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Each modeled in curule form, raised on paw feet, upholstered in a simulated tiger pelt upholstery, each with the brand of the Château de Saint-Cloud, a label with the inscription 'BOUDOIR DE MADAME BONAPARTE' and the stenciled inventory number '13798'
28 in. (71.5 cm.) high, 31 in. (79 cm.) wide, 20 in. (51 cm.) deep
Supplied to the Boudoir of Josephine, Madame Bonaparte at the Château de Saint-Cloud, circa 1798 (two from a set of four).
Recorded in the Boudoir of the Empress Josephine in 1807 as "No. 686 quatre tabourets en x..."
Purchased by Mrs. Alan Lerner, Buvelot, Paris, circa 1960.
Collection of Mrs. Alan Lerner; Sotheby's, New York, 24 April 2013, lot 67.
J.-P. Garric, Charles Percier, ed.: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions, New York, 2016, pp. 229-30, figs. 11A.1 and 11A.3.
D. Arbus, Revelations, New York, 2003, p. 166.
G. Freeman, "The Setting is French," Town and Country, November 1962, pp. 110 and 112.

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Lot Essay

The brothers Georges II (1768-1803) and François-Honoré Jacob (1770-1841), sons of Georges Jacob, worked together from 1796-1803. These elegant giltwood tabourets of strikingly pure Neoclassical design belong to a select group of furnishings recorded to have been delivered for Josephine Bonaparte. They can be considered prototypes for similar later models by Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine and were subsequently illustrated in their celebrated and groundbreaking 1801 publication entitled Recueil de Décorations Intérieures.

The stools were executed by the sons of the celebrated menuisier Georges Jacob, Georges and François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (known as Jacob Frères), and were designed and delivered for Josephine's boudoir at the château de Saint-Cloud, where Napoleon took up residence after becoming Premier Consul. Recueil de Décorations Intérieures illustrates two different views of these stools lavishly upholstered and specifies that they were to be executed in Paris for the use of Josephine at Saint-Cloud. As the label on these tabourets refers to Josephine as Madame Bonaparte and not as Impératrice, they must have been delivered prior to Napoleon’s coronation in 1804. In the former royal palace Napoleon occupied Marie-Antoinette’s former apartments, while his wife, whom he married in 1796, was housed in the quarters of Louis XVI. Following Napoleon’s orders, Saint Cloud was to be eventually redecorated in the Empire style following Percier and Fontaine’s lavish aesthetic. The redecoration was supervised by the architect Raimond and the intendant Pfister. Josephine’s boudoir was covered in white silk and cherry-red velvet and furnished by pieces designed by Percier and Fontaine, as mentioned above. The furniture in the room comprised, among others, four tabourets, including the present lot, and four fauteuils en gondole by Jacob Frères that were supplied in 1802, now at Malmaison (see F. Austin-Montenay, Saint Cloud, Une Vie de Château, Geneva, 2005, p. 145). A pair of identical giltwood tabourets, which must be the other two from the set as they also bear the inventory number 13798, was sold Sotheby's, London, 26 June 1987, lot 125.

Jacob Frères supplied further tabourets of this model for other Imperial residences, including a set of ten for the Salle du Conseil at the château de Malmaison (see J.-P. Samoyault, Mobilier Français Consulat et Empire, Paris, 2009, fig. 65). The decoration of the Malmaison stools, however, differs from those in Josephine’s boudoir as they are green-painted and parcel-gilt. A pair of tabourets of this model stamped Jacob D. R. Meslee (and therefore of slightly later date), was sold Christie's, London, 5 July 2001, lot 26. Further pairs were sold Sotheby's, London, 25 November 1988, lot 142 and from the collection of René Fribourg Sotheby's London, 17 October 1962, lot 707.

Celebrated as key proponents of the Empire style, and later court architects to Napoleon, Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853) likely first became associated in 1779 when they were both studying architecture in Paris. In 1786 the duo relocated to Rome for several years to further their studies. It was this period of exposure to ancient Roman architecture that was to form the basis of their future success. Their particular brand of French Neoclassicism has been described as 'a combination of severity and pomp' involving a more strictly archaeological approach than had previously been popularized, drawing upon a mixture of ancient styles: Greek, Imperial Roman, and, following Napoleon's campaigns of 1798-1799, Egyptian motifs as well. Along with Vivant Denon (1747-1825), who published Voyage dans la basse et la haute Egypte in 1802, Percier and Fontaine choreographed the visual iconography that characterized Napoleon’s reign. Their design influence, both architectural and for interiors, is evident at grand Imperial estates such as the châteaux de Fontainebleau, Malmaison and Saint-Cloud, as well as the Louvre and Tuileries in Paris. Percier and Fontaine’s 1801 Recueil de Décorations Intérieures is considered not only one of the most important publications relating to interior design in the nineteenth century, but also a milestone in the visual canon of the western world.

One of the most iconic women of French history, Empress Josephine (1763-1814) was born Marie-Josèphe-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, called Josephine, into an aristocratic family in Les Trois-Îlets, Martinique, where her father owned a sugarcane plantation. After traveling to France, she married the Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais in 1779. The couple had two children, Eugène and Hortense. During the Revolution both Josephine and her husband, by now separated, were imprisoned. The Vicomte de Beauharnais was guillotined on 23 July 1794, but Josephine, now a penniless widow, was released. Her fortunes improved dramatically when, in 1796, she married the young hero of the Italian Campaign, General Napoleon Bonaparte. She purchased the château de Malmaison in 1799, the year Napoleon became First Consul, and it was here that she was able to indulge her lavish tastes, employing young artists to decorate the interiors in the most modern fashions according to the designs of Percier and Fontaine. She also redesigned the gardens and built up an impressive art collection. After Napoleon declared himself Emperor in May 1804, Josephine became Empress, and she was anointed by Pope Pius VII and crowned by Napoleon himself on 2 December 1804, a ceremony that was depicted by David in his celebrated canvas Le couronnement de l'Empereur et de l'Impératrice le 2 décembre 1804. In 1805 Josephine added Queen of Italy to her other titles and her portrait was painted by the leading artists of the time, including Baron Gros, Gérard, Prud'hon and Isabey. Josephine's marriage to Napoleon remained childless and in 1809 the couple were divorced, thereby allowing Napoleon to marry Marie-Louise of Austria. Josephine, however, was permitted to retain her titles of Queen and Empress, although she was expected to keep a lower profile than before. She travelled extensively through Switzerland, Savoy and Italy but spent most of her time in her beloved Malmaison, where she died in 1814 at the age of fifty.

One of the most glamorous couples of showbusiness, Alan and Micheline Lerner met in New York in 1957. A native of New York, Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986) is known and admired today as one of the most influential playwrights and lyricists of musical theater both on stage and on film. A winner of three Academy Awards, he was the author of Gigi, My Fair Lady, Camelot, and An American in Paris, among others. Lerner met Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo (c.1928-2012) while she was on a business trip in the United States. The youngest female lawyer in French history at the age of eighteen, Micheline was born into an aristocratic family in Corsica. Partly because of their shared place of birth, she was passionately interested in the life and times of Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact, Micheline and Alan had their New York townhouse decorated predominantly with Empire furnishings by Maison Jansen. Their home was featured in Town and Country’s 1962 Fall edition where it is clear that the interiors were strongly influenced by Imperial residences of the early 1800s. These tabourets were used in the living room of the Lerners’ Manhattan townhouse and are a wonderful manifestation of Micheline’s enthusiasm for Napoleonica and early nineteenth-century French history and decorative arts.

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