A Very Rare Pair of Gilt-Bronze, Brass and Pewter Mounted Ebony, Stained Tortoiseshell and Fruitwood Marquetry Armoires, After the Celebrated Model by André-Charles Boulle.
Each surmounted by a stepped cornice above a pair of doors opening to a satiné interior fitted with four shelves, each above a pair of drawers, the doors finely decorated with boulle style marquetry and a very fine and elaborate fruitwood marquetry of flower filled urns attended by birds, acanthus cast profiled hinges, the arched base with lion mask, each cabinet with the punched numbers 5459.
This magnificent pair of armoires are based on the pair made by Andre Charles Boulle that now reside in the Louvre, Paris. Boulles’ pair was seized during the Revolution from the home of an officer emigré, François Goguelat (1746-1843) a confident of Louis XVI. They were described at the time of seizure as:
Une armoire à deux battants à panneaux de fleurs en bois de coleur, le tout enrichi et d’agraffes et d’ornements à têtes de lions au bas en couronnements, ouvrage de Boulle.
They were subsequently sent to the Corps Legislatif and assigned to the Palais de Saint-Cloud where they were in use until 1806 when they were moved to Fontainebleau. The armoires remained at Fontainebleau until 1831 housed in Napoleon’s cabinet topographie, which at the time of the restauration became the Duc d’ Angouleme’s dinning room.
A drawing, attributed to André-Charles Boulle depicting a design for a pair of armoires conforming to this pair in the Louvre (and hence to the present examples) is in the musee des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
André-Charles Boulle (d.1732), was appointed Ebéniste, Ciseleur, Doreur et Sculpteur du Roi in 1672, is among the greatest ébénistes of all time. His fame was such that his name has become synonymous with a whole generic furniture type. In the first decades of the eighteenth century, while still exploiting the common practice of contrasting black ebony against the gold of gilded bronze and brass, silver-toned pewter and often red-coloured tortoiseshell in marquetry, Boulle introduced light, playful designs enlivened with small-scale, lacy designs of playful singeries, garlands of flowers and airy architectural fantasies. First popularised as a technique in his work for the French Court during the reign of Louis XIV, the style has since been associated with the most opulent and expensive designs.
Boulle style furniture held its popularity and prestige throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Rothschilds, the Marquess of Hertford and Henry Clay Frick were amongst a number of wealthy individuals who commissioned Boulle inspired pieces from important makers, such as Sormani, Zwiener, Beurdeley and Blake. Many of these nineteenth century pieces took their places comfortably side by side with their predecessors from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in great houses such as Mentmore. Examples of nineteenth century Boulle armoires by Linke and Winckelsen were produced with the same lofty standards as this pair.
France, Circa 1900