Nicholas Denis Delaisement maître, in 1776.
The incredibly refined design of this suite, their frames with finely carved oakleaves and lion’s mask terminals, reflects the fashionable court taste for sophisticated neo-classical designs. Jacques Goindoin (1737-1818) architect and dessinateur de la couronne, was one of its main proponents, and designed a suite of seat furniture that was supplied to Marie Antoinette for the Belvedere at Versailles. A bergère from this suite by François Foliot was sold anonymously at Christie’s, London 9 July 2018, lot 18 (£1,762,500). Another royal chair by Georges Jacob also shares these characteristics. It was provided for Marie Antoinette’s boudoir at Versailles (V5183) and similar to the present lot, has a related form and decoration though with arm terminals carved with dog’s heads.
It is thought that this suite was originally purchased by George Capel-Coningsby (1757-1839), 5th Earl of Essex, in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century. He had embarked on an ambitious renovation of his family seat, Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire, upon assuming the title in 1799 and hired the architect James Wyatt and the landscaper Humphrey Repton. The link to Cassiobury Park is from Geoffrey de Bellaigue, the author of the catalogues of the James A. de Rothschild Collection and is based on a manuscript note of Miss Alice de Rothschild (d.1922). He tentatively identifies it with lot 93 in the catalogue of a small group of mostly boulle furniture that was sold by the 6th Earl of Essex at Christie’s, London, 12 May 1893. The suite had been previously in the collection of Sir Anthony de Rothschild and sold at Christie’s in 1923. However, a stronger link to the 5th Earl of Essex appears in an 1883 auction of the contents of the Belgrave Square home of the Dowager Countess of Essex, the 5th Earl’s considerably younger second wife. The furniture was almost entirely French, and described as Louis XVI ‘carved and painted.’ Though too vague to connect to the present suite, it does suggests that it was at least part of the 5th Earl’s early 19th century purchase.
This pair of fauteuils and canapés were originally part of a larger suite which in the 18th century comprised at least three canapés, eight fauteuils, two bergères and a firescreen of which only part is currently known (C. Packer, Paris Furniture, Newport, 1956, fig.213). That group includes another pair of fauteuils formerly in the Elizabeth Severance Prentiss collection and now at Cleveland Museum of Art (1994.019), a canapé in a private collection which was in the Anthony de Rothschild sale at Christie’s, London in 1923 and a firescreen in the James A. de Rothschild collection at Waddesdon Manor (Inv. 2545). Another pair of fauteuils and a pair of bergères, both of which are now in private collections, were sold in the sold from the Collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson at Christie’s, London, 8 December 1994 (lots 536-540).
THE DE BEAUMONT COLLECTION
The collection of furniture formed by the wealthy American expatriate Louis de Beaumont and his wife at the villa Eilenroc was extraordinary in that the majority of its best elements had been acquired in just two major sales at Christie's in London during the 1920s, both of which were held for members of the Rothschild family. Several, like this suite, were acquired at the sale in June 1923, following the death of Sir Anthony de Rothschild. Others were bought in May 1925 at the sale following the death of Almina, Countess of Carnarvon, daughter of Alfred de Rothschild. This suite of seat-furniture was the first of these elements to leave the villa Eilenroc until its contents were dispersed at Sotheby's Monaco, 4-6 December 1992, following the death of Mme. de Beaumont.