This is the latest in a series of blog posts I have written on interesting items I have seen at recent appraisals. This isn’t the greatest picture because at the time I wasn’t intending on using it on a blog post.
So, What am I?
Yes, there’s no doubt that it looks like a chair, with 19th century turnings on the legs and side supports. But if you look closer, you may notice that the legs appear very short. It is not an illusion. They really are shorter than a regular chair because it was never meant for sitting, but kneeling.
This piece of furniture, circa 1850, was known as a Prie Dieu in French which literally means Pray to God. Religion played a much more important role in our ancestor’s lives as compared to our largely agnostic society today. If it was impossible to go to church services, or even in addition to them, many people had these kneeling benches at home to say their prayers.
This example was especially beautiful and in good condition considering it had its original cross-stitched fabric. Some of the embroidery was almost three-dimensional. The cushion where a person kneeled showed the most wear – which is exactly where one would expect it to be. Most prayer chairs have a ledge for a bible or for leaning one’s arms at the top, but this chair had neither.
What is especially unusual about this Prie Dieu is the addition of a knight on the lower back of the chair – and the very realistic, almost photographic picture of a man’s head inside the helmet. It’s actually kind of creepy – as though he is caught in the fabric for all time – and is trying to escape!
Although I have come across other Prie Dieus in past appraisals, this one was the most ornate, and definitely the strangest of all.