A pair of gilt-bronze-mounted ebony veneered and mahogany console tables/bibliothèques both stamped Jacob D. R. Meslée, the gilt-bronze mounts attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843) Empire, circa 1803-09
- marble, mahogany, ebony, gilt-bronze
Transferred post 1830 to her Schloss Brunsee, Graz, Austria.
Thence by descent to the Lucchesi–Palli family at Schloss Brunsee, Graz, Austria.
Property of a European Nobleman.
"Deux consoles formant bibliothèques en acajou massif et ébène, de 3 pieds 2 pouces de haut sur 3 pieds de large, la devanture à pilastres avec socle de 3 pouces 6 lignes de haut et frise au-dessus surmontée d'une corniche profilant tout au pourtour, la devanture et les côtés de la frise sont avec fonds en ébène ornés de balustres et guirlandes en bronze accompagnés de rubans et de têtes de zephirs, le chapiteau et la base du pilastre sont en bronze ornés de feuilles à refends faisant le retour d'équerre sur les côtés; lesdits sont d'une composition très riche, la devanture des pilastres est avec fonds en ébène enrichis d'ornements arabesques, les côtés sont avec croisillons orné de clous antiques, les pilastres de derrière sont de même avec chapiteaux et bases en bronze, les dessus en marbre bleu turquin de 17 lignes d'épaisseur, tous les bronzes du plus beau choix fondus, ciselés, découpés et dorés au mat et or bruni avec le plus grand soin, tous le bois poncé et verni de même 1000 francs (each one): 2000 francs" reproduced here in figs. 2 and 3.
`Record of Furnishings made and delivered to the château de Rosni for the account of Madame the Duchesse de Berry by Jacob-Desmalter & Cie, makers of furniture and bronzes, rue Melée no. 57, Salon des Princes:
Two consoles forming bookcases made of mahogany and ebony, the front pilasters with pedestals measuring 3ft. 2in high and 3ft wide, on top of which is a frieze surmounted by a cornice which goes all the way around the edges and corners of the piece, the front and the sides of the frieze have an ebony ground decorated with bronze balusters and garlands, as well as ribbons and zephyr heads, the capital and base of the pilaster are in bronze and decorated with leaves, the former are of a very rich composition, the sides have trelliswork with old nails, the front of the pilasters have a ground of ebony decorated with arabesque ornaments, the rear pilasters also have capitals and bases in bronze, the tops in a bleu turquin marble (1½in. thick); all bronzes are of the finest casting, chasing, engraving and gilded in matt gold and burnished with the greatest care, all the wood has been sanded and varnished, each one costing 1000 francs : 2000 francs.'
Daniel Alcouffe, Anne Dion-Tenenbaum and Amaury Lefébure, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Vol. I, Dijon, 1993, p. 309, no. 105.
Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel and Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Le Mobilier de Versailles, chefs-d’oeuvre du XIXe siècle, Dijon, 2009, p.104 and p.108, fig. 1.
Patrick Guibal, Rosny au Temps de La Duchesse de Berry, Exhibition Catalogue, Entre Cour et Jardin, Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry, Musée de l'îIe-de-France, Sceaux, 2007, pp. 49-58 and p. 227.
Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Mobilier Français Consulat et Empire, 2009, Paris, p. 88, fig.155, and p.107, fig.182.
This sumptuous pair of console tables with their exquisitely cast and chased gilt-bronze mounts represent the apogee of the oeuvre of Jacob-Desmalter for their Imperial and aristocratic clientèle whose stamp Jacob D.R. Meslée and the marque au fer R 15 for Rosny is found on both tables and the R 15 on the following lot. The pair are recorded in the inventories as having been delivered by Jacob-Desmalter to Marie-Caroline, the Duchesse de Berry for her château at Rosny in Rosny-sur-Seine, Yvelines, near Paris on 1st February 1821, for the Salon des Princes, at the then enormous sum of 2000 francs.
Rosny was the favourite residence of the Duchesse de Berry which she set about refurbishing after acquiring it in 1818 (see post). Furthermore, it is interesting to note that No. 32 `Solde des Mémoires de fournitures faites pour l’ameublement du Château de Rosny (somme reçue des mains de S.A.R. Madame),1830, there is an entry for Jacob listed as `1. Jacob, ébéniste à Paris’, supplying 44,543.70 out of a total of 168,37.3 francs worth of furniture to the Duchesse for Rosny, almost a quarter of the expenditure demonstrating the size of her orders to them for that residence, reproduced here in fig. 4.
Whilst nothing identical has been recorded to date which emphasises the exclusivity of the model for the Duchesse, some of the gilt-bronze mounts with slight adaptations often supplied by Pierre-Philippe Thomire can be found amongst Jacob-Desmalter’s production, with the former being the most important bronzier of the Empire period due to the exceptional quality of his gilt-bronze mounts. Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel and Jean-Pierre Samoyault, op. cit., p.104, fig.1, illustrate a console table with a L’Èlysée-Murat provenance by Jacob-Desmalter, circa 1805-06, now in the Mobiler national, Paris. This console in has a very similar frieze to that upon this table with an alternating band of ribbon-tied swags and torchères. The authors state that these decorative elements have been created by Thomire as they also appear on a console table in the Louvre which Thomire offered to the government as collateral for a loan, which is illustrated by Alcouffe et al., op. cit., pp. 308-309, n. 105, reproduced here in fig. 5.
The decoration of the mounts with ribbon-tied swags and torchères of slightly different design, can be seen on a green granite chimneypiece, circa 1805, stamped Thomire à Paris, from the collection of Général Le Marois, Rue de Grammont, Paris, then the Collection of the Duc de Caraman, Château de Lonray, sold on 3rd November 2005, from the Collections of Lily and Edmond Safra, Volume II, lot 175, ($452,800). Furthermore, a console table with a very similar frieze and with the label of the marchand–mercier Martin Eloy Lingereux was formerly in the collection of the Princes Esterhàzy, and is now in the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts, Budapest, illustrated by Arizzoli-Clémentel op,. cit., p. 108, fig.1, where Thomire is mentioned as one of the possible bronziers for these types of console tables. However, the authors state that Thomire may have already collaborated with Lignereux in making that table as he purchased the cabinet-maker's business in 1804 . It is also worthwhile noting, that the treatment of the stiff leaves with scrolling tendrils issuing from an acanthus cast stylised vase on the front supports is so typical of Jacob, and can be seen with variations-see for example a commode by Jacob-Desmalter, illustrated by Samoyault, op. cit., p. 88, fig. 55, which was made around 1805, for the bedroom on the first floor of the hôtel of Prince Eugène, in the rue de Lille, Paris. From this one can conclude that the bronzes on this pair of console tables can be firmly attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire.
In the exhibition Catalogue of the Duchesse de Berry, op. cit., p. 227, no. 272, see a bureau à gradin by Jacob-Desmalter signed `Jacob D. Rue Meslée’ with the marque au fer `R 15’ in a drawer–the same number as on the offered console tables, which also indicates that it was in the Salon des Princes at some stage on the ground floor. It has an inscription which stated that it came from the bedroom of the vicomte de Gontaut-Biron, ambassador, having previously belonged to the Duchesse de Berry at the château de Rosny and was sold in the sale of the furniture from the château in Paris in 1836. The bureau was delivered by Jacob-Desmalter on 10th March 1821, for the château de Rosny but no plan exists of the room layout of the château and the inventory has not survived to be able to identify what R15 refers to.
Various examples of mahogany Empire furniture ordered by the Duchesse from Jacob were sold in these Rooms, see Nobless Oblige, 17th April 2011, lot 202, for a suite of mahogany seat furniture stamped Jacob D.R. Meslee and branded R 20 for Rosny and lot 204 stamped R 14, for a circular table attributed to Jacob. Until 1824, the Duchesse de Berry commissioned nearly exclusively mahogany furniture for Rosny, most of which was supplied by Jacob-Desmalter (see ante).
Finally, a related pair of console tables stamped Jacob Frères rue Meslée, sold at Fontainebleu, étude Osenat, 7th November 2004, for 287680E.
The Château de Rosny:
The Château situated in Rosny-sur-Seine was purchased on 14th August 1818 by Charles Ferdinand, Duc de Berry as a summer residence and very quickly became the favoured residence of the Duchesse who devised grand plans for its reconstruction. She had a vision to create a residence modelled on the English Country house model, which would have a more relaxed ambience in contrast to the rigid strictures of the Tuileries and according to Guibal, op. cit., p. 49, :`Les intérieurs bénéficient d'une complete remise à neuf mais sans aucun excès, car, loin de la pompe et des ors des Tuileries, Marie Caroline entend faire de Rosny une maison à L'anglaise, confortable, largement ouverte sur la nature et où elle pourra vivre, entourée de ses proches, en savourant les plaisirs de la vie à la campagne’.
Although the Duchesse de Berry acquired Rosny fully furnished she continued to fill it with newly acquired decorations, furniture and art. In her memories the Duchesse de Maillé states:`Rien ne peut être comparé au mobilier de Rosny: tous les étages et toutes les chambres sont également recherchés et soignés. Elle apporte en ce lieu ce qu'elle aime tout ce que le roi lui donne et tout ce qu'elle achète, de sorte que l'on peut dire que Rosny est encombré de meubles, mais il faut rendre cette justice à Madame qui le mérite, elle a fort bon goût. Tout chez elle est bien choisi. Elle a le sentiment du beau comme une Italienne'.
Most of the beautiful furnishings from Rosny were dispersed after 1830 when the Duchesse had to leave France. However, at the beginning of her exile she managed to have a significant part of furniture and objects sent to Trieste, before she transferred them to her estates in Austria including Brunsee which was the most recent loction of this pair of consoles. Rosny was sold in 1836 and unfortunately most of her pieces are not listed, as at the end of the sale it indicated that tapestries, furniture, commodes etc were for sale but no detailed description was given.
Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870):
Marie-Caroline, the Duchesse de Berry was one of the most remarkable, unconventional and iconic women of the 19th century. On 5th November 1798, Maria-Carolina, Princess of Naples and Sicily, was born in the royal palace of Caserta. She was the daughter of Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Clementina, Archduchess of Austria. Her grandmother was Queen Carolina of Naples, herself a daughter of the celebrated Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. In 1816, she married Charles Ferdinand, Duc de Berry, heir apparent to the French throne, thus becoming Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry. Due to her natural joie de vivre, kindness and good humour, the Duchesse invigorated the tired dynasty and enlivened the strict etiquette of the royal court at the Tuileries. In 1818, the Duke and the Duchess acquired the château de Rosny which became their favourite residence. Until the abdication of Charles X, Rosny would remain the place where the Duchesse de Berry felt happiest. A daughter, Louise, was born to the couple in 1819. Then tragedy struck: four years after their marriage the Duke was murdered in front of his wife on a frosty evening in February 1820. It appeared that with his death the old line of the Bourbon dynasty had come to an end but fate had a further twist when, seven months after the death of his father, the desperately desired heir to the throne of France, Henri, Comte de Chambord, Duc de Bordeaux, was born in September 1820.
After that, the Duchesse de Berry became the undisputed social centre of the royal court, the most fashionable and most portrayed princess of her time. Her influence on the fashion of Romanticism was paramount in every sphere, from theatre and the romantic operas of Rossini to the contemporary painters and draughtsmen whose works she acquired to expand the famous art collection of her husband, not forgetting miniaturists, cabinet-makers, ivory carvers and porcelain manufactories among many others.
In 1824, Louis XVIII died and his brother Charles X succeeded him to the throne. The revolution of 1830 overthrew the dynasty of the older line of the Bourbons and with it also all claims to the throne of the “wonderchild”, the young Duc de Bordeaux. Based on a democratic majority, Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans, from the younger line of the Bourbons, became new King of the French. The principle of legitimacy had come to an end. The Restauration was over and the Tricouleur again the banner of France. The Duchesse de Berry now accompanied the royal family into exile to Scotland although not without having arranged for a significant amount of furnishings, art and personal belongings to be shipped to the safe haven of Trieste beforehand. Determined to regain the crown for her son she conspired against Louis Philippe and landed in April 1832 in Marseille naïvely hoping the French troops would follow her appeal to overthrow the King. As soon as Louis Philippe recognized the threat, he mobilized the military all over France in order to track her down. Despite this Marie-Caroline managed in six adventurous weeks to escape from Marseille to Nantes on horseback, in men’s clothing, armed with pistols, and accompanied only by a small band of supporters. She and her companions waded through bogs, swam across rivers and slept in haystacks. In Nantes, centre of the legitimist Vendée region, she found refuge from June to November. Finally after having been denounced, she was captured and imprisoned in the fortress of Blaye near Bordeaux. Then yet another twist of fate, so typical of the Duchesse de Berry’s life, took place. Apparently she had secretly married Count Ettore Lucchesi Palli (1808-1864), son of the Prince of Campofranco and governor of Sicily, in 1831 and in February 1833, she announced that she was pregnant. In May 1833, a daughter named Anna Rosalia was born. At this point Louis Philippe released her from imprisonment since as the wife of an Italian count she was no longer a political threat. After a short stay in Palermo she reached Austria where Emperor Francis I granted her exile in October 1833. In the following years four more children were born to the Duchess and her husband. In 1837 she acquired castles and estates in Styria and in 1844 the Palazzo Vendramin on the Grand Canal in Venice, then part of the Austro/Hungarian Empire. Marie-Caroline died aged 82 on 16th April 1870 at Brunnsee, her castle in Austria.
François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841):
He was the favourite cabinet-maker of Napoleon and belonged to a dynasty of leading cabinet-makers and was the son of the most celebrated seat furniture maker Georges Jacob. He took over the family's workshop in 1796, together with his brother Georges and the firm became known as Jacob Frères and remained in rue Mesaly or Meslée until 1825. He would have seen his father work on superlative objects such as the chairs for Marie-Antoinette's dairy at Rambouillet. Amongst Jacob-Desmalter's first commissions, was the decoration and furnishing of the town house of General Bonaparte and his wife Josephine in the rue Chantereine and the surviving furniture illustrates the patriotic and symbolic tastes which were so characteristic of the Directoire period heralding the Empire style. His next major commission was for the Récamiers, important and influential French bankers. At about the same time the firm was commissioned to decorate and furnish Malamaison, by Percier and Fontaine, which was the country retreat of Josephine. The firm also provided furniture for Bonaparte's apartments at the Tuileries and also exhibited at the second and third Expositions des Produits de l'lndustrie Française held in 1801 and 1802 in the courtyard of the Louvre and Jacob-Desmalter received a Gold Medal at the 1802 exhibition.
Georges, his brother, died in 1803 and then the firm continued for nine years under the directorship of his father and after that Jacob-Desmalter used his own personal stamp "JACOB D. R. MESLEE" applied from 1803 to 1813. It was during the Empire period that his reputation was established and his talent fully recognised, as it is recorded that in 1807, the firm employed 350 workmen. In 1809, he executed the malachite furniture at the Grand Trianon comprising two meubles d'appui, two candelabras and a vase supported by three large chimeras with the head of Hercules and a lion pelt. The latter after a design by Percier and Fontaine was modelled by Cartelier, had already been employed by Jacob-Desmalter for the throne of Napoleon at Fontainebleau. Jacob was known to work with the outstanding bronziers of the day such as Thomire and Delafontaine. His work according to Serge Grandjean, 'is esteemed not only on account of its stylistic homogeneity but because of its consistent high quality'.
Charles Percier (1764-1838):
Charles Percier and his partner Pierre-François–Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853), the most celebrated architects and decorators during the Empire period, were largely responsible for creating the Empire style and are synonymous with creating the furniture and decoration heavy with symbolism for Napoleon. They had been in Rome from 1785 to 1790, where they had followed David's teaching, and they were fully familiar with Ancient Greek and Roman art, which was a major inspiration for their decoration and furnishing. Percier and Fontaine, published their Receuil des decorations intérieurs (1801, reissued in 1812) and they used motifs such as giant N’s in laurel wreaths, eagles and bees to make the style fully Napoleonic. Both were fully employed by Napoleon as both architects and interior decorators on various palaces such as Malmaison, Tuileries, Louvre, St. Cloud and Versailles. They transformed Napoleon's palaces into lavish showcases for the produce of French art and industry. Percier was also a partner of Jacob-Desmalter and they worked very closely together.
Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843):
He was the most celebrated bronzier in addition to Pierre Gouthière during the reign of Louis XVI. Thomire was the son of a ciseleur but also received training under the sculptors A. Pajou (1730-1809) and J.-A. Houdon (1741-1828) and he cast bronze portrait busts for both. Thomire was a pupil at the Académie de Saint-Luc. He was already working for the Royal family by 1775 and collaborated with Jean-Louis Prieur ciseleur et doreur du Roi, on the bronze mounts for the coronation coach of Louis XVI. He set up his own atelier the following year and in 1783, Thomire was appointed as the modeller to the Manufacture de Sèvres, succeeding Jean-Claude Duplessis.
He was also well known for bronzes d’ameublement and during the Revolution, his atelier was used for the production of arms, but in 1804 he reverted to his former profession when he acquired the premises and business of the marchand-mercier Martin Éloi-Lignereux, the former partner and successor to Dominique Daguerre. His business flourished during the Empire period, and was renamed Thomire, Dutherme et Cie and in 1807, he is recorded as employing at least seven hundred workers and he enjoyed prestigious commissions from both the City of Paris and the Emperor including an important toilet service for presentation to Empress Marie-Louise on the occasion of her marriage and also the celebrated cradle for the King of Rome. He is also recorded as gilding his own bronzes and sometimes employing others to do so, such as the fondeur-ciseleur Chaudron. His work pre-revolution is to be found in all the major collections including the Louvre, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Compiègne, the Pitti Palace, Florence and Wallace Collection, London and Waddesdon Manor, Hertfordshire. He retired from business in 1823 and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1834 and died in his 92nd year.