1720s The Bureau of Six Pieds
2014 SOLD for CHF 3M including premium
The earliest record concerning a flat desk is made in 1713 in the inventory of a merchant, showing that the come back of luxury in France did not wait for the Régence.
André-Charles Boulle began his career half a century earlier and is the most notable furniture designer of his time. At the time of the Régence, he acts as an entrepreneur, seconded by his four sons and employing many workers. His workshops are in the Louvre.
Boulle standardizes his production of bureaux plats in two sizes, 5 pieds and 6 pieds long. Some exceptional pieces are larger, such as the desk of 6 pieds 8 pouces sold for £ 2.9 million including premium by Christie's on December 14, 2005.
Boulle workshops at the Louvre burned in 1720, possibly by arson. The inventory provides interesting information about the activity. The extraordinary art collection assembled by Boulle was also destroyed.
The waiting pieces were quite numerous, suggesting that the elements were prepared in advance before final assembly and decoration to customer requirements, enabling to reduce the time between order and delivery. It also appears that the most common model was the 6 pieds with a top of 6 x 3 pieds, 195 x 98 cm.
Restarted after the fire, the production of these models by Boulle ceased around 1725.
On September 18 in Zurich, Koller sells a bureau plat of six pieds attributed to Boulle, richly decorated in première-partie (dark background) and embellished with false drawers in the back. The faces are centered with masks, Satyr in the front and Democritus in the rear. It is estimated CHF 1.5M, lot 1078 shared on Invaluable.
Note that this standardization of dimensions was not limited to Boulle. A bureau Régence attributed to Gérard discussed in this column in 2011 had the same size for the top and also for its height at 2 pieds 6 pouces.
I used the old French units, but they were little different from the English values, foot and inch.
1720 The Merriness of the Bankers
2018 SOLD for $ 2.65M including premium
Louis XIV had become in his old age the symbol of an obsolete and frustrating society. His death in 1715 triggered a liberation of the mores in the high society. Inventor of the theme of the Fêtes Galantes, Watteau is finally received in 1717 at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, followed two years later by Lancret. Also in 1717 Watteau decorates a dining room of Pierre Crozat with four paintings on the theme of the four seasons still with a mythological pretext.
In this liberated atmosphere the financiers are unleashed. Formerly a close advisor to Louis XIV, the marquis de La Faye makes a fortune in 1719 in the speculative bubble of Law. He has the skill to immediately use this easy money in the purchase of residences and is not affected in 1720 by Law's bankruptcy.
A friend and rival to Crozat, La Faye wants to become a flagship of the new society. This bachelor in his later forties is a pleasure lover. He commissions to Lancret a modernized version of the Quatre Saisons that will be an apology for nonchalant merriness. Lancret needs to stand out from Watteau. These four oils on canvas 115 x 94 cm painted around 1720 with an exquisite elegance launch his career.
The series of Lancret's seasons is separated by an art dealer after 1785. Le Printemps where the couples are forming and L'Eté devoted to women's bath are acquired by the Empress Catherine of Russia. L'Automne with its charming libations led by Pierrot and Colombine was sold for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's on April 27, 2017.
L'Hiver has just resurfaced after 128 years out of public view. It is estimated $ 1.5M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on February 1, lot 69. Among the four seasons from the salon of the marquis, it is the only indoor scene. The high ceiling attests to an unparalleled desire for luxury and the sinuous wall hangings open the way to the cozy atmosphere of la Régence.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's relying on the recent rediscovery of L'Hiver to match this painting with an early engraving by Le Bas.
1720 Pleasures of the Régence
2017 SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium
Watteau initiated his younger colleague Nicolas Lancret into his practice. Many sketches have to be made to study the attitudes. They will then be used within staged scenes.
In 1717 Watteau presented his reception piece at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Lancret progressed rapidly : as early as 1719 he was received at the Académie as a painter of Fêtes Galantes. Watteau became jealous of Lancret. Their rivalry was untimely interrupted by the death of Watteau in 1721.
Lancret began making thematic series. A patron enriched in 1719 in the financial speculation of Law's scheme commissions him circa 1720 for Les Saisons, four paintings in which groups of characters devote themselves to the variety of pleasures of the Régence. Winter is an indoor scene and the other three seasons are imagined in a garden.
On April 27 in New York, Christie's sells L'Automne by Lancret, oil on canvas 113 x 93 cm, lot 28 estimated $ 2M. In the middle of the meadow a coquette attracts a young man. Behind her a Pierrot is flirting. A snack is offered with too much fruit and wine.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's :
1721 The Lady Blunt
2011 SOLD 9.8 M£ including premium
An interesting hypothesis, not proven, is based on the fact that instruments made at the same time by Andrea Guarneri are approaching the quality of the Stradivarius: the very cold climate of the late seventeenth century would have created less dense wood by slowing the growth of trees.
The Lady Blunt has all the qualities required to excite violinists and experts. Luckily, this specimen is very close to its original state. It was manufactured in 1721, in the best time of Stradivari. It belonged to Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the French violin maker of the nineteenth century who made commendable efforts to understand and achieve the quality of the Stradivarius.
In 2008, this wonderful violin was purchased by Nippon Music in a private transaction whose amount exceeded $ 10M. This Tokyo foundation has decided to sell it to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. The auction, which will be held on June 20 in London, is entrusted to Tarisio which is a leader in this market.
The Lady Blunt is illustrated in the article shared by the Wall Street Journal.
POST SALE COMMENT
Here is the auction result of a Stradivarius violin in exceptional condition : £ 8.75M before fees.
The advertised price of the private transaction of 2008 is exceeded.
Congratulations to Tarisio for this great sale.
I invite you to play the video shared on YouTube by Tarisio. It is also shared on Wikimedia.
1722 The Double Lotus
2019 SOLD for HK$ 87M including premium
Kangxi is acting at two key points, first to approve the piece in white porcelain provided by Jingdezhen, and then to accept the finished piece. For this emperor, technological development is more important than production and the falangcai bearing his mark are very rare. Most are marked Kangxi yuzhi meaning that they were made for the personal use of the emperor.
The falangcai is the "color of foreigners", following a technology transfer of European enamels on copper from 1693 CE. A quarter of a century later, European enamellers are still working side by side with Chinese artists, but the technology has already considerably changed, first because porcelain is foremost a Chinese specialty, then because the European colors did not reach the purity and the brightness required by the emperor.
The themes are mostly floral. A bowl decorated with flowers in a style inspired by European botanical books was sold for HK $ 240M including premium by Sotheby's on April 3, 2018. The flowers are displayed within four lobed cartridges on a pink background enhanced with colloidal gold.
At the end of his life, Kangxi needs a little calm that he finds in the contemplation of his lotus ponds. He follows for this flower the Confucianist interpretation evoking the simplicity and uprightness of a perfect gentleman. Able to simultaneously display buds, blooming flowers and seed pods, the lotus is also a symbol of past, present and future times.
During the 61st and final year of his reign matching 1722 CE, Kangxi admires a lotus bouquet in ink and colors which had been prepared at his request by the artist Jiang Tingxi. The bouquet includes among others a pink double lotus, symbol of harmony in the couple. The double lotus with two flower heads on a stem is a rarity of nature that gardeners cannot create artificially, just like the four-leaf clover.
A falangcai bowl 11 cm in diameter with the Kangxi yuzhi mark was certainly made in the follow of Kangxi's excitement for the lotus painting. The circumference of the bowl, unlike the bouquet, allows a scrolling observation. The flowers have a great similarity to the model and include three double lotuses. Realism is extreme, including aging leaf edges and holes made by insects.
The splendid colors are now completely differentiated from the enamels imported from Europe. The three basic colors are the rubyred used for the background, the white and the yellow. The rest of the palette, pink, blue and green, is obtained by chemical additions and mixtures.
This bowl was sold for HK $ 74M including premium by Sotheby's on April 8, 2013, lot 101. I had discussed it in this column before the sale. It will be sold by Christie's in Hong Kong on November 27, lot 2988.
1722 A Ruby-Red Falangcai
2016 SOLD for HK$ 41M including premium
The details of the process were developed during the last years of Kangxi by the potters of Jingdezhen and Beijing to the direct service of the imperial court. Some pieces appear unique in their combination of shape, size, themes and colors, suggesting an experimental phase.
On November 30 in Hong Kong, Christie's sells a cup 6.3 cm in diameter, lot 3218 estimated HK $ 40M. It bears the imperial mark of Yongzheng but several characteristics allow to date it more precisely in the Kangxi-Yongzheng transition, around 1722 of our calendar.
Its footless cup shape was more popular under Kangxi and became rare with Yongzheng. It is decorated with auspicious themes within a ruby red ground that was already in use under Kangxi. The aesthetic quality of the winding of the blossoming branch of plum throughout the perimeter is more linked with Yongzheng's requirements for a supreme exquisiteness.
The powder for making the red ground was blown by the potter in a bamboo tube through a gauze while the decoration previously painted on the glaze was preserved in reserves. The joint achievement of a perfect homogeneity of the ground and a great sharpness in the outlines of the reserves is a feat requiring the total control of the breath during the blowing.
In the development of Qing porcelain, this cup may be compared with a bowl bearing the imperial mark of Kangxi, sold for HK $ 74M including premium by Sotheby's on April 8, 2013. This unique piece was decorated with lotus on a ruby ground.
1722-1723 The Silversmith of the Louvre
2012 SOLD 540 K€ including premium
On April 18 in Paris, Sotheby's sells an écuelle with its cover and stand. It is a heavy set in silver-gilt 31 cm long and weighing 1845 grams, whose mark is difficult to read. A detailed analysis enables however to attribute it withexcellent credibility to Thomas Germain, made in 1722-1723.
This is the best reference in terms of French silverware, and moreover it would be the oldest civil piece by ThomasGermain to have survived until today. The great ancient French silver is very rare because of meltings due to the financing of wars and to the changing styles.
This lot is estimated € 500K. Here is the link to the catalog.
Thomas Germain was the son of a goldsmith of the Louvre, but he was still very young when his father died. He wonhis glory by a solid artistic education in Rome at the time of the Rococo style, by his personal skill and by his extremeperfectionism.
His fame grew throughout his career. He became the most appreciated goldsmith in the Louvre and also worked for many foreign rulers.
He should not be confused with his son and successor, François-Thomas Germain, who met an early success by copying the models and marks of his father before being expelled from the Louvre for bankruptcy.
POST SALE COMMENT
This prestigious piece was sold € 540K including premium, in the region of the lower estimate.
1723 Later Boulle
2009 SOLD 820 KCHF before fees
he first years of the eighteenth century saw a transformation in the shape of the French commode. Around 1723, the great pioneer André-Charles Boulle is still active, but he is 80 years old and it is no longer possible to separate his work from that of his four sons.
Koller will sell in Zurich on June 18 a "commode en bureau" (this French wording is used in all the languages of the web site of the auction house).
This chest of two drawers on a single row is more elegant than a Louis XIV commode, but it does not meet the subsequent Régence and Louis XV styles. The feet are high, but too large to be compared to a commode sauteuse. The drawers are too high for a bureau Régence.
Do not look further, it is a Boulle furniture, and that's it! And it is beautiful: the gilded bronze decoration of bearded satyr figures is splendid. It measures 151x65x89 cm, and is estimated CHF 700K.
POST SALE COMMENT
Very good result, 820 KCHF before fees. It is encouraging, after all the unsold lots that were recorded in the market for ancient furniture. The exceptional pieces still have buyers, and the estimate had been well targeted.
1725 The Jade Seals of the Yongzheng Emperor
2015 SOLD for HK$ 105M including premium
The 15th day of the 7th month of the third year of the reign, August 22, 1725 in our calendar, the eunuch commissions two white jade seals for the same inscription along with their boxes. Five days later a bronze prototype of the inscription is submitted to an inspection.
Both jade seals are completed in the next month, nine days apart one another. This great speed of execution is explained by the fact that the workshops had re-carved two ancient seals that the emperor himself had probably chosen in the imperial collection before issuing his order.
The smaller of the two seals, 5.5 x 5.6 cm, carved with a dragon in Yuan style, was sold for HK $ 35,4M including premium by Sotheby's on October 5, 2011.
The other seal, reworked from a Kangxi figure, is larger and more ambitious. 7.4 cm high on a square base 6.1 x 6.1 cm, it has the form of a rock on which a hornless dragon or chilong is reclining with a wide open mouth in a threatening attitude. The rock is flanked by eight other chi moving amidst clouds.
This seal is offered with its luxurious original box inlaid in ivory. It is estimated HK $ 30M for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 7, lot 102.
Both seals discussed above are exceptional. Although Yongzheng has ordered more than two hundred seals during his short reign, only five have been made in jade.
1725 Del Gesu Violins
2012 SOLD 1.5 M£ including premium
The popular image for Stradivari is that of a perfectionist craftsman taking care of every detail of the wood and shape. In contrast, the last of the Guarneri from Cremona, Giovanni, is viewed as a more romantic figure. His violins reach the same power and the same quality of tone as the best Stradivarius instruments, and some great performers like Paganini even preferred a Guarnerius.
Giovanni Guarneri inscribed his violins with an acronym of Christ and a cross. For this reason, he received the nickname Del Gesu, also applied to his instruments.
On June 25 online from London, Tarisio sells a Guarnerius Del Gesu estimated £ 1.5 M. Made around 1725, it is one of the earliest instruments of the master at the time when he left the workshop of his father to make his own instruments. It is in very good condition.
POST SALE COMMENT
Great price for this exceptional violin: £ 1.35 million before fees. The catalog stated that the previous auction record for this maker was £ 572K in 1988.
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