Furniture made in France before 1800
Chronology : 1660-1679 1770-1779 1780-1789 1790-1799
1665-1675 The Italian Influence at the Gobelins
2009 SOLD 4.5 M£ including premium
The minister of Louis XIV was Mazarin, the Italian, a great lover of art. The Superintendent of Finance was Fouquet, patron of artists including Le Brun. In 1661, Mazarin dies. His close associate, the very active Colbert, excites the rage of the king against the luxurious château de Vaux, Fouquet's personal property.
Now, Colbert's hands are free. In 1662 he creates the Manufacture des Meubles de la Couronne in the then suburbs of the Gobelins. The idea is to provide the king with luxurious furniture by protecting the best cabinetmakers and tapestry makers so that their art is reserved for royal commissions. The management of the Manufacture is entrusted to Le Brun.
Having come from Italy, Domenico Cucci made several luxury furniture at the Gobelins, including a pair of large cabinets for Versailles in 1664. The similarity of design allows Christie's to date between 1665 and 1675 another cabinet, for sale in London on December 10, which was probably done on an order of the Queen of Sweden.
This high furniture of Flemish style is perched on a stand of stone caryatids, and adorned with gilded bronze and with Pietre Dure from Florence. The caryatids may be the work of another Italian, Philippe Caffieri, husband of the sister of Le Brun and cousin of Cucci. A family business that would have pleased Mazarin!
Christie's estimates the piece of furniture around 4 million pounds.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result meets the expectations and expertise of the auction house: £ 4.5 million including premium.
Here is the image of this lot shared post sale by AuctionPublicity.
1720 Bureau Plat by Boulle
2005 SOLD for £ 2.9M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2012 before the auction of another bureau by Europ Auction (see below)
A bureau plat (flat desk) is a table equipped with a belt of drawers whose center can hide secret drawers. If the space for storage is insufficient, you can fit a cartonnier at the end of the table. This highly functional furniture has first been produced for luxury furnishing. Boulle also innovated by his gilded bronze decorations anticipating Cressent.
Boulle was using the most precious materials with a subtle sophistication. High end furniture was made in pairs, with similar or even identical decorations but with a reversed distribution of materials : the première partie and the contre-partie.
On December 15, 2005, Christie's sold for £ 2.9M including premium over a lower estimate a bureau plat in première partie made by Boulle, without cartonnier, lot 15. With its 204 x 105 cm top, it is in the largest format ever made by Boulle.
Another piece passed at Europ Auction on September 26, 2012. It was probably the contre-partie of the above, of similar size. Slight differences between both bureaux suggest that it was in the Boulle workshop during the 1720 fire and then had to be repaired.
1750 Lacquer Commodes by Bernard
2011 SOLD 3.45 M$ including premium
Most of the Parisian furniture remained anonymous until 1743,the year when the stamp was made mandatory. The rival master therefore signed his works with the letters BVRB.
It was the time when the marchands-merciers dictated the law of taste in furnishings. They had started the fashion of decorating furniture with those lavish black lacquer panels decorated with scenes from the Far East that they imported from China and Japan. The luxurious decoration of gilded bronzes kept up the lacquered panel.
BVRB was one of the first to bend the lacquer panels to fit the curved shape of Louis XV commodes. The sumptuous commode illustrated in the press release shared by Artdaily is attributed to him. Estimated $ 3M, it is one of the star lots in the Safra collection, for sale by Sotheby's in New York from October 18 to 21.
Its design is similar as for the specimen stamped BVRB sold 15.4 MF by Christie's in Monaco on June 19, 1999, made in the 1750s for Machault d'Arnouville. It is certainly later than the royal commode, also signed, delivered to Fontainebleau in 1737.
Feeling the need to give a name to BVRB, furniture connoisseurs named him Bernard until his full identity is demonstrated in 1957 : Bernard (II) Van Riesen Burgh, received master circa 1735.
Note that the presence of a mark is not enough to date a piece of furniture after 1743, because some earlier pieces were returned to the shop to be repaired or modified. On the opposite, the lack of a stamp mark is suggesting a date before 1743.
The date suggested by the catalogue for this piece of furniture is circa 1750.
POST SALE COMMENT
It was one of the top lots in the sale of the Safra collection. It was sold $ 3.45 million including premium.
1757 The Pompadour Style
2012 SOLD 3.2 M£ including premium
Louis XV likes to have fun, especially if it contradicts the étiquette. In 1745, his new mistress is young and pretty. She was not born in the aristocracy, and the king once again shocked the courtiers in naming her Marquise de Pompadour.
Irregular husband and lover, the king had gone to further female conquests, but the vast cultural intelligence of Pompadour still makes her the best referee of the great French style. The hôtel d'Evreux, offered by Louis to the Marquise in 1754 and which was to become much later the palais de l'Elysée, is furnished in a splendour that can well compete with Versailles.
The Parisian craft is fabulously encouraged. After a tumultuous career, Cressent closes his business in 1756. His best successor to the court, who signs BVRB, is a discreet man whose biographical details are largely unknown.
On December 6 in London, Christie's sells a secrétaire à abattant stamped by BVRB. This piece 1.30 m high is not a single model, but only two examples are known with Japanese lacquer, the supreme refinement of the time, and only this one is complete.
Christie's states that it is almost certainly the piece of furniture sold to Pompadour on February 19, 1757 by the important marchand-mercier Lazare Duvaux, and the catalog tells that it would be the most expensive supply made by Duvaux to the Marquise.
This secrétaire has all the qualities of a masterpiece and formerly belonged to the prestigious Riahi collection. It is estimated £ 3M. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
This very elegant piece of furniture did not exceed its lower estimate. It was sold £ 3.2M including premium.
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.
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.
1784 Marquises by Tilliard
2022 SOLD for € 3.7M by Sotheby's
Four legitimate daughters of the late king survived him. The château de Bellevue in Meudon was then transferred to three of them as a private residence. They had redesigned the interior and created a jardin anglais in the style of Chantilly and Trianon.
For the use of their Salon d'Eté, Mesdames commissioned in 1784 a sumptuous set of eight marquises and a canapé for an extravagant price which was paid by their nephew King Louis XVI. The marquises were referred in period as fauteuils en tête à tête.
The detailed bill survives in the royal archives. The furniture was ordered to Blanchard who subcontracted the menuiserie to Jean-Baptiste II Tilliard. The carving was made by Rascalon, the gilding by Dutemp and the silk upholstery and cushions was supplied by Nau. The execution was supervised by the Garde Meubles Royal and the whole was delivered to Mesdames in 1785. They are stamped by Tilliard.
The canapé survives dressed in a Gobelins tapestry at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. A pair of marquises 107 cm high, 104 cm wide and 90 cm deep was sold for € 3.7M from a lower estimate of € 800K by Sotheby's on October 11, 2022, lot 53 in the auction of the furnishings of the Hôtel Lambert.
#AuctionUpdate An extraordinary discovery and ranking among the most important examples of Louis XVI seat furniture to have survived, a pair of royal giltwood marquises by Jean-Baptiste II Tilliard (c. 1784) sold for €3,665,000 (est. €800,000-1,200,000). #HôtelLambert pic.twitter.com/nmCHbmXINW— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) October 11, 2022
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.
1795 A Triumph for Louis XVI ... in 1882 !
2011 SOLD 6.9 M$ including premium
The 12th Duke of Hamilton was not an art lover, and he had a urgent need for money. The sale of his collection in 2213 lots at Christie's in London was an event that experts still quote.
The portrait of Philip IV by Velazquez, acquired by the British government for 6000 guineas, was however not the highest result of the sale.
Indeed, a Louis XVI commode and secretaire had been sold separately, and to two different clients, for a price quoted as "enormous, never before given for a piece of furniture" in the article, of 9450 pounds each. Mounted in gilt bronze by Gouthière, these two ebony furniture lacquered in black and gold are bearing the monogram of Marie-Antoinette.
The sale of the Safra collection by Sotheby's lasted four days, from October 18 to 21, 2011. A pair of furniture was sold for $ 6.9M from a lower estimate of $ 5M, lot 749. This commode and its secrétaire en suite had been included in the Hamilton sale. Like the two royal furniture discussed above, they are from Louis XVI time, mounted in bronze and lacquered. They are attributed to Adam Weisweiler.
POST SALE COMMENT
French furniture has become difficult to sell, except, of course, those of the highest quality. This set of two pieces was sold $ 6.9 million including premium.
The estimated date given in the catalog is circa 1795, after the death of Louis XVI. It is possible that this set was intended to Tsar Paul I, but it has not been been delivered to him.
Karl Lagerfeld sagte einmal: "Im 18. Jahrhundert, wenn Sie da Geld hatten, konnten Sie noch was Schönes kaufen. Heute, wenn Sie viel Geld haben, können Sie vor allem etwas Grauenhaftes kaufen". Wie gut, dass man Antiquitäten aus dem 18. Jahrhundert auch heute noch kaufen kann.— Barnebys.de (@Barnebysde) August 1, 2021
1790s Girandoles by Thomire
2022 SOLD for € 5M by Christie's
The Révolution did not stop his business. He started a co-operation with the marchand mercier Lignereux who was a former partner to Daguerre and increased his supply to foreign courts including Russia. Taking the advantage of the possibility to diversify his offer after the suppression of the corporations, Thomire succeeded also to Lignereux in 1804 and was ahead during the Empire of a workshop of 700 workers. He retired in 1823 at 72 years old and lived a further 20 years.
A monumental pair of twelve light girandoles 2.7 m high in the style of the 1790s is attributed to Dugourc for the design and to Thomire for the ormolu and patinated bronzes. Girandole designates a candélabre of the top luxury.
They surfaced at auction in Paris in 1825 with a note in the catalogue that "Cet article de la plus grande richesse fut commandé pour l'empereur de Russie". There is no doubt that this emperor was Paul I who was endeavoring throughout the 1790s to furnish his new St. Michael's castle. The French note "pour l'empereur" confirms that they had not been actually supplied. The commission was certainly canceled when Paul was murdered in 1801.
Coming from the personal collection of Hubert de Givenchy, that pair was sold for € 5M from a lower estimate of € 700K by Christie's on June 14, 2022, lot 18.
A design could of course be used in various sizes. A pair of 113 cm high six light girandoles with the same design of draped maidens standing beside a griffin-supported altar plinth that issues a columnar stem with the candelabra branches was sold for £ 254K by Christie's on December 15, 2005, lot 24. Its monumental counterpart narrated above additionally displays a winged putto facing the maiden.