Ferndinand Bury, maître in 1774.
This magnificent bureau à cylindre formed part of two of the most famed collections formed in the 19th century, those of Prince Anatole Demidoff (1812 - 1870), and the French Rothschilds.
PRINCE ANATOLE DEMIDOFF
Anatole was born into an immensly wealthy mining and refinery family that originated from the Ural. His father Nicolas Demidoff had, however, already taken residence in Paris at the hôtel Montholon in 1802 and the hôtel de Montesson in 1811 and left Russia permanently in 1815. Upon his wife's death in 1818 he commissioned his new residence San Donato in Florence and filled it fervently with fantastic art works available on the market at the time. Upon the death of Nicolas in 1828, Anatole divided his life between Paris and San Donato. His passion for Napoleon Bonaparte led to his marriage with Princess Mathilde, daughter of Napoleon's brother Jérôme, in 1840. His enormous art collection at San Donato was sold in Paris in 1863, 1868 and 1870 (fourteen salons) and in Florence in 1880. In the sale of 1870 this bureau à cylindre is described: Grand et beau bureau à cylinde, du temps de Louis XVI, en bois de rose, garni d'ornements en bronze ciselé et doré, et avec dessus en marbre blanc. La frise supérieure est ornée de draperies; le cylindre présente un médallion ovale, en marqueterie à quadrilles, et les parties cintrées sont ornées de lauriers en bronze ciselé et doré
Haut., 1 mèt. 26 cent.; larg., 1 mèt. 45 cent..
BARON ALPHONSE DE ROTHSCHILD
This bureau à cylindre was purchased by Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (1827 - 1905) in the sale in Paris in 1870. The origins of the French Rothschild art collections and the wealth that allowed them to be both acquired and built go back to Alphonse's father Baron James (1760 - 1868), the youngest of the five brothers, or 'arrows', of the second generation of Rothschilds. It was James who helped found MM de Rothschild Frères in Paris in 1817 and who after the death of his London-based brother Nathan in 1836 became primus inter pares, the foremost member of his generation in the family. His marriage to the highly intelligent, cultured and beautiful Betty in 1824 coincided with the purchase and development of major properties in and around Paris. It was probably the château de Ferrières that was James's most majestic construction. Purchased in 1829 it was transformed between 1853 - 1863 by Joseph Paxton. The design of the interior was left to Eugène Lami who worked closely with Baroness Betty - grand portraits in the hall, Gobelins tapestries in the gallery above, 17th Century painted leather panels from Pommersfelden in the Salon des familles, placed within frameworks and fixtures of Languedoc marble, antique Pyrenean granite, natural and ebonised woods, all embellished with commissions from living artists such as the sculptor Cordier and the painter Rousseau, helped to create an extraordinary environment redolent of the Renaissance and Louis XIV. Ferrières became more of a palace than a château and reflected James's rise to the very heights of French society.
On James's death in 1868 Alphonse inherited not only the management of the Rothschild concerns in France which he ran with his brothers, but also his father's financial and political skills. He inherited also the château de Ferrières as well as his Paris residence at 2 rue Saint-Florentin where he had been living since 1857, the year of his marriage to his English cousin Leonora. Although Alphonse bought a certain number of Dutch 17th Century and French 18th Century pictures, it was towards the decorative arts that he concentrated his most assiduous pursuits. The extent and continuity of Alphonse's purchasing is borne out by the comptes courants, or accounts ledgers, of the French Rothschilds from 1870 - 1905 which show that Alphonse continued to add to his collection with as much energy and as copiously in the last years of his life as he did in earlier years.
This bureau à cylindre uses the various juxtaposed parquetry patterns divided by ormolu banding and centered by a raised oval medallion so characteristic of Ferndinand Bury. Bury (1740 - 1795) became maître in 1774 and worked in the rue de Charonne, and was active until 1789 when he filed for bankruptcy. The papers filed at that point reveal that he employed the fondeur Antoine-André Ravrio for the bronzes of his furniture. They further reveal that he retailed furniture through marchands-merciers such as Bonnemain, Mathieu Law, Gavanet and Jean-Baptiste Tuart.
The existence of the Bury's stamp in conjunction with Jean-Henri Riesener's stamp on a commode that bears the brand for the château de Versailles, indicates that the two collaborated occasionally (D. Alcouffe, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Dijon, 1993, p. 269). Interestingly that commode bears distinct resemblance to Bury's oeuvre, suggesting that it was Riesener who sub-contracted the work to Bury.
As marchand he flourished under the patronage of the prince of Nassau, the marquis de Marigny, the marquis de Mailly-Nesle and the duc de Brissac. The rich ormolu mounts on the offered lot further remind of mounts used by Carlin, suggesting that Bury possibly also worked for the same marchand-mercier as Carlin, namely Dominique Daguerre.
Several bureaux à cylindre that are stamped by Bury also bear the stamp of Jean-Baptiste Tuart (one example in the Espirito Santo collection, sold Christie's, London, 12 December 1996, lot 99, and another anonymously, Sotheby's, Monaco, 17 June 1988, lot 733), who was not only a marchand, but also an ébéniste in his own right.