Louis-Charles Carpentier maître in 1752.
Of comfortable and superb rocaille form but symmetrically carved with Classical decoration, the bold and sculptural design of the present fauteuils is highly original for its time; it was made during the initial stages of the late Rococo instigated in circa 1753-4; a style termed as the 'rocaille symétrisé classicisant’. One of the main protagonists in this very precise moment of stylistic change in 18th century French decorative arts was the architect Pierre Contant d’Ivry (d. 1777) who is known to have produced designs in this avant-garde taste to fellow menuisiers en sièges such as Nicolas Heurtaut. In 1754, the engraver Cochin, who in 1749-51 had accompanied the marquis de Marigny to Italy, published his celebrated petition, 'Supplication aux orfèvres, sculpteurs en bois…' In this pamphlet he called on the craftsmen’s 'good sense', pleading with them '.. not to go on twisting what should be square' and to come back to straight lines, and '..return to the good taste of the last century' , thus advancing this pioneering style (Pallot, op. cit., p. 152). This return to classicism mediated through Louis XIV's Grand Siècle is apparent in the present chairs, which incorporate features from late Baroque seat-furniture such as the high shouldered design of the backs and the incised decoration to the reverse, both of which are remeniscent of the finest chairs produced in the Regence.
Although it was suggested that Heurtaut and Foliot were the only two maîtres-menuisiers en sièges who truly adhered to the principles of 'rocaille symétrisé classicisant’ (B. Pallot, 'Le menuisier Nicolas Heurtaut chez le prince de Conti et le comte d’Artois’, L’Estampille/L’Objet d’art, no. 371, July-August 2002, p. 72), the highly refined and audacious combination of Rococo outline with a strictly classical ornamental vocabulary visible on the present chairs, suggests that Carpentier was also part of this small group of forward-thinking menuisiers producing pieces in the latest fashion. Indeed, with the avant garde design for these chairs, Carpentier anticipates the evolution from full-blown rococo to antique classicism, finding a middle ground between asymmetry and symmetry as advocated by d’Ivry, allowing the fairly precise dating of circa 1755.
Established in the Rue de Cléry, Carpentier enjoyed considerable success from the beginning of his career until 1779, when he sold his atelier with its outils, établis, ustensiles et bois to Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené. His clientele included various illustrious names such as Baron Rolin d'Ivry, the Marquise de Brunoy, the Duchesse de Villeroy and the Duc d'Aumont. In addition, he supplied the Prince de Condé with furniture for the Château de Chantilly, the Château de Vanves, and the Palais Bourbon (B. Pallot, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Dijon, 1993, vol. II, p. 189).
A related fauteuil by Nicolas Heurtaut executed circa 1755 and formerly in the collection of the Comte d'Artois at the Palais du Temple, with the same high shouldered symmetrical rococo frame design, and similarly carved with stylised shells to the toprail and apron as the present chairs, sold Sotheby's, Paris, 16 December 2004, lot 146 (EUR 1,352,000).