18th Century Furniture
Chronology : 18th century 1730-1739 1770-1779 1780-1789
1726-1732 The Badminton cabinet
2004 SOLD 19 M£ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
In 1726 the 3rd Duke of Beaufort, aged 19, makes his tour of Italy. He is extremely rich and desires to build an art collection. His stay in Florence was very short. It seems likely that a pre-existing project for a monumental piece of furniture was offered to him. He orders this piece, of which he has followed the make by his agents.
The piece of furniture is delivered to him in 1732. It will be known as the Badminton cabinet from the residence where the 3rd Duke installed it and where it stayed until 1990.
It was sold twice by Christie's : on July 5, 1990 for £ 8.6M including premium and on December 9, 2004 for £ 19M including premium, lot 260 (not illustrated online). It was acquired at this latter sale by Prince Hans Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein to become the central piece in the collection of pietra dura works in his private museum.
The Badminton cabinet is a piece of furniture with four superimposed ebony segments over eight pilasters, for a total height of 386 cm including the Beaufort coat of arms in finial. It is 232 cm wide and 94 cm deep.
The assembly of this piece is a tour de force of joinery. It is sumptuously decorated on front and lateral sides in pietra dura and semi-precious stones with floral themes including birds. The upper segment consists of a clock whose dial is later. The allegories of the four seasons in gilt bronze surround the clock.
#ThrowbackThursday The Badminton Cabinet was sold in July 1990 in London. Commissioned in 1726 by Henry Somerset, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, it took 6 years to make & was regarded as the greatest Florentine cabinet of its time. It is on display at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna. pic.twitter.com/fTdEaJAm4e— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 16, 2020
Qing - The Lacquer Throne
2019 SOLD for £ 6.1M including premium
On May 14 in London, Christie's sells a wide lacquered armchair, lot 60 estimated £ 800K. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This large piece of furniture is very finely chiseled on all its surfaces except of course on the seat proper, with a depth of lacquer that required 100 to 150 layers. In an extreme refinement, three colors were used, a classic cinnabar red for the surface and ochre and green in under-layers revealed by the carving.
With its opulence and dimensions, 111 cm high, 115 cm wide and 86 cm deep, this chair is an imperial throne. Its figures include nine five-clawed imperial dragons who pursue the flaming pearl in the clouds. The back side adds other auspices including bats and a pair of fish.
This type of throne was executed during the Qing dynasty, mainly during the reign of Qianlong. The imperial archives record during the ninth year of the reign, 1744 CE, the commission of a lacquered dragon throne which was attributed to a small palace used as an intimate theater lodge in the imperial city. This information does not allow an identification with the piece to be sold but it shows that these fragile furnitures were not ceremonial thrones.
The catalog of the next sale quotes in reference a similar Qing throne, probably earlier. Its lacquer consisted of red, black and green layers on a brown background and contained gold inclusions. This lot was sold for HK $ 13.8M including premium by Christie's on May 29, 2007.
1745 Desk-and-Bookcase by Christopher Townsend
1999 SOLD for $ 8.3M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
They work together. The earliest reference to their new activity is a letter from Christopher in 1733 describing a desk-and-bookcase that Job had just sold. For nearly a century, this family, closely linked to the Goddard, Casey and Spencer families, will produce top quality mahogany furniture.
Attribution is difficult. Only one known piece, which is also a desk-and-bookcase, bears the label of Job Townsend. Christopher Townsend's previously unknown signature was discovered in 1998 on another desk-and-bookcase that was in France for nearly two centuries. Its traceability is perfect : it had been delivered to a minister in Cambridge MA and exported circa 1800 by his grandson in charge of a permanent diplomatic mission in France.
This piece of furniture in superb condition is typical of the best craftsmanship of American cabinetmakers of the 1740s. It was mounted in marked silver by a very young goldsmith named Samuel Casey who established his business in 1745 in Exeter RI after an apprenticeship in Boston. This is the only known American piece of furniture with solid silver handles. It was sold for $ 8.3M including premium by Sotheby's on January 16, 1999.
1763 Tea Table by John Goddard
2005 SOLD for $ 8.4M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Weddings are an opportunity to acquire furniture. The transactions between John Brown and John Goddard in 1760 are documented by a statement of account and a progress report.
This supply included a tea table with scalloped edges. In 1763 two other tables were documented by Goddard in similar letters, one for a close associate of the Four Browns and the other for one of their cousins. These deliveries within a closed circle of customers suggest that the model was exclusive.
In 1762 Nicholas Brown, the head of the family, is married in his turn. He orders his table. A year later the younger brother rebukes John Goddard for having managed competing priorities. The table was delivered to Nicholas in the fall of 1763. Satisfied with this acquisition, Nicholas Brown had a replica of this piece made two years later. This one is not documented but the almost perfect conformity of the copy is attributed to the entourage of John Goddard.
Both tables had been in Brown's lineage, together for three generations and then reunited again in 1970. The table provided by Goddard, in remarkable condition, was sold for $ 8.4M including premium by Sotheby's on January 22 2005, lot 809. The replica was sold for $ 910K including premium by Sotheby's on January 21, 2017.
1763 Table à Ecrire with Sèvres Porcelain
2005 SOLD for € 6.9M including premium by Artcurial
narrated in 2020
The cabinetmaker Joseph Baumhauer, whose stamp is limited to his first name, creates furniture with simple shapes, embellished with metal, hard stones, finely chiseled bronzes and lacquer panels. He is a specialist of the top luxury and court-empowered, and his production is scarce.
The best Sèvres porcelains are marked with a code corresponding to the year, which today helps dating the furniture they adorn.
A bureau plat was assembled by Joseph using porcelain dated H for 1760. Three other examples of this model are known. One of them was sold for € 6.9M including premium by Artcurial on December 13, 2005 from lower estimate of € 800K.
This desk 76 x 114 x 58 cm is stamped by Joseph. It is in rosewood and amaranth veneer and opens with three drawers on the front. It is decorated all around with 24 plaques in Sèvres porcelain decorated with polychrome flowers. A third of the plaques bear the letter K for 1763. The decoration is completed by gilded bronzes.
The Graf von Cobenzl, diplomat and trusted man of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, was a client of Poirier. The desk sold by Artcurial is probably the "table à écrire incrustée de porcelaine de Sèvres" which is listed in his inventory after death.
Qianlong - A Masterpiece of Chinese Furniture
2013 SOLD 93 M RMB yuan including premium
On June 4 in Beijing, Poly International Auction sells an exceptional pair of zitan cabinets of Qianlong period whose achievement was a real technical feat.
3.25 m high, these cabinets are among the tallest known zitan furniture, although another one 4.40 m high is preserved in Beijing. Its depth of 74 cm is also exceptional. The conception of these cabinets included slits in the boards of doors and sides to relieve the pressure.
There is no evidence that the origin of this pair of furniture is imperial, but they are finely carved in high relief with patterns of dragons and lotus.
The estimate is not announced, but this lot is undoubtedly a masterpiece of Chinese furniture.
POST SALE COMMENT
There was no doubt that this pair of cabinets of large size and plenty carving is a masterpiece of Chinese furniture, and even of international furniture. It was sold for RMB yuan 93M including premium, corresponding to U.S. $ 15M.
Qianlong - The Zitan Throne
2009 SOLD 86 MHK$ including premium
The emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties enjoyed a rare wood, the zitan (tzu-t'an in the old spelling), which allowed a very fine carving. The throne for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 8 is a wide seat (1.40 m) with motifs of the usual symbol of the Chinese Empire, the Dragon. It dates from the Qianlong period and is estimated 20 MHK$, lot 1645.
This wooden throne, although rare and prestigious, will not compare with the throne that adorned the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Also decorated with dragons, it was made of white marble and jade.
POST SALE COMMENT
Imperial Chinese pieces get a huge prestige at auction. There are a score of recent examples. But no furniture is more prestigious than a throne: the result, 86 MHK$ including premium, is remarkable.
Here is this exceptional lot, shared after the sale by Art Market Monitor.
1772-1785 Desk-and-Bookcase from Rhode Island
1989 SOLD for $ 12M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The Chippendale style succeeds the Queen Anne. John Goddard is probably the first to make the desk-and-bookcase which is an adaptation of the Block and Shell to the Chippendale. These pieces of furniture are not signed and very difficult to attribute to one or another master in that family. Nine examples in the six-shell design have survived, all of them in mahogany.
The Brown brothers were wealthy merchants and statesmen of Providence RI, involved in slave trade and smuggling. A Newport-style desk-and-bookcase that belonged to John Brown, 272 × 113 × 64 cm, is kept at Yale University. The piece that belonged to Nicholas Brown, 287 × 108 × 64 cm, is very similar. It had remained in the direct descent of its first owner and was sold for $ 12M including premium by Christie's on June 3, 1989.
For the attribution of these two pieces of furniture, it was noticed that Daniel Spencer, a nephew of John Goddard, had left Newport and established a workshop for the making of cabinets and chairs in Providence in 1772. The terminus ante quem is his imprisonment for debt in 1785. He ended his career in Kentucky.
1778 Commode Royale by Riesener
1999 SOLD for £ 7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2019 before the sale of another commode by Christie's (see below)
Premises are dedicated to these operations. In 1757 King Louis XV decides to build a hotel specially conceived for storing the furniture. Operational in 1772 and completed in 1774, this masterpiece by Ange-Jacques Gabriel is today the Hôtel de la Marine, on Place Louis XV completed by the same architect in 1772 and later Place de la Concorde.
Successor to Oeben whose widow he married, Jean-Henri Riesener specializes in luxury furniture. In 1774 he is appointed Ebéniste ordinaire du mobilier de la couronne.
The top luxury is obviously reserved for the king. Two commodes are made respectively in 1776 and 1778 by Riesener for the cabinet of King Louis XVI in Fontainebleau. The price paid by the king for the earlier commode had been 6,870 livres. The total amount of sales by Riesener for the court from 1774 to 1784 exceeded one million livres.
The 1778 Fontainebleau commode was sold for £ 7M including premium by Christie's on July 8, 1999 over a lower estimate of £ 1.5M, lot 201. This à ressaut shaped piece 95 cm high, 165 cm wide, 63 cm deep is in ormolu-mounted amaranth, sycamore, mahogany, parquetry and marquetry.
On April 30, 2019, Christie's sold for $ 1.16M including premium a commode of similar size, shape and materials made in 1774 by Riesener for the chief officer of the Garde-Meuble. This piece had possibly been a prototype for the commodes royales.
1786 Commode by Carlin and Weisweiler
1999 SOLD for FF 46M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
This 91 x 135 x 51 cm piece of furniture responds to the fashion for inlays of luxurious materials launched under Louis XV by the marchand-mercier Poirier. It is in ebony veneer, blackened wood, copper and pewter marquetry, relief inlays of pietra dura from the Gobelins, Florentine pictures in pietra dura marquetry, and adorned with gilded bronzes.
Daguerre succeeded Poirier in 1777. The cabinetmaker Carlin, who was one of the major suppliers of Poirier and Daguerre, died in 1785. Weisweiler took over de facto from Carlin for supplies to Daguerre.
The Florentine plaques constitute the major element of the decoration of that commode. They had been recovered from some cabinet made around 1700 in the Grand Ducal workshops. Out of fashion, the monumental Florentine cabinets in the French royal collections had been sold by the Garde Meuble from 1741.
The commode is not listed in the inventory after Carlin's death and its mark is undoubtedly posthumous, before his widow remarried with another cabinetmaker in 1786.
Daguerre settles permanently in 1789 in London where the Prince of Wales, future George IV, is furnishing in the greatest luxury his new residence of Carlton House.
The inventory of the Carlton House Council Salon, carried out in 1793, lists two pietra dura commodes, similar to each other. One of them, still in the British Royal Collection and stamped by Weisweiler, is probably the commode sold by James Christie in March 1791 directly from the stock transferred to London by Daguerre. The other, which no longer appears in 1806 in the collection of the Prince of Wales, is probably the Carlin-Weisweiler commode.