Laurel-festooned in celebration of ‘abundance through labor’ and hung with lion-pelts recalling Hercules’s labors, there is perhaps no greater admired nor more frequently imitated masterpiece of French furniture than the bureau du Roi. A tour de force of Belle Epoque genius and superior manufacture, the inspiration for this extraordinary commode was an excessively-mounted bureau à cylindre commissioned by Louis XV from Oeben (maître 1759) in 1760 and ultimately completed by Riesener (maître 1768) in 1769. The bureau survived devastation at Saint-Cloud in 1870 and was subsequently moved to the Louvre. Under instructions from the fourth Marquess of Hertford, it is believed that the first 19th century reproduction of the bureau was completed between 1853 and 1870 by the little-known firm of Dreschler (C. Payne, François Linke: The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 218) and thereafter by Henry Dasson and François Linke. Linke’s first example of the bureau du Roi, index number 710, was completed in 1902 and in all he made four. Linke subsequently applied much of the ornament and mounts from his version of the bureau du Roi to create other pieces of furniture. Thus in addition to this commode, pieces ‘inspired by the bureau du Roi’ include a monumental bibliotheque, a bergère, pianos and pedestals – all with the distinctive lion-pelt corner mounts (op. cit. p. 218-226).
The present model, completed as a commode, is considered to be one of two examples ultimately produced by Linke¹s workshop, both of which were fitted with fleur de pêcher marble tops. The first was completed between 1903 and 1907 and a second commode was produced in 1907 for a M. Roffin. The design for the commode was borne out Linke¹s partnership with the sculptor Léon Messagé, with whom Linke frequently collaborated. The sumptuous gilt-bronze mounts, considered sculpture unto themselves, were a characteristic of the finest late 19th century furniture, and Messagé’s prowess at their design and application was unrivaled. A variant design for the present commode appears in Messagé’s sketches dating to the 1880s, suggesting that the iconic lion pelt mounts at the angles could be substituted with expressive figural mounts in human forms (see inset illustration, op cit. p. 223).