I was surprised to find that among them was a tapissier, or upholsterer. Like the other servants and staff working at the château, this craftsman is unfortunately unnamed. Presumably a man, this individual shared a room with a valet whose shared furnishings included two beds with bedhangings, a chest of drawers, six upholstered chairs, window curtains, an overmantel mirror, and andirons. It is unknown whether he trained in Canada or France. Mention of tapissiers working in French colonial Canada can be found in notarial records as early as 1667, when Jacques Leprou, an upholsterer from Rouen, was recorded as living in Québec. Pierre-Simon Chanazart, a maître tapissier born to a family of Parisian upholsterers, was employed by the governor-general, the marquis de Beauharnois, in 1728.
French craftsmen are also known to have been brought to Louisbourg, a colonial fortress on what is now Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia and one of the largest port towns in North America before 1760. Having signed three-year contracts, these artisans were called upon to execute the interior woodwork of the château Saint-Louis of Louisbourg, home to the governor of the colony of Île-Royale.
Pierre's 1771 inventory, coupled with his father's from 1726, reveals the importance of upholstered seating furniture as well as textile wall hangings, or tentures, and draperies such as curtains and portières in elite society of both the French colonial regime in Canada and the ancien régime in France. Reflective of both symbolic etiquette and concern for fashion and style, upholstered furnishings revolutionized French interiors circa 1700 as they accommodated something that we often take for granted in our chairs and couches today: physical comfort. The château's tapissiers would have been responsible for maintaining textiles on walls and those covering beds, windows, and doors.
Both Pierre and his father Philippe owned finished pieces in addition to keeping a ready stock of upholstery textiles , furniture frames, and other supplies for the confection of new chairs and couches. A petit cabinet at the château held a cherry saufa (sopha) frame valued at 15 livres in 1726; ten armchair frames were appraised in a nearby chamber, with nine described as walnut. In 1771, Pierre remembered there being green and red velvets, toiles, Indian cottons, and other upholstery fabrics along with gilt nails, horsehair (crin), batting, and armchair (fauteuil) frames, all purchased in Paris for over 12.000 livres. At least one upholstery nail or tack has been excavated archaeologically at the site of the château by Parks Canada.
The notary appraised over 100 chairs at the château Saint-Louis following Philippe de Vaudreuil's death in 1725. These ranged from sedan chairs to upholstered fauteuils. According to Pierre de Vaudreuil, the salle de compagnie contained 16 fauteuils covered in petit point upholstery in 1759. A gilt beech armchair in the collection of the Musée de la civilisation in Québec, made in Paris by craftsman Jean Gourdin (1690-1764), is possibly one of these. Known as a fauteuil à la reine because of its square-shaped back, the chair's pink upholstery is not original. Other furniture with a Vaudreuil provenance survives at the McCord Museum in Montréal. Possibly used to furnish the hôtel de Vaudreuil, a private home built by Philippe and later rented to the crown for use by successive royal governors, I'll be visiting the McCord collection of Vaudreuil furniture in July.