Object Description

An Exceptional Gilt-Bronze Mounted and Marquetry Armoire by Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener.

Stamped ‘E. ZWIENER’.

Forming part of an important and very rare bedroom suite, comprised of an armoire, a double bed, and a dressing table , all with fine marquetry inlay.

This important and magnificent armoire exemplifies the furniture maker’s master artisanship and exhibits distinct similarities to another Zwiener bedroom suite, commissioned circa 1898 for Kaiser Wilhelm II, and which is now in the permanent collection of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin.

Zwiener’s work is remarkable for its organic, sculptural quality. In this he demonstrates a tendency toward the principles of combining the traditional Louis XV rococo style of the 18th century with the ultra-modern, contemporary Art Nouveau, representing a careful balance between decorative and compositional vocabulary, the stylish and the functional. In the present example Zwiener’s structures and end-cut marquetry celebrate nature’s melodic and flowing forms.

Zwiener’s innovations are apparent in the detailing on this bedroom suite, such as in the flowery gilt-bronze borders of the end-cut marquetry reserves of each of the pieces. A rose rests below a scallop-shaped crest of two doves on the swan-neck-form headboard, while a single hibiscus flower graces the footboard and cast foliate chutes of bare-breasted espagnoletes emerging from each corner. On the dressing table it is interesting to note Léon Messagé’s signature ‘wing’ appearing at the top of the swiveling mirror plate, identifying his work on the bronze designs of this suite, while foliate-scrolled candlearms emerge on both sides, and a cast foliate chute, headed by ram’s head, surfaces on each of the four table legs. The large armoire stands on six paw-footed legs and displays another scallop-shaped crest with a rose. Favoring the natural effects of inlaid work in the veneer, Zwiener designed his accompanying flower marquetry to be flat and with few sculptural illusions.

Object History

Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener (1848- 1895) was one of the leading furniture makers of the end of the nineteenth century. Of German extraction he established a very successful studio in Paris, producing the very finest furniture, often inspired by the public collections in France. He employed as his sculptor, Léon Messagé, the genius Parisian sculptor.

Zwieners pieces were acquired by many of the leading collectors of the nineteenth century. In particular he supplied his interpretation of the famous Bureau de Roi to Ludwig II at Herrenchiemsee, which was placed in the King’s study in 1884.

Zwiener exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, where he was awarded a gold medal, for a stand which included an exceptional cabinet designed by Messagé (illustrated in Meyer, pl. H14).

In 1898, Zwiener received an extensive Royal commission from the King of Prussia, and was recalled to Berlin as the King would not order furniture from overseas makers when furnishing his palaces, preferring to order work only from native Germans. The Berlin Sculptor Otto Rohloff, whose bronze work is very similar to that of Messagé, may well have been hired by Zwiener for this Royal commission.

In 1895 his Paris workshop was taken over by the important émigré and ébéniste, François Linke. Christopher Payne, in his book on Linke, speculates that Linke may have worked for Zwiener when he first arrived in Paris in 1875. Linke is known to have also taken on Zwiener’s sculptor Léon Messagé. For this reason many of Zwiener’s pieces have often been mistakenly attributed to Linke.

In order to differentiate between Messagé’s commissions, the gilt bronze mounts were often marked to the reverse with the maker’s initials. Several of Zwiener’s mounts have been found to have a ‘Z’, ‘ Zw’, a ‘IZ’, ‘NZ’, ‘ZN’ or a ‘ZJ’ on the reverse. This was primarily for the purpose of differentiation, rather than an artist’s signature. Some of Zwiener’s work was stamped but not exclusively, and only a few pieces have been found with a full signature and /or a date.

Object Literature

‘L’Exposition de Paris (1900), Encyclopedie du Siècle’, Vol III, Montgredien et Cie, Paris, 1901, p. 288 and p. 300 for an engraving of a double bed with similarities to the one in the present lot, exhibited in the German pavillions at the Palais des Invalides.

H. Kriesel, ‘Die Kunst des Deutschen Möbels, Möbel und Vertäfelungen des deutschen Sprachraums von den anfägen bis zum Jugendstil’, C.H. Beck, Munchen, 1973, pl. 908 for an contemporary photograph showing the Wilhelm II bedroom suite taken circa 1904 at Schloss Charlottenburg.

‘Verwaltung der Staatlichen Schlösser und Gärten Berlin’, Eine Schlafzimmer-Ausstattung von Julius Zwiener. Ein Auftrag Kaiser Wilhelms II. fur das Berliner Schlösser 1895-1900, H. Heenemann & Co., Berlin, 1989.

D. Ledoux-Lebard, ‘Le Mobilier Français du XIX Siècle’, pp. 645-648 for J. E. Zwiener. See also p. 645, where Ledoux-Lebard mentions under the Collection Particulière de Mr P. Lécoules, a Louis XV style bedroom suite, which is the present lot.

Dr. Jurgen Julier, ‘Kaiserlicher Kunnstbesitz aus dem Holländischen Exil Haus Doorn’, Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin 1991, p. 196.

Camille Mestdagh, Pierre Lécoules: ‘L’Ameublement d’art français : 1850-1900’; Editions de l’Amateur, 2010; pp. 301-305.

C. Payne, ‘19th Century European Furniture’, p. 42.

Christopher Payne, ‘François Linke, 1855-1946, The Belle Époque of French Furniture’, 2003., p. 244.

Object Classification

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