Described by the great Pierre Verlet as a work of 'une extrême somptuosité'
, this commode is a masterpiece of French furniture design by one of the most talented and prolific ébénistes
working in Paris in the mid-18th century, Mathieu Criaerd. He was part of a dynasty of cabinetmakers and his clients included the Royal Household whom he supplied through marchands merciers
like Hébert or the court cabinetmaker Gilles Joubert. His most famous creation is probably the blue and white Vernis Martin
commode and corner cupboards supplied to the King's mistress Mlle de Mailly for the château de Choisy (Paris, Louvre, ill. Alcouffe, Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre
, Dijon 1993, Vol.I, no.43). This celebrated suite has silvered bronze mounts in the distinctive form of a central violin-shaped cartouche, a motif that Criaerd repeated frequently and became a de facto
This extraordinary commode probably dates from later in his career, when Criaerd had moved away from the stylized, semi-abstract bois de bout
marquetry favoured by his contemporaries like BVRB and Dubois to the more realistic and exuberant floral marquetry that had fallen out of fashion but was re-introduced in the 1750s by the German-born ébéniste du roi
Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763). Criaerd probably worked for Oeben at some stage, as his name appears on the list of Oeben's creditors after his death.
The gilt bronze drawer handles in the form of birds are unprecedented in Crieard's oeuvre
and possibly unique in Louis XV furniture, although gilt bronze mounts in the form of birds do appear on the richly decorated commode and encoignures of c.1740 by Charles Cressent referred to 'à la pipée des oiseaux'
(Waddesdon Manor and Elton Hall, England; illustrated in A. Pradère, Charles Cressent sculpteur, ébéniste du Régent
, Dijon 2003, p.60, 281, 291).
No better appreciation can be written of this lot than that expressed by Pierre Verlet (op. cit
., p.71): Cette commode se signale à la fois par la délicatesse de sa marqueterie et par la magnificence de ses bronzes. Les poignées, gracieusement ailées, interrompent seules les semis de fleurs répandu sur à façade qu’encadre une bordure de bronze du meilleur dessin rocaille. Les proportions très allongées du meuble ajoutent encore à son élégance, qui suffirait à prouver le talent et la maîtrise de Mathieu Criaerd.