The Aula Nova became the chest exhibition. The collection, only some of which can be seen at Chillon, consists of 80 pieces. Most of the pieces date from the 17th and 18th centuries, but some date back to the Gothic, or even Roman, era.
The selection presented is an array of travelling trunks, as well as sideboards, chests and even the first wardrobes.
The castle owes some of its most beautiful pieces of furniture to the Vevey-born architect Ernest Burnat (1833-1922). In 1889, as custodian, he defined the furniture acquisition policy. His tour de force was, without a doubt, the purchase of a chest made by Alexandre Mayer, a cabinetmaker from Swabia, and the artist behind several masterpieces in Valais toward the end of the 17th century.
Other acquisitions did not go as smoothly; some of the chests were counterfeit. Certain unscrupulous professionals, faced with the flourishing antiques trade and increasing demand toward the end of the 19th century, made fakes. Chillon, amongst others, paid the price: some chests are completely fake, others are blends of old and modern elements, some are even made of old disparate pieces.
In 1912, the castle architect and first archaeologist for the canton of Vaud, Albert Naef (1862-1936) had six copies of chests belonging to the Valère Basilica (Sion, Valais) made. It is clear they were meant to furnish the great halls, judging by their 13th-century manufacture date, which coincided with the castle’s first construction phase in around 1260. The copies are in keeping with the originals, right down to the choice of softwood species.
The current exhibition can be viewed in chronological order, starting from the 12th and leading up to the 18th century.
Corinne CHARLES et Claude VEUILLET, Coffres et coffrets du Moyen Âge dans les collections du Musée d’histoire du Valais, Aoste : Musumeci SpA, 2012.
Claire HUGUENIN, Patrimoine en stock : les collections de Chillon, Lausanne : IRL, 2010.
Aula nova, n°14