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A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED BOIS SATINE, AMARANTH, SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY COMMODE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED BOIS SATINE, AMARANTH, SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY COMMODE
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED BOIS SATINE, AMARANTH, SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY COMMODE
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A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED BOIS SATINE, AMARANTH, SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY COMMODE
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A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED BOIS SATINE, AMARANTH, SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY COMMODE

BY JEAN-HENRI RIESENER, 1774

Details
A LOUIS XVI ORMOLU-MOUNTED BOIS SATINE, AMARANTH, SYCAMORE AND MARQUETRY COMMODE
BY JEAN-HENRI RIESENER, 1774
The shaped later Rouge Langedoc marble top above a breakfronted case with three frieze drawers mounted with guilloche and scrolling vinery above two long drawers inlaid sans traverse with a lush flower-filled vase on a plinth flanked by berrying laurel branches and banded bois satiné panels, the angles mounted with foliate chutes emitting trailing husks, the sides with banded bois satiné over a foliate cartouche apron and paw feet issuing leafy acanthus, stamped three times JH RIESENER, and with painted inventory number ‘2803’, the laurel branches not described in the original invoice but almost certainly added soon after as the casting technique is consistent with all the other bronzes
37 ½ in. (95 cm.) high, 65 ¾ in. (167 cm.) wide, 25 ½ in. (65 cm.) deep
Provenance
Ordered in 1774 for the bedroom of Madame Randon de Pommery, wife of the Garde-Général of the Garde Meuble de la Couronne, in the Hôtel du Garde Meuble, Place de la Concorde, Paris, and delivered on 16 January 1775.
Then by descent to Randon de Pommery’s successor, Alexandre Lemoine de Crécy and recorded in a 1788 inventory.
Sold, Paris, 1795, in an auction of the contents of the Hôtel du Garde Meuble, lot 3450.
Anonymous Sale; Binoche-Godeau, Paris, 22 December 1987, Lot 49.
Acquired from Maurice Segoura, Paris, in 1992.
Literature
J. Charles et al., De Versailles a Paris Le Destin des Collections Royales, Paris, 1989, Exhibition Catalogue, pp. 239-40.
P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIII Siècle, Paris, 1989, p. 696, cat A.
Sale Room Notice
It is possible that the ink inventory number ‘2803’ has been applied at a later date, and therefore it may not be the commode ordered in 1774. However it remains a strong possibility that it is the commode described in the 1788 inventory of the bedroom of Madame de Crécy at the Hôtel du Garde Meuble, where the entry does not specify an inventory number and precisely describes the distinctive laurel garlands. This lot will now be available for collection at Christie’s Rockefeller after the sale.

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Lot Essay

Jean-Henri Riesener maître in 1768.
This magnificent commode is an important prototype for a celebrated series of Royal commodes by the ébéniste de la Couronne Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) which were delivered to the French Royal family. The refined laurel branches with their lifelike textured leaves and shiny berries that frame Riesener’s distinctive trapezoid are the first example of what would become one of Riesener’s most important leitmotifs which culminated in the dense, jewel-like floral garlands on the magnificent ormolu-mounted Japanese lacquer commode and matching secretaire delivered to Marie Antoinette’s Grand Cabinet Intérieur at Versailles (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 20.155.11, 20.155.12).
THE DELIVERY
The present commode is also rare in that its 18th century provenance is remarkably complete thanks to the extensively detailed records kept by the Garde Meuble de la Couronne. Established in 1663, it was responsible for the upkeep and furnishings of all Royal châteaux. The Garde Meuble had its own premises, the Hôtel du Garde Meuble, which was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and constructed between 1757 and 1774. This building encompassed the administrative offices for the Garde Meuble de la Couronne and was the location for which all deliveries of works destined to Royal châteaux were sent before going to their designated locations. In addition to storage, there was even the first Decorative Arts museum on the premises as well as appartements for the Intendant-Contrôleur Général, Pierre-Élisabeth Fontanieu (1730-1784) and the Garde-Général des Meubles, Randon de Pommery (1714-1787). Their interiors were created by Jacques Gondoin (1737-1818), who as Dessinateur du Mobilier de la Couronne was the chief designer of the Royal Household and may have been involved in the design of this commode.
As this commode was commissioned for Randon de Pommery’s wife for her bedroom, the commode was documented in the same manner as a piece of Royal furniture. It begins the moment it was ordered and is shortly followed by its accompanying invoice from Riesener and the date it was delivered. The initial commission records:
Du 18 juillet 1774. RIEZENER/ Pour servir dans le salon de l’appartement de M. de Pommery, hôtel du Garde meuble/ Une commode de bois des Indes à placages ornée de bronzes dorés d’or moulu de 5 pieds de long sur largeur et hauteur proportionnés. Chambre à coucher de madame de Pommery : une commode idem et de mêmes mesures. (Registre d’ordres du Garde meuble de la couronne, O/1/3284).
Riesener’s invoice for the commode in the Memoire des Fournisseurs du Garde Meuble describes it in much more detail and includes the price, 1, 350 livres. It also occurs in the same month in which he assumes the title of ébéniste du Roi and must have been one of his first commissions in this important new role.
Livré en décembre [1774] Pour le service du Garde meuble, une commode de marqueterie de 5 pieds 2 pouces de large sur 2 pieds de profondeur et 3 pieds de haut, composée de 5 tiroirs fermant à clef, plaque de bois satiné entouré de filets blancs et noirs et de frises d’amarante pour faire fond à la dorure; un panneau sur le devant du milieu des tiroirs représentant un vase de fleurs en marqueterie ombrée et en pièces de rapport; ornée de consoles, chutes, frises, cadres et moulures, deux grandes consoles soutenant les gaines sur les deux angles, des médaillons et rosettes; le tout en bronze ciselé et ajusté avec la dernière précision et doré d’or moulu, pour la somme de 1.586 livres » en marge : [réglé ] 1.350 livres. (Mémoires des fournisseurs du Garde meuble, O/1/3624).
The commode was delivered on 16 January as detailed below in the Journal du Garde Meuble de la Couronne (O/1/3319) and reproduced here.
Du 16 janvier 1775. Livré par le sieur Riesener
Pour servir dans l’appartement de Madame de Pommery 2803. Une commode avec un dessus de marbre Ste Anne en bois de marqueterie et satiné avec frises d’amarante entouré de filets blancs. Le devant à 5 tiroirs fermant à clef représente un vase de fleurs en marqueterie et pièces de rapport; ornée sur les angles de 2 consoles en forme de gaines soutenues de deux socles terminés par des feuilles d’ornement; au pourtour de la commode règne une grande moulure avec une frise à jour en 5 parties. Les entrées de serrure marquées par des anneaux en forme de médaillons servant de portants aux tiroirs, le tout en bronze doré d’or moulu, ladite commode longue de 5 pieds 2 pouces, sur 2 pieds de profondeur et 3 pieds de haut [ 167,8 x 65 x 97,5cm]
When Randon de Pommery was succeeded by Alexandre Lemoine de Crécy, the commode remained in the bedroom when it appeared in two subsequent 1788 inventories. The first, apparently more for the purposes of a valuation, describes the ‘Premier étage, logement du garde général … chambre [de madame de Crecy] : 25. Une riche commode en bois de rapport … 2000L.’ (Etat estimatif des meubles existant dans l’intérieur des hôtels du Garde meuble de la Couronne, Paris, 1788, Archives. National, O1/3423). The second entry is part of a descriptive inventory of the contents of Hôtel du Garde Meuble de la Couronne where the commode appears under
Appartement sur le palier du premier escalier sur la rue Royale occupé par M. de Crecy.
Premier étage …..Chambre [de madame de Crecy]
25. Une riche commode en bois de rapport de 5 pieds de large à 5 tiroirs dont 2 grands et 3 petits avec frises et rosaces ; sur le milieu des 2 grands tiroirs est un pot à bouquet, des 2 côtés une riche branche de laurier en cuivre doré d’or moulu ; entourée de baguettes en cordes à puits; sur les coins pour chutes sont des feuilles de refend avec rosaces et les sabots idem ; à dessus de marbre brèche d’Alep. (Inventaire de l’Hôtel du Garde meuble de la Couronne, Paris, 1788, Arch. Nat. O/1/3425)
Although this description contains the first mention of the distinctive laurel branches which frame the center, their casting is consistent with all of the other mounts on the commode. Thus, it is likely that the laurel branches were placed on it soon after its delivery-- perhaps as a luxurious addition for the Madame de Pommery. This possibility is reinforced by the presence of either identical or related laurel branches on two commodes and a meuble d’appui by Riesener which were all made during the 1770s. The earliest work in this series is a commode supplied to Pierre-Élisabeth Fontanieu, the Intendant-Contrôleur Général, in 1772-3 which is now at the Musée Condé at Chantilly (OA 245). Here, flying putti cling to the same laurel branches on this luxuriously inlaid and richly mounted commode featuring Classical busts and vases as well as Riesener’s signature trapezoid. Though a different form and aesthetic, it is clear this commode provided the concept of the single wrapped laurel branch. A second commode for an unknown patron now at Waddesdon manor (reproduced here) has a musical trophy marquetry panel, and is otherwise virtually identical to the Pommery commode with the same mounts and rich veneers (G. De Bellaigue, The James A de Rothschild Collection, Furniture Clocks and Gilt Bronzes vol I, Switzerland, 1974, pp. 251-4, illus.). A meuble d’appui (reproduced here) that also features a vase of flowers flanked by laurel branches also shares many of the same mounts and is now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris (B. Salmon, Masterpieces of the Museum of Decorative Arts Paris, Paris, 2006, pp.80-81, illus.).
The commode stayed in its place at the Hôtel du Garde Meuble, Paris until 1795 when it was sold in the auction of its contents during the French revolution. Its history until it resurfaced at auction in 1987 remains a mystery.
THE DESIGN
The role of the present commode as a prototype in Riesener’s oeuvre is seen in his subsequent development of the mounts and inlay on three Royal commodes. The first was delivered a year later in 1776 to the Comtesse de Provence (illustrated here) and the second commode went to Madame Elisabeth, eldest daughter of Louis XVI in 1778; they are both now in the James de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor (G. De Bellaigue, The James A de Rothschild Collection, Furniture Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, vol I, Switzerland, 1974, pp.239-50, illus.). Both commodes share the same form and many of the same mounts, such as the angles, the apron and the feet. The overall concept of the marquetry is essentially the same, with two long drawers with a central trapezoidal transverse marquetry panel centered by Riesener’s distinctive garlands, but these elements have been refined and enriched. The laurel branches have become husks that continue to a swag at the top of the drawers and additional mounts have been added to make the commodes even more luxurious. The veneers have also been augmented with a parquetry panel to give a greater sense of depth and richness. Like the commode offered here, this commode’s drawers also features rollers to facilitate their action. Although the earlier of the two, the commode for the Comtesse de Provence is the most extravagant, with parquetry panels to the sides and a plethora of ormolu mounts. Not surprisingly, it was the most expensive piece of furniture delivered to the Crown in 1776, exceeding the price for the commode delivered to the King’s study at Fontainebleau (Ibid. p.243). The third Royal commode delivered in 1776 to Madame Adelaïde for her private chamber at Versailles shares the same characteristics of the two previous commodes on a different form and illustrates Riesener’s ability to offer continuous variations around a central theme. This commode was formerly in the collection of Juan de Bestegui and has recently returned to Versailles through a private sale by Christie’s.

THE GENIUS OF JEAN-HENRI RIESENER
Arguably the most celebrated ébéniste of the late 18th century, Riesener was, along with Boulle and Cressent, one of the very few makers to be specifically named in 18th century sale catalogues and brought the art of French cabinet-making to a level of near perfection. Riesener continued the grand tradition made famous by Boulle in the 17th Century of lush, illusionistic marquetry—essentially pictures in wood-- offset by the most strikingly figured timbers. Combined with exquisite jewel-like mounts, his work reached a level unmatched by his contemporaries.
Riesener first worked in the atelier of Jean-François Oeben, of which he assumed control after Oeben's death. For a decade beginning in 1774 when he was appointed ébéniste du Roi, Riesener delivered some of the most spectacular and sumptuous furniture ever made. His best known work, however, is probably the bureau du Roi, commissioned by Louis XV for Versailles and made with Oeben between 1760-69. Although Riesener was replaced by Guillaume Benneman as the official ébéniste du Roi in 1784, Riesener’s work was still in demand by the Royal family and he continued to supply furniture to Queen Marie-Antoinette right up to the Revolution of 1789.

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