This splendid meuble d'appui, conceived in the early 19th Century 'antique' manner as popularized by Percier and Fontaine in their Récueil de Décorations Intérieurs, first printed in 1801, exemplifies the luxurious neo-classical designs produced by the firm of Jacob-Desmalter. A partnership between Georges Jacob and his son François-Honoré-Georges lasting from 1803 until 1813, Jacob Desmalter et Cie. were unquestionably the greatest cabinet-makers of the Empire period, supplying numerous pieces for the Imperial palaces in France, Italy and Belgium, principally Compiègne, L'Elysée, Saint-Cloud and the Tuileries.
Various elements in the rich ormolu decoration of this cabinet derive from Percier and Fontaine's Recueil de Décorations Intérieures. The frieze mounts of stylized foliage and winged Bacchic putti, with one holding a tazza and one holding an urn, are very closely related to roundels on a drawing for a tabletop made in porcelain at the Sèvres Manufactory for maître B, illustrated in plate 35, and reproduced here.
DUKE EMMERICH VON DALBERG
This cabinet is reputedly recorded in the inventories of Schloss Herrnsheim, the family property of the French diplomat of German origin, Duke Emmerich Joseph von Dalberg (1773-1833), the last descendant of the Dalberg family. As Baden's envoy in Paris from 1803, he became a follower and close friend of Talleyrand. Entering the French service, he was ennobled and made a duke by Napoleon in 1810. He became one of Napoleon's personal advisors and with Talleyrand was partly responsible for negotiating Napoleon's marriage to the Archduchess Maria Louise of Austria. As a sign of his gratitude, Napoleon gave several presents to Emmerich Joseph, including important pieces of furniture and Sèvres porcelain. A member of Talleyrand's provisional government (1814), he accompanied Talleyrand to the Congress of Vienna as minister plenipotentiary. After the Second Restoration (1815) he was made a minister and a peer of France by Louis XVIII. In 1816 he was French ambassador in Turin.