the technical distinction between the two forms.

According to the “Field Guide to American Antique Furniture”, here are the definitions:

recamier – A chaise lounge with a single high armrest which can also serve as a back.

meridienne – Reading or lounging sofa often of asymmetrical form. Classical and Rococo Revival preferred styles.

Well, that helps … Not …

Both fit the bill on these particular pieces. I assume there are separate definitions in the book to demonstrate that there are distinctions between the two.

Then there is the Louvre… The Louvre says of the painting of Madame Récamier by David Jacques-Louis, that:

Madame Récamier, gracefully reclined on a meridienne with her head turned towards the viewer, is dressed in a white antique-style sleeveless dress and is barefoot.

So the source of the word recamier was reclining on a meridienne…

Maybe that’s why Kaminski Auction is listing them as “fainting sofas”.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

woodwright April 19, 2008 at 12:50 am

Yes the grapes are present in the pattern. I went to the ebay listing (it was larger), saved it to my computer first, then zoomed in on it when previewing it and could see the grapes. This “trick” also works to view pictures that are posted, but not rotated upright. Save the image, then rotate it in your pictures, then preview it upright. It saves turning your head to try to make sense of the sideways image. woodwright


antiquemiser April 19, 2008 at 9:42 am

That seems like a low estimate, however it will be the upholstery that drives the price (in addition to condition and finish). These do not have the tufted backs and are not in a desirable silk fabric nor are they in a desirable color. That should keep the price down some…


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