This elegant set of three lacquer-mounted commodes à l'anglaise is a late example of Vandercruse's work, undoubtedly produced for a prominent marchand-mercier.
VANDERCRUSE'S WORK FOR COLLEAGUES AND DEALERS
From the moment he became maître-ébéniste in 1755, the versatile Vandercruse produced a large proportion of his output for other furniture makers or for dealers, often brilliantly adapting his style to their requirements (see C. Roinet, Roger Vandercruse dit La Croix, Paris 2000, pp. 37-112). Initially he worked for the marchand- ébéniste Pierre IV Migeon (1701-1758) for whom he executed floral marquetry pieces in the fashionable Louis XV manner. Soon he was also subcontracted by the Royal cabinet-maker, Gilles Joubert (1689-1773). In the furniture Vandercruse made for the Crown to this ébéniste's specifications he again often had to follow given models, but a more individual style nevertheless began to make itself felt in the grace and lightness of his marquetry and the elegant proportions of his furniture (see H. Roberts, 'Gilles Joubert as subcontractor: some recent discoveries', Furniture History 21 (1985), pp. 32-38). From 1775 he was regularly employed by the foremost marchand-mercier of the time, Simon-Philippe Poirier (c. 1720-1785), for whom he made a wide variety of pieces, including some items mounted with Sèvres porcelain, a particular speciality of Poirier's establishment. Even his furniture produced for this exacting dealer is distinguished by a felicitous lightness of touch; a well-known example is a Sèvres-mounted secrétaire à abattant at Waddesdon Manor, a subtle variation on the model elaborated by Vandercruse's friend and sometime collaborator Martin Carlin (G. de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, Fribourg 1774, pp. 337-341, No. 67). Another famous piece produced for Poirier is the commode à la grecque bought around 1763 by the sixth Earl of Coventry, sold at Christie's New York, 23 October 1998, Lot 125. Again, Carlin's influence is obvious, but Vandercruse's personal signature is unmistakable.
VANDERCRUSE AND DAGUERRE?
In 1777 Poirier handed over the management of his firm to his wife's cousin, Dominique Daguerre, with whom he had been in partnership since 1772. There is no proof that Vandercruse continued to work for Daguerre after this date, but he most probably did. The present exceptional set of three cabinets is unusual in Vandercruse's oeuvre on a number of grounds. He rarely made lacquer-mounted furniture; a further example is a somewhat earlier, more richly mounted commode in a private collection (F. Watson, Louis XVI furniture, London 1960, Fig. 19); this is decorated with marquetry to match the lacquer. The elegant shape with open, rounded corners set with shelves, known as commode à l'anglaise, is again all but unknown in Vandercruse's work. Daguerre was particularly well-known for sumptuous furniture set with Japanese lacquer panels, and in the 1780s a number of exceptional commodes à l'anglaise were produced for, and sold by, him. Most of these were made either by Carlin or Adam Weisweiler, but it may be surmised that Daguerre entrusted this particular and unusual commission to Vandercruse. The three commodes are a sober, chaste interpretation of the fashionable contemporary model, designed to appeal to a very personal and sensitive taste. Undoubtedly designed to stand together in a single room, they are in no way overpowering but would enhance the architecture of any fashionable interior at the very end of the ancien régime. It stands to reason that the possibility that Vandercruse made these pieces for another marchand-mercier cannot be excluded.