THE CARVED ORNAMENT
This exuberantly carved console table is embellished with lozenge-trellised tablets and a flower-festooned cartouche displaying the nature deity's 'shell' badge. Serpent-tailed and garland-bearing 'draco' or dragons, emblematic of fire are perched on the consoles' hollowed and volute-scrolled trusses; while their wave-scrolled stretcher-tie displays a 'Water' trophy, comprised of Venus's net-draped shell held by the deity's embowed dolphins emerging from reeds.
DESIGN SOURCES FOR THE CONSOLE
The composition of this dynamically carved console evolved from a Louis XIV 'Roman' marble table pattern issued in the mid-1670's by Jean le Pautre, and depicting Arcadian sphynx perched on acanthus-wrapped trusses (Livre de Miroirs, Tables et Gueridons, Paris, n.d.,pl. 3). A pattern for a closely related shell-enriched table, supported by draco-twined consoles, was invented by Nicolas Pineau and issued in J.J. Mariette's Nouveaux Desseins de Pieds de Tables et de Vases et Consoles de sculpture en bois, Paris, 1734, pl.5. However, dragon-carved consoles feature prominently on a table pattern, evoking Roman virtue, that was invented by the carver/sculptor Jean Bernard Tureau, called Toro (d.1731) and issued in Livres de Tables de Diverses Formes, 1716, published under the auspices of the court architect Charles-Nicolas Lepas-Dubuisson. A celebrated sculptor born in Toulon and influenced by Pierre Puget, his oeuvre is stylistically characterized by a great sense of original inspriation and fine quality of carving. A favored motif which appears repeatedly in numerous variations is that of entwined dragons such as those found on this lot.
Another possible design source is an engraving by the sculptor François Roumier (d.1748) illustrating a console of very close design with sphinxes rising from the legs of the console (Paris, Bibliothhque of Art and Archaeology, (Illustrated in B. Pons, De Paris à Versailles 1699-1736, Strasbourg, 1983, p. 511, fig 511). François Roumier sculpted numerous consoles for the French Crown and Royal family, his family and the Parisian aristocracy between 1720-1740.
A console table with similarly carved entwined serpents and dragons from the collection of Maurice Bensimon, sold Couturier Nicolay, Paris, 18 November 1981, lot 46. Another similarly carved console sold Christie's London, 14 April 1983, lot 179, and a pair of consoles en encoignure with entwined dragons sold Christie's New York, 19 May 1988, lot 213. Two further pairs of consoles with entwined serpents are in the Wrightsman Collection, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 78 and no. 81, one of which also has a dolphin carved to the frieze.
Another console which features winged dragons in combination with a dolphin-carved stretcher is in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and illustrated in G. Wilson and C. Hess, Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2001, p. 44, pl. 80.
MRS. HAMILTON RICE
Acquired during her marriage to her first husband, George D. Widener, this console was prominently displayed in the dining room of the Fifth Avenue residence of Mrs. Hamilton Rice. Mrs. Rice's house, designed by Horace Trumbauer circa 1920-1925, was executed in a restrained Louis XVI manner typical of the taste for recreating French interiors among American collectors during the first quarter of this century. Several of the rooms originated from various Parisian hôtels and Joseph Duveen was responsible for the interior decoration and furnishing of the residence.