• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7545

    A Town House in Mayfair

    20 November 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 555

    A GERMAN ORMOLU, BRASS AND REPOUSSE GILT-METAL MOUNTED SYCAMORE AND PARQUETRY COMMODE

    CIRCA 1785-90, BERLIN, POSSIBLY BY JOHANN GOTTLOB FIEDLER

    Price Realised  

    A GERMAN ORMOLU, BRASS AND REPOUSSE GILT-METAL MOUNTED SYCAMORE AND PARQUETRY COMMODE
    CIRCA 1785-90, BERLIN, POSSIBLY BY JOHANN GOTTLOB FIEDLER
    The breakfront scagliola top in imitation of green brecchia within a porphyry-veneered outer border, above a fitted frieze drawer with entrelac and rosette, with writing-slope and two lidded compartments, with slides to each end, above three drawers inlaid sans traverse with three simulated panelled drawers with painted domed handles in imitation of enamel divided and flanked by fluted corinithian columns, on breakfront plinth with panelled stiff leaves, the ends with stylized floral paterae, with painted inventory number to the reverse '77', probably originally with a further wooden frame immediately beneath the scagliola top, the scagliola top with old repaired break but apparently original
    33¾ in. (85.5 cm.) high; 51¼ in. (130 cm.) wide; 27¾ in. (70.5 cm.) deep


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    This Grecian commode conceals a bureau-dressing-drawer and candle-slides beneath its 'Roman marble'-scagliola top of verde antico wreathed by trompe l'Egyptian porphyry; and is designed in the 1780s 'antique' fashion promoted by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's 'Ebèniste Mécanicien' David Roentgen of Neuweid (d. 1807), who also held the title of 'Artiste-ébèniste et machiniste' to Charles Alexandre, Duke of Lorraine and Governor of the Austrian Netherlands. Appropriate for a marriage-chest, its 'Roman' tablets and medallions are wreathed in golden 'Venus' pearls, while its Corinthian pillared and triumphal-arch façade evokes lyric poetry being inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses or Loves of the Gods, and the history of Apollo as sun god and Parnassian poetry deity.

    The commode is perhaps closest to the work of the Berlin cabinet-maker Johann Gottlob Fiedler (d. 1797), who around 1779, following his training in London and Neuweid had been appointed court cabinet-maker to the heir to the throne (Hoftischler des Preussisches Thronfolgers) to Friedrich Wilhelm II (d. 1797), when Crown Prince of Prussia. Stylistically, this commode dates from around the time that his son Crown Prince Friedrick Wilhelm, later Friedrich Wilhelm III (d. 1840) married Princess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (d.1811) 1793. The tripartite form, pearled borders and sunflower paterae feature on one of Fiedler's japanned and marble-topped commodes of the 1780s that was formerly in the Schlossmuseum, Berlin (F. Windisch-Graetz, 'Neues zum werk des Berliner Hoftischliets J.G. Fiedler', Alte und Moderne Kunst, October 1961, pp. 130-18, fig. 9). The present commode's robust architecture also relates to that of an Ionic-pillared secretaire that was designed about 1801 for the Stadtschloss Potsdam and executed by Fielder in conjunction with Johann Christian August Griese ('Johann Christian August Griese und Johann Gottlob Fiedler', Weltkunst, November 1999, pp. 2201-2203).

    THE ORNAMENT
    Pearled Roman acanthus wreathed by a waved ribbon-guilloche garlands the drawer-concealing frieze and ties sunflower bas-relief medallions above the projecting pillars. These Apollonian medallions, which derive from a ceiling at Palmyra, are likewise tied in a palm-wrapped ribbon-guilloche and flower the pedestals of these pillars, as well as those incorporated in the commode's French-cut corners (Robert Wood's Temple of the Sun at Palmyra, 1753). Enlarged versions, also enwreathed by palms embellish the tablets sunk in the commode sides, whose cornice conceals the slides. The green and marble-figured tablets of the drawers frame golden and antique-fluted rings and 'libation-paterae', whose japanned medallions, in the manner of trompe l'oeil verre eglomisé, evoke 'sunrise' appropriate to the reception /dressing-room of a stately bedroom apartment. Here rose-tinted sunflowers are japanned in golden rayed compartments, whose scalloped rims are circled by golden spheres on a 'night' black ground in Etruscan/Grecian fashion. In Paris, such glass furniture embellishments in the fashion associated with Jean-Baptiste Glomy (d. 1786), were executed by Antoine Rascalon (d.1830) 'sculpteur' and 'graveur en or sur glace' and neighbour of the Erard harp manufacturers (M. Robin, 'Antoine Rascalon', L'Objet d'Art, February 2003, pp.78-82). This Parisian fashion was swiftly adopted in Germany and Northern Europe - most frequently in enamels. It is however very unusual to see handles painted in imitation of enamel - as is the case here - and may well point to a specific arabesque commision of a Berlin workshop.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Acquired from Aveline, Paris.