Pierre Garnier, matre in 1742.
Charles Erdman Richter, matre in 1784.
This commode formed part of an important suite of furniture in the 18th Century, including amongst others another smaller commode that was to be placed between two windows and which was sold Sotheby's Monaco, 23 June 1985, lot 902. The smaller commode had also been heightened (as had this one) and had its ormolu decoration to the base slightly altered; changes undertaken probably in the late 19th Century when the two pieces belonged to the same collector and stood in a room of generous proportions. The shape of both commodes, being extremely architectural, possibly evokes the form of a pole; furthermore the floral and fruiting garlands which decorate the two central drawers, recalling abundance and fertility, indicate that this commode was probably conceived for a dining-room.
A first design by Alexandre-Thodore Brongniart is of the room of the Princesse de Monaco in her htel in the rue Saint Dominique (now the Embassy of Poland). In that room (see the design) two commodes decorated with columns flank a bed. They are descibed in 1790 standing opposite a fire-place of marbre griotte d'Italie: Une commode en chne, revtue de marbre rouge d'Italie et tablette, idem, imitant parfaitement la chemine, trois tiroirs en chne placqu en bois satin sur le devant. Entre les deux croises une chiffonire en chne revtue de marbre... That is where the proof is given that Brongniart designed this type of furniture. Further, the billiard room of the same htel had a tle stove to which an oak armoire, painted to simulate the stove, was matched. The htel de Monaco was built between 1774 and 1778 for Marie-Catherine de Brignolle (1738 - 1813), separated wife of the Prince de Monaco and later the matresse of the Prince de Cond.
The second drawing illustrates two commodes that are similar in spirit to the aforementioned but which are even more closely related to the Garnier commode. They are depicted in a small bedroom on the first floor, flanking the bed, and also function as stands for youths carrying flower baskets. These commodes display very obvious similarities to the Garnier commode:
- the same overall shape
- columned angles
- Ionic capitals
- floral or fruiting garlands
- spirally turned tapering legs
This second project was executed by Alexandre-Thodore Brongniart for M. Taillepied de Bondy, receveur-gnral des finances of Auch, shortly after 1780. This little studied htel was built at the corner of the rue de Richelieu and Boulevard and, richly decorated by the architect, transformed into a caf after the Revolution but was completely demolished in 1836.
A student of Boulle, Brongniart became a real estate developer in the newly constructed district of Chausse d'Antin. Starting in 1770, he built the htel of Madame de Montesson and then the Pavillon of her husband, the Duc d'Orlans. Talented architect but also interior decorator, he carefully fostered relations and became the builder for the htels of Mlle Derevieux, of Radix de Sainte-Foix, the Princesse de Bourbon Cond, of Prince Massereno and of the Marquis de Montesquiou.
Pierre Garnier (circa 1725 - 1806)
Matre in 1742 and active in the rue Neuve des Petits Champs, Pierre Garnier was one of the protagonists of the return to antiquity. He exhibited a neoclassical piece of furniture after a design by the architect Charles de Wailly in the Salon of 1761. Recommended by Madame Geoffrin (see also lot 120 in this sale) and mentioned in the 'Tablettes Royales des Renomms' in 1772, he was the bniste of the Marquis de Marigny (brother of Madame de Pompadour) but also of Madame du Barry, Madame de Brunoy, Duchesse de Bourbon and the Duchesse de Mazarin.
Tranformation of the Commode
This commode as well as the smaller commode from the 1985 sale underwent an alteration during the 19th Century that included:
- the ebonising of the whole surface. Some very minor traces of the ebonising are still visible in some of the angles and corners.
- the addition of a plinth below the paterae frieze. This plinth has recently been removed to return the commode to its original height. This additional plinth, which still survives, was interestingly veneered in ebony and had subsequently been re-veneered in mahogany to blend in with the surface of the rest of the commode when the ebonising was removed.
- the removing of the original, probably foliate scrolling, ormolu frieze-mount below the drawers and replacing it with a band of paterae.
The stamp of Charles Erdman Richter (1745 - 1829), which does not feature on the other recorded commode, was probably applied in the very late 18th or early 19th Century during a restoration.