François Linke (d. 1946) was one of the most celebrated ébénistes of his time. Born in Pankraz, Bohemia, Linke moved to Paris in 1875 and six years later established independent ateliers at 170, rue de Faubourg St. Antoine. As was the practice among contemporaries and noteworthy predecessors, such as Alfred Beurdeley and Henry Dasson, Linke initially produced furniture derived from styles popular during the 18th century ancienne régime. By 1900, his worldwide reputation as an individualistic master of high quality furniture was already established. However, with a huge display, placing his extravagant pieces in room settings and winning the Medaille d'Or for his Grand Bureau, Linke's participation in the Paris 1900 exhibition was to be the pinnacle of his career, and prompted critics, such as Charles Dambreuse, to comment: "L'Exposition de la maison Linke est le gros événement de l'histoire du meuble d'art en l'an de grâce 1900" (see C. Dambreuse, L'Art Industriel à l'Exposition de Meuble de Style - M. F. Linke, in Revue Artistique & Industrielle, Paris, July-August, 1900). Linke's international acclaim following the 1900 exhibition afforded him a high degree of financial stability, not only allowing him to establish a large showroom on the fashionable place Vendôme, but also to pursue new and further distant markets by exhibiting at other international shows. These included the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, where he was again awarded a gold medal, Liège in 1905 and the Franco-British exhibition in London in 1908.
The most exuberant of Linke's exhibition pieces combined, as Dambreuse expressed it: "la plus exquise floraison du style Louis XV", popularised during the last quarter of the 19th century by the writings of the Goncourt Frères, with the new Art Nouveau style, championed in Paris in the 1880s and 90s by Samuel Bing. Linke's collaborator for the design and execution of the sumptuous mounts for these "modèles entièrement nouveaux" was the enigmatic sculptor Léon Messagé. In a volume of designs for furniture, bronzes dorés and silver, published in 1890 from his address at 40, rue Sedaine, Messagé interpreted the traditional Louis XV style but, just like Linke with the sinuous forms of his furniture, imbued it with distinct flourishes of the art nouveau. In an obituary after his suicide in 1904, the review Art & Curiosité paid tribute to this vigorous manner and new sense of movement, commenting: "projets nés sous le crayon se formèrent d'un jet plus rapide en la noble matière du bronze, ciselé d'une main sûre..." (October, 1904, p. 166).
Related armoires by Linke have only appeared on the auction market twice in recent years: the first, reputedly commissioned directly from Linke's atelier by the Marquis de Devoto, for Villa Devoto, Buenos Aires, was sold Christie's East, 30 April 1992, lot 340 ($181,500); the second, formerly in the San Sylmar collection of J. B. Nethercutt, founder of Merle Norman Cosmetics and celebrated for his classic car collection, was sold J. C. Ames Auctioneers, Inc., North Hills, California, 11 September 1994, lot 173 ($330,000). Of similar proportions and form to the present model, both these armoires feature the surmount figure emblematic of Abundance and smoking pyre apron found on the model photographed in Linke's showroom (see illustration above). Whilst the upended dolphins mounting the pediment of this fourth example and delicate trellis framing its mirrored and marquetry panels are motifs found on each of the recorded armoires, as indeed they are on many of the important collaborative pieces between Linke and Messagé, the elaborately plumed espagnolette and attributes of the masque ball and opera, recalling leisure pursuits of the Louis XV epoch, have hitherto not been seen, suggesting this piece may have been a highly individual private commission.