René Dubois, maître in 1755
With its 'Etruscan' ebonized decoration and interlaced Greek-key frieze, this bureau plat reflects the goût Grec style introduced in the 1750's by the architect Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain. Probably working in collaboration with a marchand-mercier such as Simon-Philippe Poirier, Le Lorrain's goût Grec style was first realized in the designs for the celebrated suite of furniture supplied for the Parisian hôtel of the amateur Ange-Laurent Lalive de Jully circa 1755, which included the bureau plat and cartonnier now in the Museé Condé at Chantilly, as well as the set of four meubles d'appui including that sold by the Marquess of Cholmondeley, Works of Art from Houghton, Christie's London, 8 December 1994, lot 80.
This bureau plat relates to the well-documented group of bureaux à la Grecque stamped both 'IDubois' (for René Dubois, 1734-1809, who employed his father's stamp) and Montigny. Executed in either ebony or amaranth and tulipwood, often displaying the same distinctive ormolu mounts and of very similar proportions and design, this group reflects the close collaboration that existed between these two ébénistes - a link further underlined by the fact that Montigny and Dubois were not only cousins, but that the former even acted as a witness at the wedding of the latter in 1772.
In view of the fact that une table de bois d'amaranthe à la grecque, 60l. was recorded in the 1764 inventory taken following the death of Jacques Dubois, while Montigny himself was not elected maître until 1766, it seems fair to conclude that it was Dubois who initially devised this model, but in the face of excessive demand, he in turn - acting in the capacity of a marchand-ébéniste often subcontracted to Montigny to supply him with bureaux of this form. This hypothesis is further supported by a number of pieces stamped by both ébénistes, both at Waddesdon Manor and in the Wallace Collection, as well as a bureau à la grecque sold anonymously at Sotheby's, Monaco, 17 June 1988, lot 741 (only Montigny's stamp noted in the catalogue).
The importance of René Dubois' atelier in the rue de Charenton is revealed not only by the 1772 inventory, but also in the announcements in Les Tablettes de Renomme - which stated 'Dubois rue de Charenton tient fabrique et fameux magasin d'ébènisterie, fait des envois en province et chez l'Etranger'. This latter inventory also revealed the extent to which Dubois had almost exclusively become a marchand, as he subcontracted work to ébènistes including Ancellet, Sar, Bury, Fromageau, Séverin, Bon Durand and Petit.
That Poirier supplied George, 6th Earl of Coventry (1722-1809) with un Bureau la Grecque by Dubois on 12 March 1765 suggests that it was not until the late 1760's that Dubois' activities as a marchand were fully developed, but the mention of 'bureaux plats à l'antique' in the 1772 inventory certainly confirms the long-standing popularity of this model.