This magnificent Boulle marquetry commode is an important addition to the oeuvre of the marchand-bniste Nicolas Sageot (1666-1731). Conceived for a bedroom-apartment and boulle-enriched in the Louis XIV 'Versailles' fashion, the top of this 'Pier Commode Table' is shaped in the manner of a Roman tablet with eared and rounded corners and its shell veneer is inlaid with a golden filigree of Roman acanthus and medallion vignette, that celebrates 'Love's Triumph' and recalls the arabesque designs of Jean Brain (d.1711). A related deity and basket-bearing figure feature on the 'Les Attributs de la Marine' tapestry woven to Brain's design in the late 1680's; while the commode's Berainesque ornament also relates to patterns issued in Paul Decker's 'Neues Groteschgen Werk', Augsburg, 1705 (see A. Gruber, L'art dcoratif en Europe, Paris, 1992, pp. 187 and 189). Torch-bearing Cupid guides Venus, whose swan-drawn 'shell' is accompanied by winged loves and a basket-bearing attendant symbolising Peace and Plenty. The relief of the Nature deity, borne in a triumphal chariot in a reed-gadrooned basin of silvery water, is festooned with lambrequined drapery suspended from sumptuous ribbon-tied Roman acanthus, whose whorled tendrils are tied by floral festoons in the spandrels of the commode. The top, bordered by brass reed-gadroons, is wreathed by festive ribbons and has the rare feature of a delicately drawn twisted ribbon-guilloche border. This richly foliated commode has a 'triumphal arch' facade, whose central trompe-l'oeil pilaster is hung with masks of the shell-crowned nature deity; and a flowered mask on the lambrequined apron. The overall form and tablet top recalls designs for commodes by Andr-Charles Boulle in his Nouveaux Desseins de meubles et ouvrages de bronze, published by Mariette after 1707. Horns of plenty or Ceres' cornucopiae issue from the pan-hermed brackets of the reed-gadrooned handles, while the flowered foliage of the drawer tables are centered by fruit-tazze and framed by trellised brass ribbons. The corner pilasters are similarly inlaid with foliage framing a sky-blue lozenged and floral-trellised 'mosaic' compartment, while sunflowers are displayed at the sides within lozenged compartments and arch-headed tablets, and shells supported by Roman foliage embellish the trellised sabots.
The discovery of Sageot's stamp on this commode now firmly links a small group of commodes to the atelier of this little known maker, all of closely related form and decoration, with the same distinctive dual-scrolled feet and marquetry to the drawer fronts, with flower-filled urns issuing delicately scrolling foliage (see P. Grand, 'Le Mobilier Boulle et les ateliers de l'poque',
Estampille/L'Objet d'Art, February 1993, pp. 60-1).
The possibility that Sageot, an active marchand, was the retailer for these distinctive commodes rather than the actual maker, should also be considered. This is indicated by the existence of two further commodes of this form, both stamped with the initials 'AG' (one sold Etude Tajan, Paris, 25 June 1996, lot 183 and one sold from the property of a European Collector, Christie's New York, 21 October 1997, lot 31). The stamp 'AG' is almost certainly that of the bniste Aubertin Gaudron who supplied the Garde Meuble between 1686 and 1713, and it is certainly possible that Sageot acted in the capacity of retailer for Gaudron. It is also interesting to note a further commode, attributed to Alexandre-Jean Oppenordt, bniste du Roi, with the same marquetry pattern to the top as the Clumber commode, but without the central tablet, bearing the name 'Comte de Contades' and identified with 'une commode de Boule...', listed in the 1790 inventory of the chteau de Bercy (offered in these rooms, 15 June 1995, lot 50).
First recorded in Paris in 1698, Sageot achieved his matrise in 1706 and was based in the faubourg Saint-Antoine. He evidently rapidly expanded his business, as by 1711 he had 12,000 livres, almost all in stock-in-trade.The extensive nature of his business is revealed by the sale in 1720 to Lonard Prieur 'Marchand Mercier Grossier Joaillier Privilegi suivant la Cour' of 16,000 livres worth of furniture, consisting of a wide range of armoires, bureaux and commodes. In the same year he sold 12,000 livres worth of bois de menuiserie to Claude Franois de Maignat, marchand de bois, consisting mainly of oak, pine and limewood. It is worth noting that most of Sageot's case pieces employ a pine drawer construction, therefore the finely crafted walnut drawers of the Clumber commode point to a particularly prestigious commission.
Only four other pieces signed by Sageot are known to exist, an armoire, sold Drouot, Paris, 20 December 1988, lot 94, a bureau mazarin in the Swedish Royal collection, and a pair of armoires sold Christie's London, 17 June 1987 (see Grand, op. cit., pp. 49-53).
This commode was probably acquired by the 4th Duke of Newcastle, who inherited the title in 1794 at the tender age of ten. A noted francophile, he even spent four years in a French jail while travelling in France at the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars. Clumber Park had been built in a fashionable Palladian style in 1760 for the 1st Duke to designs by the architect Stephen Wright. The 4th Duke commissioned the architect Sidney Smirke to add a new library in 1829 and it was probably around this time that the commode was acquired, a period following the upheaval of the Napoleonic wars when many of the great English collections of French furniture were being formed. A view of the library in a 1908 Country Life article on Clumber hints at the original magnificence of the collection. Clumber was eventually demolished in 1938, its remaining contents being sold by Christie's in 1937.