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A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD, AMARANTH AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY COMMODE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD, AMARANTH AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY COMMODE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD, AMARANTH AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY COMMODE
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Prospective purchasers are advised that several co… Read more
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD, AMARANTH AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY COMMODE

ATTRIBUTED TO PIERRE-ANTOINE FOULLET, CIRCA 1770-75

Details
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD, AMARANTH AND FRUITWOOD MARQUETRY COMMODE
ATTRIBUTED TO PIERRE-ANTOINE FOULLET, CIRCA 1770-75
The breakfront Villefranche de Conflent marble top above a rosette-filled guilloche frieze, over two long drawers sans traverse with three oval medallions, the central medallion depicting lovers within a landscape, the flanking medallions with flower-filled urns, all set within ribbon-tied laurel leaf frames, the shaped apron centred by a steaming cassolette, the sides conformingly inlaid and mounted, on hipped cabriole legs terminating in scroll and acanthus sabots, regilt
34 ¼ in. (87 cm.) high; 59 in. (150 cm.) wide; 24 ½ in. (62 cm.) deep
Provenance
Almost certainly acquired by Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath, K.G. (1765–1837) or John Alexander Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath (1831–1896), Longleat, Wiltshire, and by descent,
Thomas Henry Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath, K.G. (1862–1946), Lord Bath's London House in Grosvenor Square; sold Sotheby's, London, 22 November 1940, lot 89.
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.
Sale Room Notice
Please note should have been marked with a filled square in the printed catalogue. This lot will be removed after the sale and stored at Cadogan Tate's storage facility, please refer to the catalogue for further details.

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Lot Essay

This sophisticated commode belongs to a small recorded group of commodes either stamped by, or attributed to, Pierre-Antoine Foullet and was almost certainly acquired by the 2nd or 4th Marquess of Bath, probably for Longleat House, Wiltshire.


PIERRE-ANTOINE FOULLET (1732-1780)

Pierre-Antoine Foullet followed his father Antoine into the family business as an ébéniste on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and became maître in 1765. However, unlike his father, who specialised in Boulle marquetry clock cases, Pierre-Antoine focused on case furniture of a much grander scale and ambition. He is best known for his distinctive Transitional commodes, secrétaires à abattant and encoignures, which now appear in famed collections of French furniture, including the Palace of Versailles and the Wallace Collection.

He is recorded as working for the ébéniste du roi Gilles Joubert (1689-1775) on a pair of encoignures (now in the Wallace Collection) supplied in September 1773 to the Comte d’Artois at Versailles together with a commode (whereabouts unknown). Foullet's relationship with Joubert inevitably led to him supplying another commode in 1768 for the Royal family, this time for the reconfigured private apartment of Madame Victoire, daughter of Louis XV, and the commode remains on display at the Palace of Versailles (A. Pradère, French Furniture Makers: The Art of the Ébéniste from Louis XIV to the Revolution, London, 1989, pp. 275-79).

THE MODEL

The form of the present commode takes its origins from the ground-breaking series of commodes à la grècque which Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763) supplied to Madame de Pompadour from 1760 whilst employed as ébéniste du roi (X. Salmon, Mme de Pompadour et les Arts, Paris, 2002, pp. 351-52). Representative of his adoption of the 'antique' style, this newly-developed model is typified by its rectangular, unadorned form resting on high, slightly curved legs. Madame de Pompadour's were veneered in mahogany or bois satiné, accentuating the modern feeling of this innovative model. Shortly after, Oeben began to execute various commodes of this shape as well, embellished with various parquetry patterns combined with his beautiful marquetry 'pictures' (A. Pradère, op. cit., p. 252). Other ébénistes also incorporated this modern type into their own oeuvre, notably Roger van der Cruse, dit Lacroix (RVLC), Jacques Dautriche and Pierre-Antoine Foullet.

Foullet’s distinct treatment of the commode à la grècque is best identified by his use of oval medallions filled with sycamore and fruitwood marquetry designs, which are given prominence by substantial ribbon-tied ormolu mounts with laurel leaf frames. The effect creates the illusion of the piece being hung with paintings within giltwood frames. A further defining feature is his use of the steaming cassolette mount to the apron and the guilloche and rosette mounts to the frieze. Whilst there are similarities between the commodes and the other case furniture with these features, it is most relevant to discuss the breakfront commodes. No two are identical but there are a number that feature extremely similar combinations of these elements.

There are three commodes which have almost identical marquetry designs to the present example. One was sold from the Collection of Mrs. Enid A. Haupt, Sotheby’s, New York, 4 May 1984, lot 65 and subsequently 20 November 1993, lot 257; the other was formerly in the William A. Clark Collection and now in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; and the final was sold from Un Moment de Perfection, Christie’s, London, 3 December 2014, lot 15. All four commodes, including the present lot, feature three oval medallions to the drawer fronts: the central medallion depicts a gentleman kneeling at the feet of a maiden; the flanking smaller oval medallions are filled with vases of flowers.

Each of these commodes, save for the example sold from Christie’s in 2014, is richly mounted with identical medallion frames, swaged fluted chutes, ormolu fluting to the breakfront edges and canted angles, a steaming cassolette to the apron, and ormolu-banding along the apron and bottom drawer as well as to the floral panels surrounding the central medallion. The present example and the commode sold from the collection of Mrs. Enid A. Haupt both have the same acanthus mount to the apron as well. Only the pattern of the guilloche frieze mounts differ slightly between the four commodes.

Foullet was well-known for the high-quality and generous neo-classical mounts with which he adorned his furniture. Many of them were cast and chased by bronzier Claude-Bernard Héban (d.1774) from mounts his father, Antoine, produced, after designs by Charles de Lafosse (1696-1716) or Jacques de Lajoüe (1687-1761). These would have come at a great expense and his decision to use them with such impact and integrity illustrates his appreciation of the importance of gilded bronze to contemporary amateurs and collectors (S.M. Bennett and C. Sargentson (eds.), French Art of the Eighteenth Century at the Huntington, New Haven, 2008, pp. 99-100).

Further examples of commodes within this group include: one sold from the collection of Henry Ford II, Christie's, New York, 12 November 1981, lot 214; another at the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino (R. Wark, French Decorative Arts in the Huntington Collection, California, 1979, p. 112); another at Fredricksborg Castle, Denmark (S. Eriksen, Early Neo-Classisicm in France, 1974, pl. 132); and a related commode from the collection of Lord Kinnaird was sold Christie's, London, 22 June 1989, lot 105.

THE MARQUESS’ OF BATH AND LONGLEAT HOUSE

The Thynne (or Thynn) family have served various political roles, becoming knights and baronets, and subsequently elevated to the peerage as Viscounts Weymouth and Marquess’ of Bath. The line goes back to Sir John Thynne (d. 1580), Steward to the Lord Protector, 1st Duke of Somerset, who constructed Longleat House between 1567 and 1579. The interiors of Longleat were decorated by John Dibblee Crace during the 19th century and the works of art mainly comprised of acquisitions made by the 2nd Viscount Weymouth, the 2nd Marquess of Bath and by his grandson the 4th Marquess, who, like his grandfather, acquired important French furniture by some of the greatest marchands-ébénistes including Martin Carlin, George Jacob, Jean-François Leleu, Pierre-Henri Mewesen and René Dubois, examples of which were sold from the Longleat collection at Christie’s, London, 13 June 2002. It is extremely likely that this commode was one of these acquisitions made by the 2nd or 4th Marquess of Bath and remained in the Thynne family until sold by Thomas Henry Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath, at Sotheby’s, London in 1940.

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