This magnificent armoire, index number 457 in Linke's repertoire, is a tour de force of his collaboration with Léon Messagé. However the extensive Linke Archive is unusually silent on this piece and on the companion bed. The armoire is clearly listed in Linke's blue registre as number 457 and this corresponds with the numbering of the glass negatives in the archive. The form of the armoire is similar to Linke number 521 first made for the London firm of Hamptons in Pall Mall, and both seem to be anticipating the armoire number 716 (see Christie's East, 30 April 1992, lot 340, for the example supplied to Antonio Devoto in 1913) based on the lines of the celebrated 'Grand bibliothèque' exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.
Number 457 does not appear in the Linke green registres, which date from circa 1900. The only entry is in the blue books for one example made in circa 1897 at a cost of 6,666 francs. There is no trace of this piece in the post-1900 price lists and so it must be assumed that the model was discontinued shortly before 1900. By way of confirmation to corroborate this very early dating there is no wood cutting list in the archive and in 1920 the number 457 was reused for an Empire style centre-table.
Messagé's pencil sketch for the masque de bal trophy (see above) is interpreted in bronze on the central apron of the armoire under the main door, and Linke uses the same trophy on the footboard of the matching bed, at the same time using the exotic female head and trophies on its headboard.
Although the present armoire does not appear to be signed, the piece is undoubtedly the work of Linke who appears rarely to have signed his furniture before his international success at the Paris fair of 1900. The only other recorded example of this model was sold Christie's New York, 24 April 2002, lot 378 ($336,000) and this model was signed in Linke's habitual manner, 'F. Linke' in script to the right side of the apron. Possibly the New York signed example dates to circa 1900 and not circa 1900-1910 as cautiously mentioned in the catalogue and due to the immense pressure on the Linke workshops at the time of preparing for the exhibition, it was simply not noted in the rudimentary blue registre.
Footnote researched and compiled by Christopher Payne. Please see lot 56 for a further note on Linke.