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Like so many of the great 18th century furniture makers in France, François Linke (1855-1946) was not a native Frenchman. Celebrated by French commentators as one of the greatest ébénistes of meubles de style at the turn of the century, Linke arrived in Paris at some point in the 1870s after having begun his training in his native Bohemia and serving his apprenticeship in Austria. By 1881 he was in a position to establish his own small workshop in the area in Paris most associated with the manufacture of furniture, at 170 rue du Faubourg St Antoine. During the next 20 years his business expanded steadily as he produced fine quality furniture, taking 18th century styles as his starting point and, when not copying directly, adapting earlier styles to contemporary taste. He does not appear to have taken part in any significant exhibitions until the great Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900 where he was awarded a gold medal and firmly established his reputation.
The highly original designs and the magnificence of the craftsmanship were what captured the attention of the many rich and famous visitors to the exhibition. The models sprang from the Régence and Rococo styles but were invested with something quite new; they are full of Rococo curves but laden with gilt-bronze sculptural mounts more in the tradition of A.-C. Boulle (1642-1732) or Charles Cressent (1685-1758). It is principally the mounts - or rather sculpture - that characterizes the finest pieces from the Linke workshops. The most original pieces were almost certainly created in collaboration with the enigmatic sculptor Léon Messagé. Although cited in reviews of the time as being well known little information exists about Messagé himself. He may have worked with Emmanuel Zwiener and other significant makers before starting his collaboration with Linke, and he published some of his designs in 1890. Messagé excelled in creating lively, high relief, allegorical figures and groups recalling the styles of Boucher and Falconet, linked by delicate organic frames of gilded bronze flowers, shells and foliage.
The year after the 1900 and up to the start of World War I were those of Linke's greatest success and prosperity, so much so that he opened a showroom in the fashionable Place Vendôme. Linke's business survived until World War II although the popularity of the styles of the ancien régime were by in then in decline. Linke died at the venerable age of 91.