A suite of carved giltwood seat furniture by Georges Jacob late Louis XVI, circa 1789-90
- giltwood, upholstery
Probably the Consul Charles-François Lebrun (1739-1824), who was the tenant of the hôtel Marbeuf until 1801 (see fig. 1);
Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain (1768–1844), elder brother of Napoleon I (see fig. 2), who purchased the hôtel Marbeuf on 7thAugust 1803, together with its contents from the Marquise’s heirs until its sale by him in 1810;
Succession Mme C.W. Hide, sold Rouen 9th March 1980
Sold Ader Picard-Tajan 21st June 1989, no. 148.
Ancienne Collection Aveline-J.M. Rossi, Paris,
Property of A European Private Collector.
" 38. Douze fauteuils et douze chaises en tapisserie de Beauvais fond bleu à dessin mosaïque et bouquet en fleurs à bordures fond vert foncés en crin et montés sur bois de forme antique doré et peint en fond vert, les bras des fauteuils à sujet de tête de lion prisé ensemble quinze cent livres 1500 ".
`Twelve armchairs and twelve chairs in Beauvais tapestry on a blue ground in a mosaic design with a bouquet of flowers and a dark green border in horsehair on gilded and painted wood on a green ground, the arms with a lion head the whole ensemble 1500 livres 1500’.
Pierre Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 1998, plate VIII, where an armchair and chair from the suite are illustrated.
Jean-Pierre Samoyault, ‘Mobilier Francois Consulat et Empire’, 2009, where an armchair is illustrated p.19.
Jean-Marie Rossi, ‘45 Ans de Passion’ Aveline, Paris.
Béatrice de Andia and Dominique Fernandès, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Paris, 1994, pp. 101-104.
Bill G.B. Pallot and Catherine Faragg, Les sièges à l'Antique de la marquise de Marbeuf, L'Estampille - L'Objet d'art, October 1996, pp. 44-53, see pp. 46 and 47, where an armchair and chair from the same suite by G. Jacob are illustrated.
This suite of seat furniture of supremely elegant proportions and sophisticated design in the `à l’Antique’ style with lioness head terminals was originally part of a much larger set of twelve armchairs and twelve chairs delivered by the illustrious ébéniste Georges Jacob around 1789-90, to the marquise de Marbeuf for the Grand Salon at the hôtel Marbeuf, in the rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris. This group included furniture meublant i.e. pieces meant to stand against the walls and "courant", which would have been placed in the centre of the room from which our armchairs derive and in fact are referred to as such on the handwritten labels on two armchairs (see ante). The first floor which was occupied by the marquise was in the `Antique' style and the chairs were originally painted in` Antique' green probably imitating bronze and gilt and covered in Beauvais tapestry upholstery. At the time of Pallot's article in 1996, op. cit., the whereabouts of only two armchairs and four chairs were known. The Grand Salon meant to house the Jacob furniture displayed all the features of a new precursory style, well before the Egyptian campaigns of Bonaparte. This seat furniture corresponds to an evolution of the Louis XVI style already à l’antique and was very innovative, because from 1788, it formed the basis of a style which would become Empire fifteen years later. It is precisely in Empire style before its time, which makes this group a crucial element in the history of the furniture at the end of the 18th century and more specifically for armchair joinery.
The execution of the group has to be dated between 1789 and 1790, the same period in which the renovation works of the Hôtel Marbeuf were carried out (Archives Départementales de la Seine (A.D. 75); 4 AZ 1393; Mémoire de J.J. Payen, décorateur des appartements de la citoyenne Marbeuf), `En 1789 et 1790, époque pendant laquelle tous les travaux étoient suspendus, le citoyen Payen, loge chez la citoyenne Marbeuf, avec laquelle il n’a jamais eu d’autres rapports que ceux que donnent l’estime et l’amitié, se chargera de diriger et de faire exécuter les plans de décorations qui existent dans la maison de la citoyenne Marbeuf (…). Tout les artistes de Paris, dans tout les genres, ont été employés à ces travaux, sans interruption, pendant ces deux années mémorables, à tel point que la plupart des ouvriers ne quittoient leurs ateliers, que pour aller, par intervalle, attaquer et prendre la Bastille, ou donner tel autre preuve de civisme de ce genre.”
According to the inventory drawn up after the death of the marquise de Marbeuf in 1794, in the Grand Salon, there was a fireplace in white marble from which the jambs took the shape of a gilt- bronze tripod decorated with sphinx and lion claws; a four light gilt-bronze English crystal chandelier in arabesque form the lights of which were decorated with four Egyptian pyramids; four candelabras in moulded plaster in the antique manner each with a triangular base and decorated with sphinx and Egyptian rams' heads supporting a pineapple-shaped copper gilt lamp. The works were co-ordinated by two architects: Legrand and Molinos and the sculptors Roland and Maizières participated in the `Antique' style decoration that was reproduced on the two engravings of Krafft and Ransonnette published in their work of 1801. The décor had the desired effect and astonished the contemporaries of the marquise by its modernity.
One must also consider another set of seat furniture made for the Grand Salon at the hôtel Marbeuf. There is fauteuil meublant richly carved in giltwood and painted white stamped Georges Jacob, part of a suite comprising two canapés and four fauteuils dating from 1788-90, one of which had its conserved two tone decoration and original Beauvais tapestry upholstery, was sold Sotheby’s, Monaco, 3rd March 1977, lot 70, reproduced here in fig. 5. They are striking for their winged Egyptian sphinx supports extending all the way up to join the back. The designer of the suite is unknown but what is known is the name of the menuisier Georges Jacob. Although Pallot, op. cit.,states that probably Legrand and Molinos or François Grognard or even François-Joseph Bélanger may have been responsible for their design, as they are the architects who contributed to the development of the Egyptian style in France in the late 1780's.
Georges Jacob maître menuisier in 1765.
The hôtel Marbeuf built in 1718 and was transformed in 1753 by the architect Constant d'Yvry for Gabriel-Michel de Tharon a rich financier and one of the directors of the Compagnie des Indes. A wealthy commoner, he successfully managed to wed his two daughters into the aristocracy, the eldest Henriette-Françoise (1738-1794) to the marquis de Marbeuf and the youngest, Gabrielle Augustine to François, duc de Lévis and maréchal de France. After six years of married life and without descendants, the marquise de Marbeuf ended her marriage. In 1788, upon the death of her mother, she lived in the family townhouse, the hôtel Marbeuf on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. Although the building was in joint ownership with her sister, the duchesse de Lévis, she was certain to become the owner and started therefore from 1789 onwards an important renovation, which was, to say the least, avant-garde. During the Terror in 1794, the marquise suffered the fate of the guillotine and although the hôtel and its contents were restituted to the Marquis's heirs in 1801, the hôtel was subsequently rented by Lebrun, probably Charles-François Lebrun, who became one of three Consuls alongside Napoleon and Cambacérès.
In 1801, hôtel Marbeuf, was the setting for the signing of the historic Concordat between France and the Holy See. The hôtel and its contents were bought shortly thereafter by Joseph Bonaparte, (1768–1844), brother of Napoleon, who was subsequently to be made king of Spain in 1808. He extensively refurbished it in the fully developed Empire manner inspired by the Antique style of Percier and Fontaine, cabinet-work was commissioned from Jacob-Desmalter and Baudoin, Bailly for clocks and gilt-bronzes from Claude Galle.
In 1806, Joseph left Paris for Naples and later Spain, and the hôtel was used for visiting sovereigns and other noble personages such as the kings of Wurttemberg and Westphalia, the Elector of Bavaria in 1809, Eugène de Beauharnais and the grand Duchesss of Tuscany. Joseph shortly after sold the hôtel and it was later acquired by the duc d'Albuféra.
Charles-François Lebrun (1739-1824):
He was the 4th son of Paul Lebrun, a minor landowner and Louise le Cronier. Charles studied at the College of Coutances, then the College of Grassin, part of the old University of Paris. Lebrun was appointed official censor for the King in 1765, a position that rewarded him well and three years later, he became Inspector General of the Domains of the Crown. Lebrun married Anne Delagoutte and had a son called Anne Charles Lebrun (1775-1859). He held many political positions from 1789-1795.
Napoleon appointed him Arch-Treasurer of the French Empire in 1804 and gave him the Great Eagle (the highest rank) of the Legion of Honour on February 2nd 1805 and Lebrun also received the title of Duc of Plaisance in 1806. In 1807, Lebrun participated in the creation of the Cour des Comptes (general auditing office). After the Empire, Louis XVIII made him a Peer of France but during the subsequent Hundred Days he accepted from Napoleon the post of grand maître de l'Université. As a consequence, he was suspended from the peerage when the Bourbons returned again in 1815. He then retreated to his residence in Sainte-Mesme and died at the age of 85 and was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
Joseph Bonaparte (1768 – 1844):
He was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made him King of Naples and Sicily (1806–1808), and later King of Spain (1808–1813, as Joseph I). After the fall of Napoleon, Joseph styled himself Comte de Survilliers. Joseph was born Giuseppe Buonaparte in 1768 to Carlo Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino at Corte, the capital of the Corsican Republic. As a lawyer, politician, and diplomat, Joseph served in the Cinq-Cents and was the French ambassador to Rome. On 30th September 1800, as Minister Plenipotentiary, he signed a treaty of friendship and commerce between France and the United States at Morfontaine. He married Marie Julie Clary in 1794 and they had three daughters. In 1795, Joseph was a member of the Council of Ancients, where he used his position to help his brother overthrow the Directory four years later. In 1806, Joseph was given military command of Naples, and shortly thereafter was made king by Napoleon, to be replaced two years later by his sister's husband, Joachim Murat. Joseph was then made King of Spain in August 1808, soon after the French invasion hwoever, his arrival sparked the Spanish revolt against French rule, and the beginning of the Peninsular War. Joseph temporarily retreated with much of the French Army to northern Spain. Despite the easy recapture of Madrid, and nominal control by Joseph's government over many cities and provinces, Joseph's reign over Spain was always tenuous at best. King Joseph abdicated and returned to France after defeat of the main French forces to the British at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813.