Jean Boucault, maître menuisier in 1728.
This fauteuil à la reine, with its beautiful, vigorous and sculptural carved frame, is a tour-de-force of the art of menuiserie and the model is considered to be Jean Boucault’s masterpiece (B. Pallot, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, vol. II, 1993, p. 87). The daring design consists entirely of scrolls and counter-scrolls forming flowing S and C shapes in various compact and elongated forms.
It belongs to a set of ten fauteuils of identical design, where all except two fauteuils are upholstered à chassis. The Musée du Louvre has six giltwood examples stamped I BOUCAULT, which were acquired in 1959 from the collection of Mme. Walter-Guillaume (1898-1977), wife of the French art dealer Paul Guillaume (1891-1934). Three further fauteuils in addition to this example have sold at auction: a pair of giltwood fauteuils, one stamped twice BOUCAULT, was sold at Christie's, London, 9 June 1994, lot 97; and a single fauteuil was sold at Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 2 October 2001, lot 56 (648,000 NLG). A further un-gilded beech fauteuil with fixed upholstery was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, 8 May 2009, lot 73. That a fauteuil from this suite was included in the château du Versailles exhibition ‘18th Century, Birth of Design: Furniture Masterpieces, 1650 to 1790’, October 2014 to February 2015, is testament to the quality and remarkable design of this model.
Boucault’s most important client was Louis XV’s Foreign Minister, the duc de Choiseul (1719-1785), to whom he supplied a bed, fauteuils and an ottomane for his hôtel in the rue de Richelieu, Paris in 1763. This set was gilded by Louis Aubry (maître in 1774) and was covered with basin brodé in the summer and gilt and blue damask in the winter. One of the fauteuils from this commission is possibly illustrated on the lid of the famous Choiseul snuff box painted by Louis Nicolas van Blarenberghe circa 1770-1771 (A. Kenneth Snowman, Eighteenth Century Gold Boxes of Europe, London, 1990, pp. 216-217, pls. 437-442), an enduring testament to the pride the duc took in this suite and the interior for which it was commissioned, and gives some insight into Boucault’s esteemed reputation. The duc also commissioned side chairs upholstered à chassis and a fauteuil en cabriolet for the Grand Salon de Compagnie of the same hôtel, at a price of 2,500 livres and six simpler fauteuils for his magnificent château de Chanteloup, which are now in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Art, Tours.
Jean Boucault (c. 1705-1786) was received maître menuisier in 1728 and settled in the rue de Cléry in a house owned by fellow menuisier Nicolas Tilliard (1676-1752). The inventory of his workshop after the death of his wife, Marie-Genevière Toffie, in 1737, compiled by Charles Cresson and Nicolas Foliot, describes ten workbenches and a number of sièges à rouleaux. He worked in collaboration with the sculptor Jean Valois. His work was clearly influenced by his contemporary Nicolas Heurtaut (1720-1771) who created similarly fluid, bold symmetrical rocaille designs. Bill Pallot observed that the present model is closely related to a fauteuil à la reine made by Heurtaut circa 1757, which also employs the distinctive and unusual feature of a sweeping C-scroll to connect the base of the arm support with the seat rail, and also a sculptural scroll to connect the back to the seat rail (Pallot, op. cit., p. 131).
In addition to the duc du Choiseul, Boucault’s other known clients included Louise-Élisabeth, duchess de Parme (1727-1759), to whom he supplied seat-furniture either directly or through the intermediary of a marchand-tapissier, and Camille, Prince de Lorraine (1725-1780) who in 1762 owed him the sum of 2,249 livres.