Long Live Champ de Bataille!

Long Live Champ de Bataille!

As a selection of pieces from his collection are offered for sale in Paris, legendary interior architect and designer Jacques Garcia discusses objects from his collecting journey at Champ de Bataille.
As a selection of pieces from his collection are offered for sale in Paris, legendary interior architect and designer Jacques Garcia discusses objects from his collecting journey at Champ de Bataille.

T o ensure a lasting future for his castle, Champ de Bataille, which he has been carefully keeping up for more than thirty years, the decorator Jacques Garcia has decided to sell 75 pieces of furniture and art objects which adorn the rooms of the 17th century estate located in Normandy. Many of the works have royal provenances that call to mind various colourful personalities, from Du Barry to Marie-Antoinette and from the Duchess of Parma to the Rothschilds. They are the work of great cabinetmakers such as Gaudreaus, Oeben and Weisweiler, and they represent the quintessence of French taste.

JACQUES GARCIA. PORTRAIT BY BRUNO EHRS / Villa Elena. Un rêve sicilien / Flammarion

Why have you decided to sell so many pieces of royal provenance? Do you want to change the displays at Champ de Bataille?

I wish to carry forward the work that I have accomplished at Champ de Bataille over more than thirty years. It was in 1992 that I purchased the castle, which Le Vau built for Alexandre de Créqui beginning in 1651, with Le Nôtre designing the surrounding gardens. It took me five years to restore the building. I renovated and refurbished the living rooms, the galleries, the game cabinets and the library. I rehabilitated the French-style gardens, including the temple of Léda and the theatre-in-the-green. The work on this “Versailles of Normandy,” as it is called, is now finished. It’s time to turn to the future, ensuring that Champ de Bataille will survive me. That’s why I need the funding: to bring a new dynamic and capitalize on the spaces. The current decoration of Champ de Bataille features more than twenty thousand objects (including nearly fifteen thousand books from the library).

"That is why I am parting with these objects which are so dear to me. To protect Champ de Bataille."
Jacques Garcia

What makes this aristocratic abode remarkable is the atmosphere that reigns here – its soul – more than the valuable pieces that make up its decoration. So it’s not a question of removing the contents of the ceremonial rooms for this auction, but rather of replacing certain objects with similar items that I have in stock. A console table of royal provenance will be replaced by another console table, but the decor will remain the same. Not one painting will be changed. The displays will remain the same. Champ de Bataille will be less of a collector’s castle, like the Rothschild properties, and instead be the residence of an 18th century aficionado. The proceeds from the auction will go to a foundation that I’ll be creating for that purpose.

View of the Château du Champ de Bataille CHICUREL Arnaud

Among these lots, which pieces of furniture do you consider the most significant?

Adam Weisweiler’s console table – in ebony veneer with a black-lacquered metal band and adventurine background resembling Japanese lacquer, with a top in marble marquetry – is certainly a central lot. It could possibly be one of the last pieces royally commissioned by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and it surely had not yet been delivered as the king and queen had already been arrested. There is, of course, the firescreen delivered to Marie-Antoinette private apartments at Versailles by Georges Jacob in 1788. It was then sold during the Revolutionary auctions in 1793.

A Louis XVI ebonised pearwood veneered, lacquered tole and gilded console, by Adam Weisweiler, circa 1780. Estimate: €800,000–1,200,000

Perhaps Versailles will purchase the fireguard?

The castle already possesses three armchairs, a bergère, a chaise de toilette, two chairs, a stool, and a pouf from the same set. We'll see what happens. The auction also includes a mahogany tray stamped with the Marie-Antoinette’s seal of her Garde-Meuble de la Couronne. Resting on four little feet, it was designed to be placed on the bed. The queen might have written letters to her paramour Fersen on it. Then there is a set of four armchairs and a sofa by Georges Jacob, delivered to Fontainebleau very probably for Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir of Marie-Antoinette. The seats stand at precisely the same height as the room’s lower panelling, and the sofa fits perfectly into the space of the mirror facing the fireplace.

Is there also a noteworthy screen in the auction?

The sale will feature the screen belonging to Comtesse de Provence, Louis XVI sister-in-law, which was then brought to the bedchamber of Queen Marie-Antoinette at Fontainebleau in 1787.

A pair of silver-mounted Japanese lacquer cabinets, Edo period, circa 1640-1680, the mounts, 17th century. Estimate €700,000–1,000,000.

Does the sale only include furniture connected to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette?

No, of course not. One absolutely rare find is a pair of cabinets in Japanese lacquer with silver mounts from the Edo period. The key opening the wase is ornated with the royal cyphers of William and Mary, King and Queen of England. There is also a commode attributed to Latz with impressive gilt-bronzes, that might have been delivered to the Château de Crécy for the Marquise de Pompadour; Unfortunately no inventory still exists. The commode bears the mark of the Vernon Bizy mark, a castle that Duc of Penthièvre purchased and furnished with all the belongings of the Château de Crécy that he bought from the Marquise de Pompadour many years before.

A Louis-Philippe silvered and gilt-bronze armchair, attributed to Claude-Aimé Chenavard (1789-1838), the mounts after the drawings by Jean-Jacques Feuchère (1807-1852), circa 1830.
Estimate: €100,000–150,000 DAmiEn PERRONNET

There is a giltwood stool that belonged to the Duchess of Parma for her palace at Colorno, and then to Empress Marie-Louise. A Régence period firescreen, attributable to Jean-Baptiste I Tilliard, stood in the Hôtel d’Évreux and coordinated with the Crozat furniture of the Louvre. There is also a massive console table, made after design by Germain Boffrand, that I loaned to Lunéville for the “La sculpture et son château” (“The sculpture and its castle”) exhibition in 2021. The interlacing initials “LC” are those of Leopold I, Duke of Lorraine, and his spouse Élisabeth-Charlotte who built the castle of Lunéville in the 1720s.

Are there objects from later periods?

I am also bringing to auction a few 19th century objects such as the two silvered and gilt-bronze mounted armchairs by Alexandre Bellangé, designed circa 1840, attributed to Chenavard. One armchair is very probably from the collection of the duc d’Aumale, son of King Louis-Philippe. Among Alexandre Bellangé’s works there are also two cabinets with hardstone panels, including one with some panels from the Médicis workshops in Florence. More than a “curiosity cabinetmaker”, as Sylvain Cordier – the specialist of the Bellangé dynasty – wrote, these pieces demonstrate the English taste under the Empire and the Restauration.

The furniture lots are completed by a lovely array of Sèvres porcelain...

In the beginning I only wanted to sell the pair of large Lagrenée vases, probably proposed at the end of the 18th century to King Charles IV of Spain and later sold to Alexander Hamilton, British Ambassador to Russia. I then decided to add a pair of Sèvres porcelain fond bleu agate-ground vases which form a set with a pair at Versailles, as well as a Sèvres porcelain fond bleu agate-ground ‘vase chinois’ probably purchased by Louis XVI between 1775 and 1788.

I am also including an important Sèvres porcelain ‘beau bleu’ armorial and ornithological part dinner service, after the designs of Buffon. The set was once on display in the large dining room of Champ de Bataille, presented with silver and silver-gilt tableware. It will be replaced by other Sèvres vases and a regulator clock that I was not able to display until now. So yes, the auction includes a full set of Sèvres porcelain.

An important Sèvres porcelain 'Beau bleu' armorial and ornithological part dinner service, 1792 and 1793. Estimate €600,000–1,000,000.

Do this auction and your commitment demonstrate that your passion for patrimony is absolute?

Yes, and these remind me how much built heritage needs funding to be able to survive. You know, I’ve been arrested twice in my life. The first time, when I was a student at the Arts Décoratifs and was following classes at the Conservatoire des métiers d’art. I conducted sit-ins for three years to avoid the demolition of the house where I was born in Paris, at the corner of Hôtel Salé (where the Picasso Museum is now, in the Marais). Unfortunately, it was torn down. The second time it was even more important for me, because I was so fiercely opposed to the demolition of the Halles de Paris, designed by Baltard. I also lost that battle. Those two adverse experiences showed me that we must remain attentive in order to preserve our historical buildings. That is why I am selling these objects which are so dear to me. To protect Champ de Bataille.

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