This pair of cabinets provides an interesting insight into the revival of interest in porcelain-mounted furniture in the second quarter of the 19th Century. Such pieces, mounted with Sèvres porcelain plaques by ébénistes working for the principal marchand-merciers in Paris, were extremely fashionable from the early 1760's through the 1780's and in the 19th century found particular favour with the Rothschild's. A related pair, formerly owned by Jean Charlotte de Rothschild, Baronne Leonino (1874-1929) and subsequently in the René Fribourg Collection, was sold anonymously at Christie's New York, 27 May 1999, lot 340.
Genuine 18th Century plaques were available throughout the 19th Century, sixty-five being available in the Hume sale of 1870 and thirty-four as late as 1895 in the Beurdeley sale. Moreover, several dealers were engaged in both the alteration of existing pieces of Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture, as well as the construction of new pieces to receive 18th Century plaques. Foremost amongst these was the English marchand-mercier Edward Holmes Baldock (active 1830's -1840's), as well as Nicolas Morel and Charles Tatham in England and A. L. Bellangé (circa 1825), Vaché (active in the 1820's) and Jules Piret (in the 1850's) in France.
The secretiare 'commode', like its fall, is embellished in the 1770s Roman fashion with pearl-wreathed tablets and medallions; while its antique-fluted pillars are flowered with palms issuing from sacred veil-draped urns. A related secretaire was exhibited in 1869 at the South Kensington Museum (D. de Ricci, Louis XVI Furniture, Stuttgart, c.1938, p.143)
LORD TWEEDMOUTH'S COLLECTION AT BROOK HOUSE
This 'Louis Seize' secretaire-cabinet and its accompanying cartonnier-cabinet formed part of the 'works of art' furnishings assembled at Brook House, the magnificent Mayfair mansion built in Park Lane in the late 1860s by Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, later Baron Tweedmouth (d.1894). The barrister son of a partner in Coutts Bank, he served as a Director of the East India Company and as a partner in Meux's brewery. His close involvement with the aggrandisement of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) would no doubt have made him aware of the National collection of French furniture, including Sèvres-enriched furniture, then being assembled on behalf of the Museum at the Piccadilly house of the connoisseur John Jones (d.1882). The cabinets, with beautiful bouquets and flower-baskets in Sèvres porcelain, and galleried tops for porcelain display, furnished the fireplace wall of his wife's Boudoir.