Adam Weisweiler, maître in 1778.
Embellished with costly Japanese lacquer, this elegant table is a superb example of the work of Adam Weisweiler at the height of his powers, when this ébéniste delivered a number of masterpieces to the Royal family, all commissioned through the famous marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre (d. 1796). This includes the monumental secretaire supplied in January 1784 to Louis XVI's cabinet Interieur at Versailles, which is one of his earliest and most richly-mounted pieces of lacquer furniture (O. Impey and J. Whitehead, 'From Japanese box to French Royal furniture', Apollo, September 1990, p. 163). With its elegant proportions and exacting craftsmanship, it is unsurprising that it once belonged to the legendary fashion-designer Jacques Doucet (1853-1929).
In essence, it continued the tradition of furniture mounted with Sèvres porcelain plaques as pioneered in the 1760s by Dominique Daguerre’s business partner Simon-Philippe Poirier (d. 1785), who maintained a monopoly for the sale of this type of furniture – almost exclusively executed by Martin Carlin (d. 1785) - until Daguerre took over the running of the business in 1777. The ‘ever-lasting’ flower pictures in porcelain which adorned these precious items of furniture were more sporadically being employed after Daguerre took the reins, and only a dozen were apparently made after this date (A. Pradere, Les Ebenistes Francais, Paris, 1989, p. 344).
A distinctive group of jewellike tables of similar outline - with rounded corners, short cabriole legs and a lower shelf with incurved front – were executed by Carlin for Daguerre from circa 1780. Two of these are mounted with Sèvres porcelain plaques, one in the Huntington Collection, with plaques dated 1781 (C. Sargentson, The Huntington Collection, San Marino, 2008, pp. 104-107); the other in the Wallace Collection (F327) with plaques dated 1783-’84 (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection, London, 1996, vol. II, pp 1100-’08). The others – probably around twelve - were fitted with Japanese lacquer panels, also indicating that Japanese lacquer had superseded Sèvres porcelain as the preferred type of decoration of Daguerre’s most luxurious furniture. These include one from the Grog-Carven Collection, now in the Louvre (D. Alcouffe et. al., Furniture Collections of the Louvre, Paris, 1993, no. 71, pp. 230-’31); one from the collection of Jacques and Henriette Schumann, Christie’s Paris, 30 September 2003, lot 472 (€470,250) and a further example formerly from the collection of Henri de Rothschild, sold Christie’s London, ‘Boulle to Jansen’, 11 June 2003, lot 15 (£218,000).
By 1783-’85, towards the end of Carlin’s life - Daguerre modernised the form of some his furniture types as well as developing new ones; it is probable that for a few years he would have started producing these new pieces while continuing some of the traditional forms. The design of the aforementioned work and writing-tables was also updated whereby an entirely rectilinear form was adopted, resting on turned tapering feet. One of the first examples of this type is a table in the Louvre which was executed by Carlin and is fitted with a Sèvres porcelain plaque dated ‘1784’. In the inventory complied after his death in 1785 it does not appear nor do any other tables of this type (D. Alcouffe, op. cit., no. 85, pp. 262-262). Most extant tables of this model – either in Japanese lacquer, ebony or satinwood, were executed by Adam Weisweiler, who – as Carlin’s ‘spiritual successor’ - became Daguerre’s preferred cabinet-maker for his most precious and complex pieces (P. Lemonnier, Weisweiler, Paris, 1983, p. 37). Apart from the present example, this group includes a pair of ebony and porphyry tables, stamped by Weisweiler, at Musee Nissim de Camondo, illustrated in S. Legrand-Rossi, Le Mobilier du Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris, 2012, no. 43, pp. 126-127. Weisweiler simultaneously developed a related but slightly wider model of table, surmounted by a glazed superstructure forming a so-called bonheur-du-jour. Many of these were veneered in satinwood off-set with amaranth and with mahogany to the interior, characteristics clearly inspired by English contemporary pieces; an example is at Musee Cognacq-Jay (I. Neto, Musee Cognacq-Jay, Le Mobilier, Paris, 2001, no. 15, pp. 54-55), a further example from the Mannheimer Collection, is at the Rijkmsueum (R. Baarsen, Paris 1650-1900, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2013, no. 106, pp. 436-437. An almost identical table similarly mounted with Japanese lacquer panels but with a slightly larger frieze drawer sold from the collection of Countess A. Bernstorff, Christie's London, 8 June 1961, lot 17. Another table of the same model presented as 19th century was sold at Sotheby's Paris, 9 April 2008, lot 198.