An Exceptional and Highly Important Pair of Napoleon III Gilt-Bronze Mounted, Brass Inlaid ‘Boulle’ Marquetry Ebonised Cabinets by Befort Jeune.
Stamped ‘Befort Jeune’ to the reverse of the gilt-bronze mounts.
This magnificent and very rare pair of Boulle marquetry inlaid and ebonised side cabinets or ‘basse de armoires’ are by the important 19th century maker Mathieu Befort, (Befort Jeune), after the famous model by André-Charles Boulle.
Each cabinet has an inlaid rectangular top with three lozenges above an egg-and-dart frieze and two panelled doors mounted with spectacular gilt-bronze figures of Aspasia and Socrates on a scrolling foliate ebonised ground. The figures are flanked by ribbon-tied medallions and centred by a projecting stile headed by a female mask mount and inlaid with vertical ‘C’-scrolls and husks, the sides embellished with a pierced scroll and foliate mount and each cabinet raised on a plinth base with patera to each corner and set on gilt-bronze headed ebonised toupie feet. The cabinets retain their finely cast original keys and each opens to an interior fitted with two shelves.
The design for this exceptional pair of cabinets is based on a celebrated series of low armoires created by André-Charles Boulle circa 1725, one of which is illustrated in A. Pradère, French Furniture Makers The Art of the Ébéniste from Louis XIV to the Revolution, London, 1989, p. 81, fig. 32. The figures of Socrates and Aspasia derive from Michel Corneille’s painting of 1673 on the ceiling of the Salon des Nobles at Versailles.
Celebrating the glory of Louis XIV, depicted in the medals suspended on the front of the cabinet, the model enjoyed a renewed appreciation in the 19th century, which led to the production of exhibition quality examples, amongst which is the present pair by Matthieu Befort,
French, Circa 1860.