Lot 16
  • 16

A pair of gilt-bronze-mounted serpentine vernis Martin lacquer encoignures attributed to BVRB (Bernard II Van Risen Burgh) Louis XV, circa 1745

450,000 - 700,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • lacquered wood, giltbronze and alabaster
  • 90cm. high, 72.5cm. wide, 51.5cm. deep; 2ft. 11½in., 2ft. 4½in., 1ft. 8¼in.
with conforming serpentine moulded alabaster tops, richly ornamented with gilt-bronze rococo mounts modelled with laurel branches and foliage to the stiles and apron and with gilt-bronze sabots to the feet, stamped with a C couronné, decorated in black and gold Japanese style vernis Martin, the door with a central panel depicting butterflies and a basket of flowers and foliage within a shaped gilt heightened aventurine border, the interior lined with satinwood within a border of amaranth, on three shaped feet; marble tops restored



Louis Jean Gaignat 1697-1768, Collection sold 14th- 22nd February 1769, lot 175, sold 515 livres (see Fig. 1.)

Probably Collection Vincent Donjeux, sold the 29th April 1793, lot 570

Private Collection, France


This pair of encoignures is illustrated in the catalogue of the Gaignat's Collection by Gabriel de Saint Aubin. Although the quality of the drawing is poor, it is of sufficient detail and clarity to enable us to distinguish the lacquer motifs and most notably the handle of the basket. The central foot was added after the delivery of the encoignures. The catalogue description confirms its origin by describing the original oriental alabaster tops which survive with the pieces.


In the Vincent Donjeux sale lot 570 describes: « Deux encoignures à ornemens de bronze chantourné, recouvertes de leurs marbres d'albâtre oriental. Hauteur.33p. Larg.26. ». It is impossible to be absolutely certain of the origin because there is another pair of encoignures by BVRB  known with a provenance of King George IV, which can be found in the Royal Collection, H  Clifford Smith, Buckingham Palace, 1930 illustration n° 304. and illustrated again in the Buckingham Palace catalogue to the Exhibition entitled Carlton House, The Past Glories of George IV`s Palace, 1991, p.64. 

M. Yannick Bapt,  Catalogue Raisonné of Works by Bernard II Van Risen Burgh, 2006, 59 rue Carnot 92300 Levallois-Perret.

Comparative Literature:
F. Watson, Furniture by Bernard II Van Risam Burgh in the Royal Collection, Burlington Magazine, August 1962, pp.341-344.


Catalogue Note

Louis Jean Gaignat

Louis Jean Gaignat, an official at the Palace of Justice in Paris, was one of the greatest bibliophiles of eighteenth-century France. Charles Isaac Elton, in The Great Book Collectors, wrote "When Gaignat died in 1768 his collection was regarded as perfect; it was said that 'no one in the commonwealth of letters had ever brought together such a rich and admirable assembly'".

After the death of his second wife in 1751 and his only daughter, Louis Jean Gaignat left his house in rue Saint-Nicaise in the Louvre to live in the old hôtel de la Ferté now number 12 Rue Richelieu. His collection of paintings, famous library, rich furniture and decorative art were displayed there. In this illustrious place decorated with paintings by Mignard, the collection grew in prestige. In 1757 in his "Voyage pittoresque de Paris" Dezallier d'Argenville described copiously the pieces in five pages. In this sought-after collection were four sculptures in bronze by Desjardins which are today in the Royal Collection. At the time of his death on the 11th April 1768, Gaignat was living in an apartment on the second floor of the Hôtel while his collection was located on the first floor.

The Lacquer

Towards the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th century there was a great vogue for Chinese and Japanese lacquerwork. The demand was such that it exceeded the supply which was the impetus for imitators perfecting work in this form. Initially, to supply this demand Guillaume and Etienne-Simon Martin formed a partnership in 1727 creating workshops in Faubourg Saint-Antoine and Saint-Martin which specialised in producing lacquer work in imitation of this style.

Guillaume Martin had already been received Maître as a painter, sculptor and illustrator in 1713 and had been appointed to the position of Vernisseur to the King by patent in 1725; Etienne-Simon became  Maître in 1728. Later, Robert and his youngest son Julien, carrying on the same line of business, added a third workshop in Rue Magloire in 1748, their enterprise being established as a Royal Manufacturer by the crown. The various inventories of the workshops show the large diversity of their activities including a wide range of furniture paints being recorded such as aventurine, green, red, black and yellow.

Their perfect imitations of lacquer and oriental decoration quickly made them so famous that sale catalogue writers of that époque mentioned them in their notes. However, although the Martin brothers had themselves acquired a wealthy clientele, a large part of their production depended on the instructions of the more famous Parisien marchands-merciers ( merchants of luxury items).

The BVRB Attribution

Although the present cabinets are not stamped, they can be said to be the work of Bernard II Van Risen Burgh (received maitre 1730) who stamped with the initials B.V.R.B. They form part of a group of encoignures in vernis martin and in Chinese or Japanese lacquer some of which are stamped.

B.V.R.B.  depended equally strongly on the commissions of these merchants as the Martins. Some furniture carrying his stamp, whose history has been researched and traced  from construction, showed that the ébéniste worked amongst others, but principally  through, three merciers of the capital: Hérbert between 1737, Lazare Duvaux until 1758 and finally Héceguerre-Poirier between 1753-1764. It is probably through one of  these merciers that the present encoignures were commissioned.

The first, Thomas-Joachim Hébert was without doubt, one of the foremost Parisian marchands-merciers, to conceive the idea of furniture ornamented with lacquer from the Far East; it was to him that the royal family turned to purchase this type of furniture. He supplied the Crown between 1737 and 1750 with more than forty-seven items of furniture of which thirty-six were in lacquer (twelve in Chinese Vernis, two in Indian lacquer or coromandel , seven in red lacquer and seven in green Vernis Martin) . He seemed to prefer using B.V.R.B.  for producing furniture with a Japanese style of lacquer. In 1750, Hébert ceased trading furniture. The sale of his stock was announced in the Affiches de Paris on 6th August 1750 and comprised- bureaux, secrétaires, armoires, commodes, encoignures, tables and other items of furniture of various differing woods and lacquer ornamented with gilt-bronzes and ormolu.

BVRB continued to work with his colleague Joseph Baumhauer for Lazare-Duvaux. His last work journal mentioned a number of valuable pieces of furniture in lacquer, sold during the years 1748-1759 to important Parisian clients. It is possible to use these records taken from this journal to identify or trace encoignures stamped or attributed to BVRB for instance ref. No. 2054  dated 24TH January 1755- M. Masse:  ` deux grandes armoires d`encoignure d`ancient Lacq, garnies en bronze doré d`or moulu, avec les marbes de griotte d`Italie à double moulure, 2000 l' (two large corner cupboards in old Lacquer, ornamented  with gilt bronze ormolu with moulded marble de griotte d`Italie - 2000 l) - corresponds to a pair of encoignures in the collection of the Camondo Museum ( N.Gasc. et G. Mabille, op.cit., p.24).

Comparative Encoignures

In the use of their ornament of gilt-bronze, these magnificent encoignures are perfectly typical of the quality of work of the ébéniste, destined for Parisian marchands merciers. The highly detailed cartouche and some of the mounts are strikingly similar to those which appears on the pair in the English Royal Collection stamped BVRB and which has the same stiles, the rocaille shell motifs, garlands of foliage and sabots. However, where the present encoignures differ is they have this extraordinairy harmony between their gilt-bronze mounts and their lacquer decoration, which makes them exceptional. BVRB created a small bronze cartouche along the bottom edge of the main cartouche which acts as a stand for the small basket of flowers and foliage to rest on.

For further comparison, a pair of encoignures with an original  provenance of Jean-Baptiste de Machault d`Arnouville ( 1701-1794) and delivered just after 1750  and stamped twice B.V.R.B. JME of almost identical form to those in the British Royal Collection was sold Christie`s New York, 2nd November 2000, $721,000.  Another pair in Japanese lacquer, stamped B.V.R.B.  form part of the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, illustrated in G.Wilson, Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, No. 44. A pair of cabinets in coromandel lacquer stamped B.V.R.B. with bronze mounts marked with C Couronné, forms part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illus. F.J.B. Watson, The Wrightsman Collection, I, Furniture, No. 100, A,B. A pair of encoignures in Chinese lacquer stamped B.V.R.B. with the bronze mounts stamped C Couronné formed part of the collection of Henry Ford II, sold Sotheby`s New York, 25th February 1978, lot 78. 

It is interesting to note that the door of each of the two encoignures opens on the same side which suggests that they were almost certainly originally made to be a group of four like those sold on 14 Feb 1785 in the disposal of the collection of Baron de Saint Julien ( no.199). However the encoignures in Japanese lacquer of the suite of the Duc de Talleyrand, Valencay and Sagan ( sold Paris 29th May 1899 and in the days following, lot 276, ) of the same type as the present lot also have a door on each opening to the left and also have the same tops of oriental alabaster.


Bernard II Van Risen Burgh

Bernard II Van Risen Burgh (died in 1766)  was the son of an ébéniste specialising in the production of clock cases. At the end of 1733, he became independent of his father`s workshop. Installed in the area of Faubourg Saint-Antoine, he retired on 18th October 1764 selling his business to his son. Although some clients probably bought directly from him, the majority of his production was sold through the offices of the marchands-merciers Hébert, Poirier, Darnault, Lebrun and Duvaux with whom he collaborated. These associations created some of the most beautiful pieces of the era  to decorate the salons of the most grand collections.