Displaying beautiful panels of 17th Century Japanese lacquer to the top and sides, this elegant and sumptuous table á pupitre has been hidden from the public eye since it last appeared in a privately printed catalogue in the 1930s. It was almost certainly designed by Dominique Daguerre (d. 1796), one of the most famous marchand-merciers of Paris. These privileged dealers not only sold a wide range of luxury goods, but were also constantly devising new inventions: unexpected types of objects, unusual combinations of materials, unprecedented models and forms. Daguerre worked extensively with Martin Carlin, and the present table is part of a distinct group he stamped or that is attributed to him.
Martin Carlin (c.1730-1785) is renowned for the jewel-like quality of his furniture which often incorporated precious materials. He was part of a group of celebrated German ébénistes who had immigrated to Paris, including Jean-Henri Riesener and Jean-François Oeben, ébéniste du roi, who was his brother-in-law. Carlin worked exclusively for the marchands-merciers, first for Simon Poirier and then his partner, Dominique Daguerre, who took over the business. Carlin’s close collaboration with them is well-documented and resulted in some of the finest items of French furniture executed in the late 18th century.
The design for the present table can be attributed to Daguerre based on a slightly later version with porcelain plaques dated 1781 and made by Carlin which Daguerre sold to the Duke of Saxe-Teschen; it is now in the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino. (C. Sargentson et al., The Huntington Collection, San Marino, 2008, pp. 104-107). The model was also made by Carlin incorporating Japanese lacquer of which a total of ten examples are currently known. There is some variation in the shape of the drawer but the main difference is the material of the undertier, which is usually inset with white marble and occasionally with lacquer. In addition to the present lot, the tables in the series currently comprise:
Tables With Lacquer Undertiers Stamped by Martin Carlin
-- One with Guiraud, Paris, 1906 and subsequently in the Collection of M. and Mme. Halphen (inv.48) and sold in the Collection of Jacques and Henriette Schumann; Christie’s, Paris, 30 September 2003, lot 472 (€470,250).
-- A second with an altered top sold anonymously at Christie’s, London, 18 March 1965 and subsequently sold anonymously at Christie’s, Paris, 6 November 2014, lot 301 (€73,500).
Tables with Lacquer Undertiers Attributed to Martin Carlin
--One from the collection of Mrs. Helen Dupuy, then with Rosenberg and Steibel and sold in the Collection of Thelma Chrysler Foy (Parke Bernet, New York, 13-16 May, lot 306) and subsequently sold from the collection of the Honorable C. Douglas Dillon, Sotheby’s, New York, 24 October 2003, lot 54 ($388,000).
Tables with Marble Undertiers Stamped Carlin
--One from the Grog-Carven Collection, now in the Louvre illustrated in Alcouffe, Tenenbaum and Lefébure, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Dijon, 1993. No. 71pp.230-1.
--A second in the Jones Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated in O. Brackett, Catalogue of the Jones Collection Part I, Furniture, London, 1922, no.71, pl.78.
--A third from the Collection of the Hon. W.F.B. Massey, (sold in London in 1904) and later sold in the collection of Thelma Chrysler Foy, Parke Bernet, New York, 15-16 May 1959, lot 305, and recently sold anonymously at Christie’s, London, 10 December 2009, lot 555 (£289,250).
--A fourth from the collection of A.E.H. Digby, sold at Sotheby’s, London, 12 June 1951, lot 83.
--A fifth, formerly in the Collection of Henri de Rothschild and sold in Boulle to Jansen, an Important Private European Collection at Christie’s, London, 11 June 2003, lot 15 (£218,000).
Tables with Marble Undertiers Attributed to Martin Carlin
One, acquired in Paris in the 1920’s and sold anonymously at Sotheby’s, New York, 22 October 2005, lot 65 ($363,200).
There are two earlier records of Carlin tables with lacquer undertiers which are either two additional examples or are part of the four currently known. They comprise:
--One recorded in the collection of Baron Seillière, Paris, 1874.
--A second recorded in the 1806 inventory of Madame de Montessan, an important client of both Poirier and Daguerre, described as -Une petite chiffonière de bois de ébène et laque avec gaines et ornements de cuivre doré, le dessus aussi en laque s'ouvrant et servant du pupitre 100 francs
CONSUELO VANDERBILT BALSAN (1877-1964)
The daughter of William Kissam Vanderbilt and Alva Smith Belmont, Consuelo became a celebrated debutante at her parents' Newport residence, Marble House, where in August of 1895 she met Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. She married the Duke that autumn and returned to England to live at Blenheim Palace. She separated from the 9th Duke in 1905 and was officially divorced in 1920. The following summer she married the French aviator and her close friend, Jacques Balsan. Settling in France, they divided their time between the splendid 17th century château de Saint-Georges-Motel, near Eure, Normandy and the hôtel Marlborough, Paris, both of which they filled with exceptional French furniture and works of art of the ancien régime. Their collection at the hôtel Marlborough was recorded in a privately printed catalogue by L-H. Prost, Collection de Madame et du Colonel Balsan, Paris, 1936. There, this table appears in several views of the Grand Salon, one of which is reproduced here, as well as an additional image of it beside a secretaire á abattant (Pl. 89).
The table appears to have left the hôtel Marlborough in the late 1930’s to go to Casa Alva, the Balsan’s home in Manalapan, Florida. Built in 1934 by the renowned Palm Beach architect, Maurice Fatio, the Balsans spent part of each year there after they fled France for America in 1940. Madame Balsan sold Casa Alva in 1957 and the table vanished from sight until it was rediscovered and reunited with Casa Alva around 1980.