AN ENGLISH ORMOLU-MOUNTED, CUT-BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL-INLAID 'BOULLE' MARQUETRY AND EBONY COMMODE
AN ENGLISH ORMOLU-MOUNTED, CUT-BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL-INLAID 'BOULLE' MARQUETRY AND EBONY COMMODE
AN ENGLISH ORMOLU-MOUNTED, CUT-BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL-INLAID 'BOULLE' MARQUETRY AND EBONY COMMODE
AN ENGLISH ORMOLU-MOUNTED, CUT-BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL-INLAID 'BOULLE' MARQUETRY AND EBONY COMMODE
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Prospective purchasers are advised that several co… Read more
AN ENGLISH ORMOLU-MOUNTED, CUT-BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL-INLAID 'BOULLE' MARQUETRY AND EBONY COMMODE

BY BLAKE OF LONDON, CIRCA 1850, AFTER THE MODEL BY ANDRÉ-CHARLES BOULLE

Details
AN ENGLISH ORMOLU-MOUNTED, CUT-BRASS AND TORTOISESHELL-INLAID 'BOULLE' MARQUETRY AND EBONY COMMODE
BY BLAKE OF LONDON, CIRCA 1850, AFTER THE MODEL BY ANDRÉ-CHARLES BOULLE
The brèche Saint-Maximin marble top above pair of concave and convex première partie-inlaid drawers, the sides with scrolling foliage, the reverse with contre partie-inlaid panels, the angles headed by caryatids each signed 'Blake/London' to the reverse, on cabriole legs with paw sabots and spiral-turned supports to the side
34 in. (86.5 cm.) high; 48 ¼ in. (122.5 cm.) wide; 24 ½ in. (62 cm.) deep
Provenance
By repute, the duc de Chaulnes.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 18 June 1987, lot 209.
Belgravia and Lake Geneva: Two European Collections; sold Christie's, London, 14 May 2009, lot 115.
Special notice

Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
Specified lots (sold and unsold) marked with a filled square not collected from Christie’s by 5.00 pm on the day of the sale will, at our option, be removed to Cadogan Tate. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Cadogan Tate Ltd. All collections will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Lot Essay

This splendid commode is a 19th Century copy after the pair made by André-Charles Boulle and supplied in 1708 for the bed-chamber of Louis XIV at the Palais de Trianon, now the Grand Trianon at Versailles. One of the most celebrated models in the history of French furniture, Boulle’s Trianon commodes display the ébénistes tremendous skill at its finest: an antique-inspired form set with exceptional gilt-brass-inlaid tortoiseshell marquetry panels complemented by finely chased gilt-bronze mounts, an exquisite ensemble celebrated from the first – with several additional models of 18th century manufacture known – and greatly appreciated by collectors of the 19th century.

Another 18th Century example entered the collection of the Dukes of Hamilton at Hamilton Palace, having purportedly been acquired from William Beckford at Fonthill (W. Rieder, 'Andre-Charles Boulle’ in The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984, p. 206, no. 126). Prior to its sale at auction (see Christie's Hamilton Palace Sale, 17 June-20 July, 1882, lot 994, the black and white catalogue photograph of which is reproduced here), the Hamilton Palace commode had been loaned by the 11th Duke for the Specimens of Cabinet Work exhibition at Gore House in London from May to July 1853. Though he did not attend the exhibition, Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford – whose celebrated collection was largely bequeathed to the British nation to become The Wallace Collection – eventually obtained permission from the Duke of Hamilton to have a replica of the commode made for his own collection, entrusting the task to the co-organizer of the exhibition, the Cork Street dealer, John Webb. In turn, Webb appears to have subcontracted the work to an anonymous cabinet-maker who, to all intents and purposes, must have been Blake of London (further collaboration between Webb and Blake is known to have taken place between 1854 and 1865 in the execution of the so-called Slocombe Table for the 4th Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle).

A bill from John Webb to the Marquess of Hertford, itemized in the Wallace Collection archive for December 1855, records two copies of the commode (see P. Hughes, 'The Grand Trianon Commodes by André-Charles Boulle and their Influence,' Furniture History Society Journal, Vol. XLIII, 2007, pp. 195-203). However no commodes remain in the Wallace Collection, and there is some scholarly dispute that Lord Hertford might have actually received a total of five: three are recorded in a 1912 probate inventory for his Paris hôtel particulier on rue Lafitte, and two, probably from Hertford House, sold from 5 Connaught Place following the death of Sir John E. A. Murray Scott – the eventual heir of part of Lord Hertford’s collection – at Christie's, London, 24 June 1913, lot 292 (see P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection - Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, Vol. III, Appendix VII, p. 1554 & p. 1576).

Determining if the present lot might have been part of the Hertford commission is further hindered by their being a total of eight recorded examples stamped by Blake (three pairs, a single example and the present lot). One pair is preserved in the Frick Collection, New York – almost certainly that acquired from the above referenced sale at Christie’s, London in 1913 – another pair was offered at Sotheby's, London, 2 November 1990, lot 231 and then sold Christie's, New York, 25 October 2007, lot 369 ($577,000). One other pair, offered at Christie's, New York, 14 October 1999, lot 452, and a single example sold Sotheby's, London, 16 May 1997, lot 130, were all signed, like the present lot, ‘Blake London to the reverse of the caryatid angle-mounts. It is possible that the latter single example is the pair to the present lot as they both share distinctive brèche marble tops.

There is every possibility that the present lot did not number among those commissioned by the Marquess of Hertford but nonetheless may still have an illustrious pedigree as becoming of such fine cabinetry. When it was first sold in these rooms in 1987, it was offered with a 'de Chaulnes' provenance. This is thought to refer to the 10th duc de Chaulnes, and the commode could conceivably have been part of the substantial refurbishments he made to the Château de Sablé in the 1860s and 70s. In 1877, the 10th duc de Chaulnes also founded the Société du Musée des Arts Décoratifs, one of the precursors of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, formed three years later and, itself, the origin of the Musée des Arts-Décoratifs in Paris. Owing to his clear enthusiasm for the French decorative arts, it is entirely possible that he commissioned or purchased this magnificent cabinet in keeping with the contemporary interest in models of the previous century.

Though relatively little is known about the Blake family of furniture makers, they are documented as makers of fine 'buhl’ furniture from 1826 when Robert Blake is recorded as a 'cabinet inlayer and buhl manufacturer’ at 8 Stephen Street in London (C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 18). Over the subsequent decades, Robert’s sons, George, Charles, James and Henry were associated with the firm and its workshop moved to various locations in London as its activities diversified and transformed, with various modifications to its name along the way. Apart from the aforementioned commodes and the Slocombe Table at Alnwick Castle, few signed pieces by the family are recorded. Known examples include an octagonal marquetry table signed 'Robert Blake', in the Victoria & Albert Museum, an inlaid piano signed by 'George Henry Blake', in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and a small floral-inlaid bureau plat (sold Sotheby's, New York, 19 April 2007, lot 122). The model remained of enduring popularity throughout the 19th Century, with later examples recorded by only the most capable Parisian ébénistes, notably Henry Dasson, Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener and François Linke.

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