Claude Mathieu Magnien, maître in 1771.
This striking secrétaire à motifs d’architecture forms part of a group of furniture decorated with marquetry panels depicting classical capricci and views of Rome. These marquetry panels were admired for their painterly effect and evoked memories of sights seen and sensations experienced while on the Grand Tour. Architectural marquetry panels were often inspired by the works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) and Hubert Robert (1733-1808), while other pictorial marquetry panels featuring arcaded ruins were often based on engraved sources, for instance a series of eight engravings by P.-F. Basan, derived from a painting by P.-A. de Machy (1723-1807), who was acknowledged as an expert painter of architecture and ruins: in L’Avant-Coureur, 23 January 1764, he was described as ‘l’unique en ce genre’ (G. de Bellaigue, 'Ruins in Marquetry', Apollo, January 1968, p. 20). These pictorial marquetry panels are frequently very closely related while being stamped by various ébénistes, rendering a firm attribution to the marquetry difficult. It has been convincingly suggested that specialist marqueteurs, such as Christophe Wolff (maître in 1755), Charles Topino (maître in 1773) and André-Louis Gilbert (maître in 1774), supplied marquetry panels to other ébénistes to construct their own furniture around (G. de Bellaigue, 'Engravings and the French Eighteenth-Century Marqueteur', Burlington Magazine, May 1965, pp. 240-250 and July 1965, pp. 356-363). This is almost certainly the case for the present secrétaire stamped by Claude Mathieu Magnien, who, in addition to his own atelier, also ran a magasin de toutes sortes de meubles where it is possible he stamped furniture by other craftsmen (P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIème siècle, Paris, 1989, p. 542).