The stamp of Jacob D. R. Meslee was used by François-Honoré-Georges Jacob and Georges Jacob between 1803 and 1813.
This magnificent pair of cabinets, incorporating panels of the finest 17th Century Japanese lacquer and jewel-like ormolu mounts, is conceived in the 18th Century tradition of the French marchands-merciers, a style evidently continued here by François-Honoré Jacob-Desmalter. Jacob-Desmalter was married to Adélaide-Anne, the daughter of the marchand Martin-Eloi Lignereux (1750-1809) in 1798. During the 1780's Lignereux was made a partner in the firm of the celebrated marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre and, upon Daguerre's retirement in 1793 was instrumental in the running of the business. It is therefore safe to assume that there would have been significant contact between Lignereux and Jacob-Desmalter. This influence is fundamental in the design of this pair of cabinets, continuing the tradition of re-using exceptional Japanese lacquer so successfully promoted by the marchands-merciers and executed under their direction by ébénistes such as Adam Weisweiler and Martin Carlin.
Daguerre, successor to Simon-Philippe Poirier's atelier, supplied many of the greatest collections assembled by the English aristocracy, particularly the Prince Regent, later George IV from his shop in Piccadilly, which he opened in the mid-1780's. This flow of furniture from France to England stopped abruptly during the French Revolution, but the Peace of Amiens in 1803 briefly opened the channels again and the English aristocracy flocked to Paris. It was during this respite that the Earl of Elgin, William Beckford and the Earl of Malmesbury made a number of significant purchases from Lignereux. This respite was quickly followed by the Napoleonic wars, which again prevented the English buying in France and it was not until ten years later that the English aristocracy started buying in Paris again.
As the surviving bills in the Longleat archives reveal, Thomas, 2nd Marquess of Bath travelled to Paris and purchased, on 24 August 1814, a pair of candelabra from Duval, an ormolu shade for three lights from Ravio, a case to pack a clock bought from Bochon, a Buhl cabinet bought from Maigret, and a pair of lamps for the Billiard Room from 'Jacob d'Emalter'. In view of the direct relationship that obviously existed by 1814, it seems more than probable that these cabinets were also purchased by the 2nd Marquess directly from Jacob frères, particularly as the date of the stamp employed would suggest that they were made just before trading resumed.
These cabinets are very much in the French tradition established by Joseph Baumhauer, dit Joseph in the cabinets he supplied to the duc d'Aumont, circa 1770 (Musée du château de Versailles). This legacy found particular favour amongst English collectors in the early 19th Century, and can be seen for instance in the pair of cabinets-on-stand executed by Vulliamy in 1803 for William Beckford out of the 'Buys' Japanese lacquer box (H. Roberts, 'Beckford, Vulliamy and Old Japan', Apollo, October 1986, pp. 338-9, fig. 1, pl. XIII and O. Impey and J. Whithead, 'Observations on Japanese Lacquer in the Collection of William Beckford', in D. Ostergard ed., William Beckford, 1760-1844: An eye for the Magnificent Yale, 2001, p. 216), whilst this basic form of marchand-mercier pier cabinets also found favour with the Prince Regent, later George IV, as can be seen by the pair of pietra dura cabinets supplied by Lignereux in 1803 (illustrated in H. Roberts, For the King's Pleasure, London, 2001, p.163, fig. 190).