Lot 12
  • 12

A pair of large Empire ormolu-mounted mahogany and lacquered jardinière cabinets circa 1810, the ormolu mounts attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, stamped Jacob D. R. Meslee

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1796-1803)
  • mahogany, lacquer, gilt-bronze, metal
  • height 43 1/4 in.; diameter 20 1/4 in.
  • 110 cm; 51.5 cm
the lacquered inverted dome upper section with metal lining insert, supported by three mahogany pilasters mounted with ormolu capitals cast with rosettes and terminating in paw feet; the sides fitted with doors opening to a shelved interior and with bas-relief ormolu figural mounts of female deities, all raised on a molded mahogany tripod base.  


Maurice Ségoura, Paris


Michel Beurdeley, Jacob et son temps, Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 2002, p. 88. 


Mahogany with some minor small chips and occasional patches; some light scratches. Refinished. Lacquer with some crackling. Minor construction cracks consistent with use and age.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This impressive and unusual pair of jardinières epitomizes the luxurious and accomplished oeuvre of François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter and his atelier. Imposing in scale and seamlessly blending fine mahogany veneers on the base with subtle lacquer work on the hemispherical receptacles of the top, these planters showcase the talent of the workshop on rue Meslée.

The use of large ormolu human figures in bas relief as primary decoration on a rich mahogany background is a hallmark of Jacob-Desmalter. The same figures of Venus Anadyomene can be found on a cabinet stamped D. Jacob R. Meslee formerly in the Ruspoli Talleyrand Collection and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. no. W.9-1971). The mounts on the Ruspoli Talleyrand cabinet are attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, one of Jacob-Desmalter’s most important collaborators. The same figures also appear on a pair of unstamped pedestals, sold Collection Fabius Frères, Sotheby’s Paris, October 26-27, 2011, lot 177. Other examples of Jacob-Desmalter’s works where a single human figure serves as primary decoration includes a pair of meubles d’appui ordered by Fulgence Fiévée de Jeumont and sold Sotheby’s Paris, December 2, 2004, lot 53 and a single commode à vantaux formerly in the collection of the Duke of Hamilton and subsequently sold Sotheby’s London, December 10, 2003, lot 196. For a large pair of candelabra at Fontainebleau signed by Thomire and decorated with a dancing maiden wrapped in similarly fashioned drapery as the Venus figures of the present lot, see Jean-Pierre Samoyault, Pendules et bronzes d'ameublement entrés sous le Premier Empire, Vol. I, Paris, 1989, p.158, fig. 136.

Perfectly veneering the hemispherical receptacles of the top sections of these jardinières with no visible seams and buckling occurring would have been impossible. To achieve a perfectly smooth surface with no obvious indication of construction a thin and scintillating layer of lacquer was used, which also mimicked the rich deep brown-reds of the mahogany veneer. Such original use of lacquer was unique and novel at the time and is a testament to the innovativeness of the Jacob-Desmalter workshop.

François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841)

He was the favorite cabinet-maker of Napoleon and, as the son of the most celebrated seat furniture maker Georges Jacob, belonged to a dynasty of leading cabinet-makers. He took over the family's workshop in 1796, together with his brother Georges and the firm became known as Jacob Frères and remained on 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 on 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 by Percier and Fontaine to decorate and furnish Malmaison, 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. 

After Georges, his brother, died in 1803 the firm continued for nine years under the directorship of his father. Beginning in 1803 and continuing until 1813, Jacob-Desmalter used his own personal stamp JACOB D. R. MESLEE. It was during the Empire period that his reputation was established and his talent fully recognized, 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, which was after a design by Percier and Fontaine and 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'.

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) both of whom he cast bronze portrait busts. 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 modeler 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. The business flourished during the Empire period and was renamed Thomire, Dutherme et Cie. 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 pre-revolution work is found in all the major collections including the Louvre, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Compiègne, the Pitti Palace, Florence, the Wallace Collection, London and Waddesdon Manor, Hertfordshire. He retired from business in 1823 and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1834.