Bernard II van Risenburgh, matre in 1730.
The C couronn poinon was a tax mark used in France between March 1745 and February 1749 on any alloy containing copper.
The son of a cabinet-maker of Dutch origin, Bernard II van Risenburgh is arguably the most celebrated bniste of the Rococo period. Elected matre in October 1730, van Risenburgh established his workshop independently of his father's in the Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, where he began to produce furniture distinguished principally by the extraordinary quality of its conception, construction and innovative ormolu mounts. Throughout his career, BVRB worked almost exclusively for the marchand-merciers and, unlike many of his contemporaries, he had almost no direct contact with his illustrious private clientele. In this respect, he is singularly a product of the marchand-mercier system. It was through the intervention of the well-known marchands for whom BVRB worked, therefore, particularly Thomas-Joachim Hbert and, subsequently from the mid-1750s Lazare Duvaux and Simon-Philippe Poirier, that his furniture was delivered to the principal patrons of the day - foremost amongst them being the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne.
BVRB is perhaps most celebrated for the employment of innovative materials in his furniture, particularly panels of Chinese and Japanese lacquer and, subsequently Svres porcelain plaques, all of which he obtained through the marchand-merciers. Indeed, the commode made by BVRB and supplied by Hbert for Queen Marie Lesczyinska's use at Fontainebleau in 1737 is the earliet example of lacquer-mounted furniture delivered to the Garde-Meuble. Likewise, he is also renowned for the extraordinary design, burnishing and chasing of his ormolu mounts, which are uniquely found amongst his oeuvre and do not recur, as was typically the case, on furniture by other makers. It is assumed, therefore, that he either designed and cast his own mounts - a rare practice for an bniste of the period and in direct contravention of the strict guild regulations - or that they were reserved by the bronzier for his exclusive use.
The Rothschild Commode
Almost certainly supplied under the direction of the marchand-mercier Thomas-Joachim Hbert, this magnificent commode, though unstamped, displays all of the characteristics of BVRB - particularly the distinctive drawer construction and the ormolu mounts, which can be found elsewhere in his documented oeuvre. What is perhaps most intriguing is that these specific angle mounts are first, and perhaps only recorded elsewhere on the bureau plat supplied to the Dauphin at Versailles. Delivered on the 18 February 1745, the entry in the Garde-Meuble states:- Livr par le sieur Hebert, marchand bijoutier. Pour servir dans le grand Cabinet de Monsieur le Dauphin Versailles. No.1347. Un beau bureau de marqueterie.......enrichi d'un carderon, encoignures, entres de serrures, agraffes, moulures et pieds de bronze dor d'or moulu (P. Verlet, Le Mobilier Royal Franais, vol. II, Picard, 1992, no. 3, pp. 50-51, pl. III). Similarly, the rocaille C-scroll encadrements, as well as the asymmetrical shell-clasp to the apron are all shared on the Japanese lacquer commode from the Embiricos collection, also unstamped, which was sold anonymously at Sotheby's New York, 3 May 1986, lot 108 ($1,056,000).
Stamped thirty times with the C couronn poinon on each separately-cast mount, the Rothschild commode was undoubtedly constructed between 1745-9 and was in all probability supplied only very shortly after the Dauphin's bureau plat. With its bold, sculptural mounts, the Rothschild commode belongs to a celebrated group of large lacquer-mounted commodes, predominantly in Japanese but also in Chinese lacquer, comprising: that supplied by Hbert on 23 January 1745 to the Dauphine Maria-Theresa Rafaella at Versailles; that in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle; that at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome, which was supplied to Madame Infante of Parma between 1748 and 1753; two further commodes exhibited at the Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, in 1946; the Embiricos commode cited above; another with Chinese lacquer sold by the Luton Hoo Foundation, Christie's London, 11 June 1992, lot 73 ($1,201,020); and a final example commissioned circa 1755 by the minister Machault-D'Arnouville, which is to be offered at Christie's Monaco, 19 June 1999. What makes the Rothschild commode stand out from this group is that instead of the more usual tripartite encadrement frame to the lacquer, with its flower-trailed central cartouche, the richly decorated lacquer panels of the Rothschild commode are undisturbed. The Embiricos commode stylistically represents a bridge between these designs, as its encadrement issues sparing foliate sprigs on the upper drawer which visually relate to the flowers in the lacquer decoration.
Interestingly, the Rothschild commode would appear to be probably the earliest made after that supplied to the Dauphine at Versailles on 23 January 1745, as it is the only example from this group whose mounts are known to be stamped with the C couronn poinon. The mounts used on the Windsor Castle and Quirinale commodes were, however, certainly a model that existed in the late 1740s, as they appear on a marquetry commode by B.V.R.B in the Rothschild collection at Exbury, which is similarly stamped with the C couronn poinon (A. Gonzlez-Palacios, Gli Arredi Francesi, Milan, 1995, p. 315, note 3).