Pierre Garnier, 1720-1800, received maître 1742.
With its 'Etruscan' decoration and interlaced Greek-key frieze, this bureau plat reflects the goût Grec style introduced in the 1750s by the architect Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain. Probably working in collaboration with a marchand-mercier such as Simon-Philippe Poirier, Le Lorrain's goût Grec style was first realized in the designs for the celebrated suite of furniture supplied for the Parisian hôtel of the amateur Ange-Laurent Lalive de Jully circa 1755, which included the bureau plat and cartonnier now in the musée Condé at Chantilly, as well as the set of four meubles d'appui including that sold by the Marquess of Cholmondeley, Works of Art from Houghton, Christie's London, 8 December 1994, lot 80.
This magnificent, architectural bureau plat belongs to a celebrated group of five that can be confidently dated to circa 1762-1765 on the basis of drawings executed by the ornemaniste Carmontelle at that time. This model was made in two sizes - 63½ in. and 51 in. wide. The smaller size, of which the Farquhar bureau plat offered here may be the only known example, serves to concentrate the strength of the architectural design. This group comprises:-
-the desk in the collection of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat House, Wiltshire, reputedly owned by Napoleon's Great Chamberlain Talleyrand, which is illustrated in P. Verlet, French Furniture and Decoration of the 18th Century, Fribourg, 1967, p.164, fig. 135.
-a second desk with cartonnier by Garnier (160 cm. wide),supplied to the Mar/aechal duc de Biron and sold by his descendants at Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 9-11 June 1914 and illustrated in François de Salverte, Les Ebénistes du XVIII Siècle, Leurs Oeuvres et Leurs Marques, Paris/Brussels, 1953, pl.XXV. This is now in the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (Alexandre Pradère, Les Ebénistes Français de Louis XIV à la Révolution, Paris, 1989, p.248, fig. 255 and M. Coutinho, 18th Century French Furniture, Lisbon, 1999, no.18).
-a third example, 63½ in. wide, acquired by Henry Huntington in 1911 in the Huntington Collection, Pasadena (illustrated in S. de Ricci, Louis XVI Furniture, p.114 (belonging to Duveen brothers) and in R. Wark, French Decorative Art in the Huntington Collection, San Marino, 1979, p.35, fig.55). This bureeau plat has guilloche-pattern mounts to the legs instead of flutes.
-and a final example recorded in the collection at Schloss Sagan, Silesia (Pantheon, VI, 1930, no.558), dimensions unknown.
The commission of this bureau remains unknown. However, it belongs to the neo-classical goût Grec very much à la mode amongst the Parisian élite of the time. This trend, which appeared around 1755, rapidly grew especially under the influence of the marquis de Ménans, Directeur des bâtiments under Louis XV and brother of Madame de Pompadour.
Marigny regularly employed Garnier, with whom he had an ongoing correspondance and is known to have delivered a lavish bureau invoiced at 1272 Livresfor his cabinet. It is probably the bureau that we find ten years later in the inventory after death of the marquis de Marigny, who had then changed his name to de Ménans. It was described as "Une table en bureau d'acajou tiroirs et ornements de bronze doré, 360 Livres."
These same distinctive handles feature on the pair of commodes related to drawings from Neufforge published in 1768 and not only stamped by both Garnier and Bon Durand, but as well inscribed as well with the names of two compagnons, Gilbert and Schneider. These are dated 1768, and remain in the Swedish Royal Collections at Gripsholm (illustrated in A. Pradère, French Furniture Makers, Paris, 1989, p.249, fig. 257).