Martin Carlin, maître in 1766.
In the early 1780s the Mesdames, the aunts of Louis XVI, embarked on an extensive renovation of the château de Bellevue, during which they ordered sumptuous furniture in ebony, lacquer and mahogany by Martin Carlin from the marchands-merciers Darnault frères. A number of pieces from this extensive order, which included commodes and encoignures, is now in the collection of the Louvre. Some of the most luxurious items delivered were executed in lacquer, however the majority of the pieces were veneered in mahogany and other exotic woods. The cabinet of Madame Adélaïde was one of the rooms that were completely redecorated and where most furnishings were made of woods admired for their natural beauty. Among the pieces delivered in 1782, a table of delicate proportions, was described in an invoice issued by the marchand-mercier Darnault as:
“1 Gueridon de bois d’Acajou a dessus de marbre blanc doré au pourtour.”
Although veneered in the closely related wood bois satiné rather than mahogany, the present table could be the one listed on the above bill. A table identical to the present lot also with the Bellevue inventory mark is in the Musée Nissim de Camondo (Inv. No. 58) and it cannot be determined with certainty whether the table listed on the bill is not the one currently in the museum’s collection (see S. Legrand-Rossi, Le Mobilier du Musée Nissim de Camondo, Dijon, 2012, p. 85). It has been suggested, that these two tables, because of their marble tops, were used for serving coffee or light meals as it was the custom at the time (see F.J.B. Watson, The Wrightsman Collection, vol. I, Greenwich, 1966, p. 218).
Martin Carlin (c.1730-1785), one of the most celebrated ébénistes of the Louis XVI period, is renowned for the jewel-like quality of his furniture. He was part of a group of celebrated German ébénistes who had immigrated to Paris, including Jean-Henri Riesener and Jean-François Oeben, ébéniste du roi. Born in the German principality of Baden circa 1730, it is unclear when Carlin arrived in Paris and where he commenced his activities as a cabinet-maker. In 1759, he married the sister of Oeben and it has been, therefore, generally accepted that he trained in his brother-in-law's workshop. Carlin is listed among Oeben's creditors on the latter's death, emphasizing their professional link but also underlining Oeben's inspirational effect on Carlin, see A. Pradère, Les Ebénistes Français, Paris, 1989, p. 343. Carlin worked exclusively for the marchands-merciers, first for Simon Poirier and then his partner, Dominique Daguerre, who took over the business. Carlin’s close collaboration with them is well-documented and resulted in some of the finest items of French furniture executed in the late eighteenth century.
The château de Bellevue in Meudon, near Paris, was built for Madame de Pompadour in 1750 according to the plans of Jean Cailleteau. Of moderate size, the palace was erected to serve as an intimate hideaway for Louis XV and his mistress, and was aptly named Bellevue after the expansive views of the Seine river one could enjoy from the building’s site. In the late 1750s the estate was transferred to the Crown and the building was refurbished by Ange-Jacques Gabriel. After Louis XV’s death in 1774, the palace was given to the surviving daughters of the late king; mesdames Adélaïde (1732-1800), Victoire,(1733-1799) and Sophie (1734-1782), who re-decorated the building and transformed its gardens. Mesdames Adélaïde and Victoire preferred the relatively simple life at Bellevue and it was the château from where the sisters fled for Italy during the turmoil of the revolution in 1791. The building survived the revolution but was eventually demolished in 1823.