This magnificent bureau plat à têtes de guerriers antiques is after the celebrated model by Charles Cressent, examples of which are preserved at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire and in the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon. Another, which is a 19th century copy like the present lot, is in the Salon Doré at the Elysée Palace in Paris - where it is used by successive Presidents of France.
A smaller example, also by Sormani, was sold Sotheby's New York, A Private Collection Volume II, 19 April 2007, lot 93 ($102,000). The present lot is the larger full-size version which faithfully copies the original in that the top edge to one side has a flat, as opposed to serpentine, molded surround and thus mirrors Cressent's original which was intended to by surmounted by a cartonnier.
Paul Sormani ranks among the pre-eminent 19th century Parisian ébénistes and his pedigree is evident here in the exceptionally matched veneers, finely cast bronzes and mercurial gilding which expertly capture all of Cressent's exuberance with a quality almost indistinguishable from the original.
Born in the Kingdom of Lombardy, Venice, in 1817, Paul Sormani produced standard and fantasy furniture, described by himself as "meubles de luxe". Operating from large premises at 114, rue du Temple and, from 1867, at 10, rue Charlot, he specialised in reproducing styles of the Louis XV and XVI eras and his work was thought to reveal une qualité d'exécution de tout premier ordre. His creations were frequently exhibited and rewarded at the major international exhibitions of the 1860s and 70s. On his death in 1877, the firm was taken over by his widow, Ursule-Marie-Philippine Bouvaist, who was known as 'Veuve Sormani' and was joined and later succeeded by her son.