André-Charles Boulle, appointed ébéniste, ciseleur, doreur et sculpteur du roi in 1672.
These torchères formed part of the exceptional collection of Boulle furniture assembled by both George, 2nd Earl of Warwick (d.1816) and his son Henry, 3rd Earl of Warwick (d.1855) at Warwick Castle. George, 2nd Earl, inherited the title in 1773. An avid, if financially reckless collector, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Society of Arts and purchased old master paintings, boulle furniture and pietra dura tables, works of art and the famous Warwick Vase from his uncle, Sir William Hamilton. His impetuosity led to bankruptcy in 1802, which was partly allayed by the generosity of his housekepper, Mrs. Hulme. Fortunately the estates were entailed which saved large portions of the collection as well as the lands. Nevertheless the 2nd Earl died in penury in 1816, having spent his latter years evolving a soap for the navy that would not curdle in salt water.
Henry, 3rd Earl of Warwick (1778-1855) was financially more astute. His only improvement to the castle was forced upon him when the ceiling of the great hall collapsed in 1830 and he replaced it with a 'medieval' creation designed by Ambrose Poynter. Instead his energies went towards extending the collection; he bought exotic inlaid ebony furniture, works of art and magnificent kunstkammer silver-gilt (including the Duke of York's silver service from Christie's in 1827). The interiors of the state rooms swelled with works of art listed by Kendall and praised by Charles Spicer in his history of Warwick Castle, The Vitruvius Britannicus, 1844, and by Henry Cooke, Warwick Castle and its Gardens, 1846.
As the Heirlooms Inventory of circa 1900 reveals, the documented furniture by Boulle acquired for Warwick, other than the offered bureau, included a pair of gaînes à tablier illustrated in situ in M. Jourdain, English Interior Decoration, London, p.38; a rectangular table sold from the de Pauw collection, Sotheby's Monaco, 23 June 1986; a bureau plat à têtes chinoises, sold at Christie's Geneva, 18 November 1974, lot 54; and a régulateur illustrated in situ in the Cedar Room at Warwick in a photograph of circa 1900. The Warwick Castle collection of Boulle furniture was, therefore, arguably amongst the greatest ever assembled.
THE GUERIDONS OF ANDRE-CHARLES BOULLE
The design for these gueridons fuses an engraving by Mariette published after 1707 with the design for a guéridon (or torchère) by Andrè-Charles Boulle. Mariette's engraving, published in his Nouveaux Deisseins de Meubles et Ouvrages de Bronze et de Marqueterie Inventès et gravès par Andrè-Charles Boulle, depicts a guéridon with a baluster-form shaft, whilst the distinctive pieds en rouleau are derived directly from Boulle's drawing.
According to Furetières' Dictionaire of 1684, guéridons were placed in a bedchamber to support candelabra, vases etc..... Almost certainly candelabra of rock crystal and conceived to flank a table, such guèridons/torchères were still being produced by the ébéniste in 1715, when the Acte de Delaisement between Boulle and his sons records:- six guèridons de marqueterie imparfaits (inachevés 600 livres).
In 1720, eighteen were destroyed in the terrible fire that ravaged his workshops, and this conclusively proves that this type of furniture had not gone out of fashion.
The triangular stems of these guéridons were initially conceived by Boulle on his design for the base of a cabinet, which is now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (A 723 G.), and was subsequently reinterpreted by Boulle for the table sold from the collection of Charles Stein, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 10-14 May 1886, lot 361.
Guèridons of this model are recorded in Connaissance des Arts, May 1954 (a single one en première partie) and in Apollo, October 1971, p.78, where an identical pair in contre-partie is advertised. A further related pair are in the J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2001.
Interestingly, the marquetry of the tops is a reduced version of that found in oval form centering the so-called Dudley table in the J. Paul Getty Museum, California (G. Wilson and C. Hess, Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2001, no.55), as well as in round form on the top of the table formerly with Kraemer, Paris.
Andé-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) was appointed ébéniste, ciseleur, doreur et sculpteur de Roi in 1672. Whilst his earliest Royal commission was the decoration of the Dauphin's rooms at Versailles between 1681 and 1683, his work for the King himself was a large armoire fo the King's dressing room at Marly, which was supplied as late 1700. In 1708, he produced the now famous pair of commodes for the King's rooms at the Grand Triannon. Boulle's distinctive style is characterised by the elaborate inlay of marquetry veneers in tortoiseshell and brass. He was known to have been a collector of old master drawings from which he drew inspiration for his designs. One inventory of his collection lists 48 designs for the metamorphoses by Raphael. He also took ideas directly from nature, shown in the naturalistic mounts here and from contemporary decorative arts such as the form of certain tapestry fringes. The design of the present piece is based on a conflatation of two designs for guéridons by boulle published by Nicholas II Langlois c. 1705 (Nouveaux deisseins de meubles et ouvages de bronze et de marqueterie inventé et frevaes André-Charles Boulle, chez Mariette, plate 4).
We are extremely grateful to Gillian Wilson, Senior Research Curator of Decorative Arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, California, for drawing our attention to the comparable design of the tops of the torchères with the Dudley table and that formerly with Kraemar.