Georges Jacob, maître in 1765.
Jean-Baptiste Claude Sené, maître in 1769.
With its finely-carved spirally-fluted legs, beaded acanthus-swept S-scrolled consoles d'accotoirs and quiver-shaped uprights, this superb suite of seat furniture is of regal appearance.
Among the few recorded examples of six-legged seat-furniture is a suite of virtually identical seat furniture which was sold, Piasa, Paris, 15 November 1996, lot 93 (FF1.800.000), as well as a wax model of a bergère à six pieds dated circa 1780. Attributed to Jacques Gondoin, furniture designer to the Crown, the wax model is reminiscent of the oeuvre of the celebrated menuisier Georges Jacob, and illustrated in B. G.B. Pallot, The Art of the Chair in Eighteenth-Century France, Paris, 1989, p.41.
An ingenious creation, this wax miniature, only 5 in. (14 cm.) high, features various models of legs, arm terminals and finials (en biche, carquois, or cannelures à rubans) from which clients - most certainly exclusively Royal - were meant to choose when finalising their orders with theirs menuisiers.
A rare survival from the past, this wax model was most probably presented to Marie-Antoinette in 1780 for that specific purpose (as discussed by F.J.B. Watson, quoting P. Verlet, in Louis XVI Furniture, London, 1960, p. 58) and the superb suite of seat furniture which almost certainly ensued from this model, might have been destined for the Salon du Rocher du Pavillon du Lac, at the Petit Trianon in Versailles.
The suite of seat furniture sold in Paris in 1996 was most probably originally part of the same suite. It has been yet impossible to establish a link between the provenances, but it can be assumed that the suite was divided earlier on, probably in the 19th century. Even the later upholstery of both suites is of the same style, therefore probably replacing a similar silk damask original upholstery.
THE ATTRIBUTION TO JACOB AND SENÉ
The spirally-fluted pearl-girdled legs, quiver-shaped and water leaf-carved column supports, on the present suite are virtually identical to their corresponding features on the wax model and can be found on various pieces by the talented menuisiers.
Among the related works by Jacob are a fauteuil supplied to Marie-Antoinette for Saint-Cloud, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (ill. Comte F. de Salverte, Les ébénistes du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1953, pl. XXXV); a fauteuil à la reine with carquois-shaped fluted supports, supplied for the boudoir of Marie-Antoinette at the château de Fontainebleau, now in the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (ill. in Objets d'Art Français de la Collection Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, 1969, No. 9); and a lit d'alcôve circa 1785 with quiver-carved supports, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (ill. P. Verlet, Les Meubles Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1982, pl. 52.)
JEAN-BAPTISTE CLAUDE SENÉ
It is interesting to note that a closely related decorative scheme can also be found on various seats by the menuisier Jean-Baptiste Claude Sené, including a fauteuil à la reine with spirally-turned legs, formerly in the collection of the Duc d'Harcourt (ill. P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 2002, p.850), and a suite of seat furniture for the Bedchamber of Marie-Antoinette at Saint-Cloud, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (ill. in B. G.B. Pallot, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Paris, 1993, Vol. II, no.56, p.158).
Sené is known to have collaborated on many occasions with Jacob and more specifically between 1785-91 on various pieces for the Royal household at Fontainebleau, the Tuileries, Versailles and Saint-Cloud, which further supports the attribution of this superb suite to the two menuisiers.
THE PROVENANCE: COUNT CECIL PECCI-BLUNT
Cecil Charles Blumenthal, born at the end of the 19th century, and named after his mother (Cecilia) was the son of a leather merchant from Germany who had come to America in 1875. The Blumenthals were very prosperous and had houses in New York and in Paris. Cecil Charles gew up with a strong sense of his European roots as well as connoisseurship. Following the death of Cecil's father, his mother Cecilia Blumenthal became a French duchess by marrying the 2nd duc de Montmorency, and Cecil changed his name from Blumenthal to Blunt.
In 1919, while in his twenties, Cecil became engaged to the Italian Donna Anna Laetitia Pecci (known as "Mimi"), who was the niece of Pope Leo XIII. Alexis de Rede reported that Mimi Pecci took young Cecil on a tour of an art gallery in Italy and dazzled him by correctly identifying the names of all the pictures. "And by the time we got to the end, I knew I had trapped him," she later recalled. The couple married, the Pope made Cecil a count and Mimi and Cecil became the Count and Countess Pecci-Blunt. They had five children, a son and four daughters.