Voltaire’s armchair

Stamped by Charles-François Normand

    • Circa 1775
      Carved and gilded beech, flecked wool velour trim, varnish, blackened iron
      Old fund

Although Voltaire did not die in this armchair, as legend would have it, the chair was nevertheless specially designed for the famous philosopher during his final stay in Paris. Arriving in Paris from Ferney on February 5, 1778, Voltaire was welcomed by the Marquis de Villette, a friend and convinced disciple.

Voltaire was comfortably lodged in his mansion on Quai des Théatins (now Quai Voltaire) in an apartment on the first floor that opened on Rue de Beaune, where he died on May 30, 1778. He used this armchair, which had a very simple design and was, above all, comfortable and practical.

It has four slightly arched legs mounted on wheels. On each side of the armrests, there were two large pouches with a flap that were designed to contain a few objects. Not only was the chair comfortable, it was handy. On the front of the armrests were a tilting stand on the right and, on the left, a writing desk that can be pivoted in all directions, with a drawer containing four compartments.

These two accessories, which were very useful to a man of letters, also make the armchair a very original one.

The crosspiece on the back bears the stamp of cabinetmaker Charles François Normand, who was named a master craftsman in 1747. This chair is an example of the ingenuity of artisans in the eighteenth century.