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These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more ‘Ancienne collection de Mr et Mme Djahanguir Riahi’


The channeled frame exuberantly carved overall with rocaille C-scrolls, shells and garlands of flowers and foliage, the waved toprail centred by a foliate spray above outscrolled arm supports, the back, arms and seat covered à chassis in blue floral silk, above a serpentine apron centred by a foliate cartouche, on cabriole legs terminating in scrolled feet, stamped thrice 'N. HEURTAUT', with faint remains of a circular stamp
38 in. (97 cm.) high; 57 in. (145 cm.) wide; 23 in. (58 cm.) deep
Collection Anténor Patino, sold Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, 6 June 1975, lot 102.
Sold Christie's, London, 19 May 1983, lot 77.
Collection Barbara Piasecka Johnson, sold Sotheby's, New York, 21 May 1992, lot 78, where acquired by the present owner.
B. Pallot, L'Art du Siège au XVIIIe Siècle en France, 1987, p. 233.
P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1998, p. 401, fig. C.
G. Wannenes, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe siècle, Milan, 1998, p. 159.

Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Meredith Sykes
Meredith Sykes

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Lot Essay

This magnificent canapé à oreilles is an early and highly innovative creation by arguably the leading maître-menuisier and sculpteur of the Louis XV period, Nicolas Heurtaut. Made in circa 1753, the year of his appointment as maître-menuisier, and conceived in the late rococo style, the canapé is profusely carved with cartouches, flowers, foliage, rocailles and rinceaux in a tour de force display of the art of the sculpteur and a prime example of Heurtaut’s oeuvre.


Heurtaut is rightly considered one of the greatest sculptors of carved furniture of the mid-18th century, adapting his designs through rococo to transitional to neoclassicism to reflect changes in fashion. The son of Claude Heurtaut, a master carver primarily of chairs, Nicolas Heurtaut began his career as a sculptor, entering the Académie de Saint-Luc in 1742, before establishing his own workshop in the rue de Bourbon à la Villeneuve, Paris in circa 1753, the year he was made maître-menuisier. Thus as both sculpteur and menuisier Heurtaut was able and allowed to practice his dual profession legitimately, thereby able to ornament his own seat-furniture. His clients were wide-ranging from marchands and tapissiers to wealthy clientele, including the duc de Choiseul, Louis XV's most important minister and a great patron of the arts, as well as the marquis de Villarceaux, the duc de Jaucourt and the duc de la Rochefoucault. A miniature attributed to Louis-Nicolas van Blarenberghe, circa 1770, which once belonged to Choiseul, now mounted on a 19th century snuffbox, illustrates Choiseul’s bedroom in the hôtel Crozat, Paris, with two armchairs that are possibly a Heurtaut model (D. Bloomquist, 'The Choiseul Box: A study of the duc de Choiseul’s furniture’, Furniture History, vol. 40, 2004, p. 59).


Heurtaut, like his contemporaries, Nicolas-Quinibert Foliot and Jean-Baptiste II Tilliard, was undoubtedly inspired by early drawings for Rococo seat-furniture by Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier and Nicolas Pineau. An engraving of a sofa à chassis made for Count Bielenski by Meissonnier demonstrates how the sofa, and almost certainly this canapé, were intended for an alcove, the shape of the top rail mirroring the carved boiserie or mirrored panelling of the room (see B. Pallot, The Art of the Chair in Eighteenth-century France, Paris, 1989, p. 122). Furthermore, Pineau’s designs for rocailles et fleurs, now in the musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris also shows where Heurtaut and others found stimulus for their sculptural carving and, having started his career as a master carver, Heurtaut's furniture often shows richer decoration and more sculptural features than that of his peers.
The design of this canapé is highly original for its time; it was made during the initial stages of the late rococo instigated in circa 1753-4; a style themed by Bill Pallot as the 'rocaille symétrisé classicisant’. One of the main protagonists was the architect Pierre Contant d’Ivry (d. 1777) and Pallot suggests d'Ivry was responsible for some of Heurtaut’s chair designs. 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). Heurtaut, and Foliot, Pallot argues, were the only two maîtres-menuisiers en sièges who truly adhered to the principals 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). With the avant garde design for this canapé Heurtaut anticipated 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 1753.


The canapé is related to a particular model of fauteuil à la reine. Four chairs of this model, now in the Louvre, Paris, were almost certainly made for Martial-Louis de Beaupoil de Saint-Aulaire, bishop of Poitiers, later at the château de Gorre, Haut Vienne; while another set was supplied to Louis François de Bourbon, prince de Conti, subsequently acquired by Charles-Philippe, comte d’Artois (later Charles X), and at the palais du Temple, Paris (ibid., p. 69). The Poitiers/Conti/Artois chairs have similar ‘archaic’ features including chair backs with a strong ‘shoulder’, and lively and regular carved decoration (B. Pallot, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, vol. II, Paris, 2002, p. 83). The pronounced shoulders on the top rail are also found in Pineau’s designs for chairs, circa 1730 (Pallot, op. cit., 1989, p. 121). A pair of fauteuils à la reine, ordered by Louise-Elisabeth de France, daughter of Louis XV, Madame Infante for the palais de Colorno in Parma and subsequently sold at Christie’s, Paris, 5 June 2003, lot 38 (Euro 338,250 inc. premium), is also comparable, displaying very similar gadroon ornamentation on the back rail and virtually identical centred shell and acanthus cartouche on the apron. Further comparison can be made with a pair of giltwood fauteuils à la reine, stamped by Heurtaut, of circa 1755-60, that was thought to be part of the suite once belonging to the comtesse de Séran, sold at Christie's, London, 10 July 2014, lot 12 (£662,500).

The slightly splayed sides clearly show this canapé was never conceived as part of a ‘canapé à confidents mobiles’; however, comparison can be made with a rare example of this form stamped by Heurtaut, of circa 1757, illustrated by Pallot, op. cit., 1989, p. 239. A further canapé from a suite traditionally thought to have been presented by the Chapter of Poitiers Cathedral to the bishop of Poitiers in 1759 is in P. Verlet, Les meubles français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1982, fig. 147. The Poitiers suite, which is of two slightly different models, was subsequently in the collection of Anténor Patino, and was sold in Paris, Palais Galliera, Ader Picard Tajan, 6 June 1975, lot 99 (four fauteuils) and 26 November 1975, lot 96 (the canapé, two confidents and six fauteuils). Like the Poitiers example this canapé, which is equally richly carved, is decorated on the reverse indicating that it was intended to be used courant rather than meublant.

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