Jacques Dubois, maître in 1742.
Similarly to lots 17 and 23 in this sale, the present casket is a representation of both eighteenth-century French high society’s fascination with Asia as well as the inventiveness of the marchands-merciers, who created the most lavish and curious objets montés and objets de luxe. Asian lacquer, prized for its delicate decoration and polished surface, was among the highly-coveted exotic and fashionable works of art imported to Europe by the Portuguese and Dutch East India Companies from the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century onwards. Lacquerware appears in the collections of some European monarchs prior to this date, traded by individual missions, such as ‘divers objets façons Inde,’ listed in 1560 in the inventory of the collection of François I, see A. Forray-Carlier, Les Secrets de la Lacque Française, Paris, 2014, p. 12. Japanese lacquer, an already highly-prized commodity in the first half of the 1600s, became even more of a matériau de luxe when Japan's relations with the rest of the world were severed in 1639, and the country preserved only very limited trade relations with China and the Netherlands through the port of Nagasaki. In the 1700s, due to these trade restrictions, lacquer became almost exclusive to the trade of the marchands-merciers, who paid large sums to adorn the most precious objets d'art with them. Such objets en lacque were often used by marchands-merciers such as Lazare Duvaux, who would restore old Japanese lacquer pieces and create new confections. These stunning combinations were very much favored by famed patrons like Madame de Pompadour, who is well-known for her taste for Asian, and particularly Japanese, lacquer, and who owned a large quantity of such boxes and caskets commissioned by Duvaux.
This casket is stamped by the ébéniste Jacques Dubois (1694-1763), who, like BVRB, specialized in luxurious furniture mounted with Asian lacquer. Whilst his career is thinly documented, he is known to have initially worked with his half-brother Noël Gerard from the late 1720s, the latter acting as witness to his marriage in Paris in 1730. Established in the rue de Charenton, Dubois enjoyed the privileges of an ouvrier libre or ouvrier privilegié and was thus unfettered by the strict guild regulations endured by his fellow ébénistes. Dubois worked in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine before achieving his maîtrise. Elected a juré of the guild in 1752, he was one of the most prolific cabinet-makers in the Louis XV period and is known to have collaborated with the marchands-merciers Jean-Jacques Machart, Bertin and Pierre I Migeon. As the Inventory taken following his death in 1763 clearly testifies, his workshop included a small group of costly pieces in Japanese and Chinese lacquer, such as 'un bureau en lac de Chine' and 'un petite secrétaire en lac de japon' each valued at 200 livres.
ARTHUR GEORGES VEIL-PICARD
Arthur Georges Veil-Picard (1854-1944), described as ‘Le Premier amateur de Paris’ by René Gimpel in 1918, was one of the greatest collectors of ‘la Belle Epoque’. He was a passionate collector of 18th-century paintings, drawings and miniatures and assembled an extraordinary collection over forty years in his hôtel particulier de la plaine Monceau at 63 rue de Courcelles. Sadly, the hôtel was destroyed in 1970 after his furniture, boiseries and chandeliers had been sold at auction.