Révolution and Empire
See also : Ancient French furniture Illustrators Belgium II Mechanical craft ca 1800 French time pieces Historical arms Blade and armour Sciences Sciences from 1800
Chronology : 1790-1799 1800-1809 1810-1819
1795 Suite attributed to Weisweiler
2011 SOLD for $ 6.9M by Sotheby's
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.
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.
1800 The Marengo Sabre of Napoléon
2007 SOLD for € 4.8M by Osenat
Bonaparte immediately understood the advantage of this feat of arms for his personal prestige and for his political future. On May 5, 1805 Bonaparte, who had become Emperor Napoléon I in the meantime, had a throne installed for a military parade on the battlefield. He presides over this ceremony, dressed in the same way as on the day of the battle.
Also in 1805, Napoléon presented his youngest brother Jérôme with the glorious sabre which he had brandished at Marengo. Jérôme, 20 years old, had just returned from the United States where he had married, thwarting the ambition that the emperor could have for him. Napoléon broke this marriage by an imperial decree on March 11, 1805. Having henceforth consolidated his image of a magnificent warrior, he may have used this arm to encourage Jérôme's new military career in his service.
The sabre remained until 2007 with the descendants of Jérôme. Classified as a French monument historique in 1978, it was sold for € 4.8M by Osenat on June 10, 2007. Please watch the video shared by Interencheres.
This arm had been produced by Nicolas-Noël Boutet, the manager of the arms factory in Versailles. The blade has an oriental shape and is decorated with etching. The main fittings for the sabre and its scabbard are in solid gold. The pommel is a Jupiter head in gold.
1800 Complication Watch by Breguet
2016 SOLD for CHF 3.25M by Christie's
This enthusiast who played for Breguet a similar role as Graves with Patek Philippe 150 years later was probably the Count Fersen known as a fervent admirer of the Queen of France and the watch was named the Marie-Antoinette. It was completed in 1827, four years after the death of Abraham-Louis Breguet.
Breguet was the most skillful watchmaker of his time and the Marie-Antoinette could be used as a kind of prototype. On May 16, 2016, Christie's sold a high complication watch for CHF 3.25M from a lower estimate of CHF 600K, lot 123.
This pocket watch 55 mm in diameter has the serial number No. 217 of the brand. It is the only example beside the Marie-Antoinette to offer in the same case the perpetual motion and the equation of time.
The perpétuelle is a self winding mechanism with an oscillating weight offering 60 hours of autonomy from the effect of moderate movements of the user, with a protection against shocks on horseback. The equation of time is a correction of the difference between standard and solar times which can reach up to 16 minutes.
This piece does not include the technique of the tourbillon invented by Breguet in 1801. The steadiness is ensured by the échappement libre à ancre (lever escapement), another difficulty that only Breguet knew to overcome.
It had been sold new in 1800 CE (An VIII of the Republican calendar) to General Moreau. Moreau died in the battle of Dresden in 1813. Breguet reacquired the 217 and modernized the dial before selling it in 1817 to Charles-Louis Havas, the financier who became famous for opening in Paris in 1832 the first ever newspaper translation business which became in 1835 his Havas Agency.
1802-1816 Les Liliacées by Redouté
1985 SOLD for $ 5.5M by Sotheby's
His direct commitment to botany takes place in two phases : 486 watercolors on vellum on Liliaceae from 1802 to 1816 followed by 168 Roses from 1817 to 1824. His scientifically accurate drawings are taken from life in the gardens of La Malmaison, Saint-Cloud, Versailles and Sèvres.
All the watercolors of the Liliacées, bound in 16 volumes 48 x 35 cm for a total weight of nearly 150 kg, were originally entrusted to Joséphine's library in La Malmaison.
The lot was sold on November 20, 1985 for $ 5.5M by Sotheby's in a sensational opening bid of $ 5M, the highest at that time in an art sale.
The buyer was a young dealer of rare books and prints named W. Graham Arader, who immediately made him known. To carry out this operation, he had created a syndicate of clients. Each share gave the right to own four watercolors, some were still available and he kept 30% of the whole. He had been the only bidder but according to his statements gathered by the New York Times he was covered up to $ 20M.
The pieces were chosen in turn by Arader's clients according to a priority determined by a draw. Arader has not disclosed the names of his shareholders. Steve Jobs was probably one of them.
On October 10, 2020 Arader Galleries sold several Liliacées watercolors. The two top lots were sold for $ 530K each : cultivated pineapple, plate 456, lot 91, and banana, plate 444, lot 90, both linked here on LiveAuctioneers bidding platform.
1807-1808 Le Sacre de Napoléon by David
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1812 Boulevard du Temple by Boilly
2010 SOLD for $ 4.56M by Christie's
While the Palais-Royal is the place to go to fashion, Boulevard du Crime becomes the active center of entertainment and amusements. Its real name was Boulevard du Temple, but the Parisians had given it that nickname as a fun for the horrors that the theaters offered to good people.
Boilly observes a large crowd engaged in various activities in front of the entry of Café Turc, boulevard du Temple, in 1812. The costumes can not mistake on the time. This slice of Parisian life is an oil on canvas, 73 x 91 cm, sold for $ 4.56M from a lower estimate of $ 3M by Christie's on January 27, 2010. It is illustrated in a pre sale article by Art Market Monitor.
Typical of its time, the Café Turc was both a place of tasting ice creams and exotic drinks, and a garden. Paris enjoyed during the next decades an intense development of dancing gardens, cafés concerts, theme parks and restaurants.
1812 Meunier by David
2023 SOLD for £ 2.7M by Sotheby's
Claude-Marie Meunier had been a volunteer in the revolutionary wars. During the Napoleonic wars, he was made a commandeur of the Légion d'Honneur and a Baron d'Empire, and upgraded to général de brigade in 1810 and général de division in 1813. He had married in 1805 one of the daughters of David.
One of David's pictural specialties was the realistic life size portrait at mid length, sometimes painted in a spontaneous sketchiness.
His portrait of the général baron Meunier, oil on canvas 73 x 60 cm painted ca 1812 as evidenced by the two stars of his grade on the epaulettes. The gold thread embroidery is dazzling over the deep blue uniform. The attitude is commanding. The right hand is held in the uniform over the stomach in the emperor's fashion.
It was kept in the family for nearly two centuries until it was sold for € 2.7M by Piasa on December, 2006, lot 17. It was sold for £ 2.7M by Sotheby's on July 5, 2023, lot 37. The image is shared by Wikimedia. A portrait of his wife forming pendant is kept at the San Francisco Fine Arts museum.
The portrait of the lawyer Delahaye, oil on panel 61 x 49 cm painted in 1815, was sold for € 2.14M by Christie's on June 22, 2006, lot 55. The portrait of the regicide Ramel, oil on canvas 59 x 46 cm painted in exile in 1820, was sold for $ 7.2M by Christie's on April 15, 2008, lot 72.
1813 Portrait of Murat by Canova
2017 SOLD for € 4.3M by Christie's
Joachim is a dandy who imagines himself perfectly matching the role of Cupid. In 1797 he seduced Napoléon's youngest sister, Caroline, who was only fifteen years old. His military feats are useful for Napoléon, and he can finally marry Caroline in 1800. Canova becomes the portrait sculptor of the Bonaparte family. The statue of Pauline Borghese, another sister of Napoléon, as a half naked Venus Victrix, finished in 1808, is famous.
At the height of his art, Canova begins his series of Ideal Heads in 1811. Murat becomes king of Naples in 1808. In 1813 he calls Canova to Naples to make his portrait and that of Caroline. The two plasters are kept in the museum of Possagno, the hometown of Canova. The artist returns to Rome to carve the marbles.
Neither of the two marbles had been seen. The portrait of King Joachim had been preserved by the Murat family. This 50 cm high bust in Carrara marble, fully conforming to the plaster, is mounted on a 16 cm high marble pedestal. It was sold for € 4.3M by Christie's on November 28, 2017, lot 714. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This portrait is convincingly realistic. The face is proud, almost vain. The curls of hair are luxuriantly rendered. Canova used his secret polishing formula to give the skin a supple texture.
The marble portrait of Queen Caroline has not resurfaced.
1814 Complication Watch by Breguet
2012 SOLD for CHF 4.3M by Christie's
The eighteenth century had highly important mechanics. Abraham-Louis Breguet, micro-mechanical genius, settled into pocket watches the most extraordinary complications of the clocks, and was the inventor of basic concepts such as the tourbillon and the wristwatch.
On May 14, 2012, Christie's sold a Breguet watch for CHF 4.3M from a lower estimate of CHF 800K, lot 230.
This complication piece sold in 1814 has two main dials. It integrates two similar and symmetrical complete mechanisms. The idea of the inventor was to compensate the mechanical resonance, a source of error that was a challenge for the watchmakers. This is the first of three watches made by Breguet on this principle. The other two has been provided to the kings of England and France.
The Leuchtenberg Necklace
2014 SOLD for CHF 3.3M by Sotheby's
This jewel has apparently not be recomposed since its creation. Its earliest picture is in 1820 while worn by the Wittelsbach Princess Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg since 1817. It was transferred in 1823 to her daughter Joséphine de Beauharnais who was going to Sweden to marry Prince Oscar. In a 1837 group portrait, 'Josefina' wears this necklace and a pearl and cameo tiara. She became queen consort of Sweden in 1844.
The Leuchtenberg necklace is made of 105 natural pearls in two strands suspending seven detachable drop shaped natural pearls measuring from 9.5 x 9.5 x 13.8 mm to 14.1 x 14.8 x 21.2 mm. The seven big pearls are capped with rose diamonds and the clasp is set with a cushion shaped diamond.
Augusta had married Eugène de Beauharnais in 1806 when the son of Empress Joséphine was viceroy of Italy. The Empress used to provide magnificent jewels for the prestige of her daughter in law at the court of Milan. A make by Nitot father or son, the official jewelers of Napoléon, is probable in this case. Another assumption is that Eugène inherited the pearls in 1814 from the estate of his mother.