A BUREAU PLAT FOR THE MARQUISE DE CASTELLANE
Joséphine-Pauline de Talleyrand-Périgord (1820-1890) who married Henry, Marquis de Castellane (1814-1847) in April 1839
Her grandson Boniface, Marquis de Castellane (1867-1932) at Château de Rochecotte, France
Anna de Talleyrand-Périgord, Princesse de Sagan (1875-1961)at Château de Valencay, France
Roberto Polo Collection, sold Ader, Tajan, Paris, 7 November 1991
where it was bought back by the Castellane family
Denise Ledoux-Lebard, Le mobilier français du XIX siecle, 1795-1889, Paris 1989, page 432
Peter Hughes, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture II, London 1996, page 927
Seymour de Ricci, Louis XVI Furniture, Stuttgart, 1930, page 103.
A Table for Pauline de Talleyrand-Périgord, Marquise de Castellane
The great niece and heir of Talleyrand, together with her mother, the famous Duchesse de Dino, Pauline de Talleyrand-Périgord (Fig. 1.) was raised at her great uncle's hôtel de Saint-Florentin in Paris. In 1839, she married Henry, Marquis de Castellane, thus bringing the château de Rochecotte (Fig. 2.) into the Castellane family. Following a riding accident Henry de Castellane died at Rochecotte in 1847.
In the inventory drawn up after his death it is mentioned that the present bureau plat was a gift and was described as: "un bureau genre Louis XV (sic) moderne orné de bronze doré et entouré de plaques de porcelaine avec peintures représentant des bouquets 500 francs, Cadeau". It was located in the Grand Salon of their Paris residence.
The present bureau plat was most likely a personal wedding gift to the Marquise on the occasion of her wedding in 1839.
After the abdication of King Louis-Philippe in 1848, Madame de Castellane adjourned to Rochecotte where she lived a simple and devout life and died in 1890. In the Grand Salon was "un bureau Sèvres" estimated at 1.000 francs. The castle and its contents were consequently passed on to her famous grandson Boniface "Boni", Marquis de Castellane (Fig. 3.). Boniface was a dandy and a politician who in 1895 married Anna Gould (1875–1961), the daughter of the legendary robber baron Jay Gould. The couple divorced in 1906, after Boniface had spent about $10 million of her family's money. After the divorce Anna married in 1908 Boni's cousin, Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord, Duc de Sagan (1859–1937).
Etienne Levasseur (1721-1798) and Levasseur Jeune
Etienne Levasseur was one of the foremost cabinet-makers of his time. He learned his craft from the sons of André-Charles Boulle, probably A-C. Boulle the younger (1685-1745), or Charles-Joseph Boulle (d. 1754). He was made maître-ébéniste on 2 April 1767. Among his patrons were the King's aunts, Mesdames Adelaïde and Victoire at Bellevue, together with rich collectors such as the fermier général, Mulot de Pressigny. Levasseur specialized in re-interpreting and repairing Boulle furniture and his stamp appears on many Louis XIV pieces, including many in English country house collections.
Although stamped by Etienne Levasseur, this desk should be attributed to his grandson, Levasseur Jeune. Highly regarded and continuing both the specialisation in Boulle marquetry furniture and the use of gilt-bronze mounts from his grandfather's stock, he produced many pieces for the British aristocracy. Levasseur Jeune also continued to use his grandfather's stamp as corroborated by its presence on numerous pieces at Stratfield Saye, the seat of the Duke of Wellington, and a pair of side cabinets at Boughton House, a seat of the Duke of Buccleuch, and delivered between 1830 and 1843.
Similar legs with brass and pewter outlines can be seen on other desks stamped by E. Levasseur:
- one sold at Sotheby's, New York, 5th December 1974, lot 693.
- one sold Sotheby's, Monaco, 21st June 1987, lot 1072.
The present desk is identical to another, also stamped E. Levasseur, which is in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch at Bowhill. It was delivered by the celebrated dealer and agent E.H. Baldock on 16th July 1830 for Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806-1884) and according to the bill, had been bought in Paris (Fig. 4.).
During the first half of the 19th century, the traditions and the excellent craftmanship of the ateliers d'ébénisterie were still preserved. Some cabinet-makers lived long enough to still be active during the Restauration. Only the taste had changed. Around 1825 and after the Egyptian, the Gothic and the Renaissance taste, the styles of the 18th century became fashionable again without differenciating between the Louis XV and the Louis XVI period.
This bureau plat by Levasseur is a typical example of the continuity of an established 18th century workshop and of the re-discovery of a past period symbolised by the Sèvres porcelain.
18th Century Sèvres mounted bureau plats which might have served as models for the present desk are:
- a bureau plat by Jean-Francois Leleu (1729-1807) mounted with thirty-two Sèvres porcelain plaques, dated 1765-66, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, illustrated by Hughes, op.cit page 927
- a bureau plat illustrated by de Ricci, op.cit. page 103
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