PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
A CLOCK AND PAIR OF CANDELABRA WITH CHINOISERIE FIGURES ATTRIBUTED TO THE MARTIN BROTHERS (LOTS 153-154)
The exotically decorated chinoiserie clock and pair of candelabra of the following two lots, with their lacquered bronze figures painted to imitate the most expensive 17th century Japanese lacquer, reflect one of the most sophisticated phases of the goût Chinois of the 1730's and 1740's. Interestingly, with the exception of the clock on a cartonnier by BVRB in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, none of the objets d'art incorporating these laquered bronze figures are marked with the 'C' couronné poinçon, meaning they must pre-date 1745 when that mark was introduced.
This taste for exotic, luxury goods was promoted above all by fashionable marchands merciers such as Lazare Duvaux, the favourite dealer of Madame de Pompadour, whose passion for chinoiserie and Japanese lacquer in particular is well-documented, Thomas-Joachim Hébert and Simon-Philippe Poirier.
Such figures are usually associated with the famous vernisseurs Martin frères, who were granted a Royal patent to protect their vernis technique. This was further enhanced by a renewed patent in 1744 for lacquer wares 'en relief dans le goût du Japon et de la Chine', and by 1748 they had opened the Manufacture Royal de vernis de la Chine.
It is fascinating to note with this respect the clock listed as lot 188 in the celebrated sale of Monsieur Gaignat's collection in 1768, described as
-Une tres belle et grande pendule...ornée de plusieurs figures représentant des magots vernis par Martin, imitant le laque...
A direct link between the Martin frères and the marchand mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier is suggested by the following prefatory sentence to the catalogue:
-...des Porcelaines rares et anciennes, tant du Japon que de la Chine, de Saxe & de France; Effets de Laques, Meubles Précieux & Bijoux, par S. Ph. Poirier, Marchand.
It is also known that the Martin frères worked for Thomas-Joachim Hébert, who was responsible for the delivery of some of the first lacquer commodes to the Garde Meuble de la Couronne and thus was instrumental in promoting the taste for chinoiserie.
However, as Carolyn Sargentson has convincingly argued in her exhaustive study of the subject (Merchants and Luxury Markets: The Marchands Merciers of Eighteenth Century Paris, London, 1996), there must have been a number of other unknown craftsmen supplying similar figures to the marchand merciers to satisfy the craze for chinoiserie, to the extent that by the 1740's the Martin brothers were suffering from widespread competition.
Such lacquered bronze figures evidently enjoyed tremendous success among the sophisticated collectors of the day, as a number are recorded in contemporary inventories, frequently described as being of 'laque de Martin', for instance a pot pourri recorded in 1738 in the collection of Maréchal d'Estrées, a pair of presse papiers and a clock in 1740 in the collection of the prince de Condé, and a 'pierre à papier' in the collection of Julienne in 1767.
The fascination with the East among the German rulers of the time is also well-documented, and it is interesting to note a similar garniture of a clock and pair of candelabra with lacquered bronze chinoiserie figures in the Residenz, Munich (illustrated in B. Langer, Die Möbel der Residenz München: Die Französischen Möbel des 18. Jahrhunderts, Munich, 1995, p. 106). These were presumably ordered in Paris around the same time as a superb group of lacquer furniture by Bernard II van Risenburgh, recorded at the Residenz as early as an inventory of 1769.
For an exhaustive analysis of objets d'art with laquered bronze figures, see T. Wolvesperges, 'A propos d'une pendule aux magots en vernis Martin du Musée du Louvre provenant de la collection Grog-Carven', Revue du Louvre, 2001, pp. 67-78.
THE FIGURES ATTRIBUTED TO THE MARTIN BROTHERS, CIRCA 1740