Philippe-Claude Montigny, maitre in 1766.
In the sale which took place in Paris following the death of the Maréchal de Choiseul Stainville are listed two bas d'armoires, of which one had drawers and the other tablettes. The former - almost cetainly the bas d'armoire offered here - was described thus:-
Un bas d'armoire plaqué en ébéne, ouvrant à deux vantaux; l'intérieur renferme neuf tiroirs, dont deux fervent de caiffe; il est richement garni de cadres avec filets rofaces, confoles à têtes de bélier; les cotés avec mufles de lion; le tout en bronze doré & à dessus de marbre blanc. Hauteur 3 pieds 3 pouces, largeur 4 pieds 6 pouces; profondeur 15 pouces 6 lignes.
This description corresponds exactly with this bas d'armoire with the sole exception that the solid doors with their medallions are not mentionned. The inventory taken following the death of the Maréchal in June 1789 provides the reason for this apparent oversight, as it describes precisely, in the cabinet overlooking the boulevard:-
208 deux bas d'armoire bas façon d'ébène à deux portes grillés ornées de masques, baguettes et bandes de forte doré d'or moulu et sur chacunes une tablette de marbre statuaire.
The doors were therefore originally simply grilled with wire trellis.
The circular ormolu medallions found on the ebony doors today are Louis XVI and are chased in an entirely different hand to the other mounts, and the veneer of the panels to the middle of the doors on which they are mounted are also hand cut, consistent with a late 18th or early 19th Century construction. These two elements would point to a hypothesis that the bas d'armoire was therefore modernised shortly after its sale in 1789, conceivably in the late 18th Century but most probably in the early 19th Century.
Placed in context stylistically, this bas d'armoire dates from around 1770. The distinctive early Neoclassical ram's-masks are typical of the goût expounded by the marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier, and can also be found in the oeuvre of ébénistes such as BVRB and Joseph Baumhauer, dit Joseph.
THE MARECHAL'S PARISIAN HOTELS
The Maréchal de Choiseul-Stainville, a passionate conchologist, acquired Lalive de Jully's hôtel de la rue Ménard in February 1770, together with a part of the picture collection and some of the celebrated suite of early 'Gôut grec' ebony furniture executed by Joseph Baumhauer, dit Joseph. Of directly comparable taste to the commode offered here, the Lalive de Jully suite included the bureau plat and cartonnier apparently bought in the de Jully sale of March 1770 by the duc de Chaulnes and now at Chantilly, as well as four bas d'armoires from an original coquillier, which were retained by the Maréchal de Choiseul-Stainville (including that sold by the Marquess of Cholmondeley, Works of Art from Houghton, in these Rooms, 8 December 1994, lot 80). In 1785 the Maréchal acquired a hôtel in the rue d'Artois from the Maréchale de Mirepoix, and it was from this latter hôtel that this commode was sold in 1789. These bas d'armoires were placed in the same room as an ensemble of ebony furniture, which included a bureau plat with a vase clock by Colon; this latter suite of bureau plat, clock and cartonnier is identifiable with that in the collection of the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire (illustrated in situ in Apollo, 1965, fig.3). The Lalive de Jully suite, meanwhile, was moved to his cabinet devoted to natural history on the first floor.
As the inventory description reveals, this cabinet originally had grilled doors, and the ebony doors with their ormolu medallions are clearly chased by a different hand to the other mounts, stylistically placing the alteration to the late 18th or very early 19th century. It is interesting to note, therefore, that this same oval plaque of A Sacrifice to Love - although circular rather than oval - is also thought to have been added in the early 19th Century to two secrétaires by Reisener in the Wallace Collection, London, including that supplied for Marie-Antoinette at the Grand Trianon in 1783 (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection Catalogue - Furniture - II, London, 1996, nos. 198 (F303) and 199 (F302). This theory was first suggested by P. Verlet (Les Bronzes Dorés du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1987, p.335) discussing the sales of the Feuchère foundry between 1824-31. L.-F. Feuchère père was extensively employed by the Garde-Meuble for the restoration and recasting of gilt-bronze, and his sales included both Bronzes anciens et modernes, lot 400 in the 1829 sale being Divers bas-reliefs anciens de Martincourt, seront divisés sous ce numéro.
This same plaque also features on the lacquer secrétaire attributed to Reisener and bought in the early 19th Century by George Watson-Taylor for Erlestoke Mansion, Wiltshire, from where it was sold in 1832. Subsequently at Hamilton Palace, it is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (G. Wilson and C.Hess, Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts, Los Angeles, 2001, no.52).