Lot 142
  • 142


60,000 - 100,000 EUR
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  • mahogany, gilt-bronze
  • Haut. 85 cm., larg. 135 cm., prof. 53,5 cm. ; Height 33 1/2 in., width 53 in., depth 21 in.
the beige marble top with green, red and yellow veins, the front slightly protruding 'à ressaut', opening by three drawers above two doors, revealing a shelf and two drawers, on curved legs ending by foliate scrolls, the marble top marked "N° 11"


Almost certainly delivered to the Marquise de Pompadour, for her castle of Ménars, circa 1760


Literature references:
- Exh. cat. Musée National des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, 14 February-19 May 2002, Madame de Pompadour et les arts, Paris, 2002, pp. 351-353
- J. Cordey, Inventaire des biens de Madame de Pompadour, Paris, 1939
- J. Guiffrey, Inventaire de Jean-François Oeben (1763), n. 3, vol. XV, 1899
- A. Pradère, "Madame de Pompadour et le goût grec", in Connaissance des Arts, December 1989, n. 454, p. 106-109
- A. Pradère, Les ébénistes français de Louis XIV à la Révolution, 1989, p. 260, fig. 275
- X. Salmon, Madame de Pompadour et les Arts, Paris, 2002, pp. 351-353


L'illustration du catalogue est assez fidèle à la réalité. Beau meuble, bien construit dans un état de conservation satisfaisant. La confrontation avec d'autres exemplaires connus, celle de Sotheby's, novembre 2009, celle présentée à Versailles en 2014 à l'exposition '18e aux sources du Design, chefs-d'œuvre du mobilier 1650-1790', et celle de Christie's Paris, novembre 2017, démontre des différences de construction, de choix de bois, malgré une esthétique générale quasi identique. Notre commode mélange des panneaux/feuilles en acajou massif (côtés) et en placage avec des épaisseurs variables (façade). Les portes avec des feuilles d'acajou plaquées et jointes.La commode été restaurée, l'intervention la plus marquante concerne le tiroir central supérieur qui a été replaqué (sur le placage original), probablement en raison d'un ponçage excessif qui a laissé le tiroir à la perce. Petite trace de restauration sur les intérieurs des portes. Quelques petites fissures verticales superficielles sur les portes. Il n'y a jamais eu sur notre commode un prolongement de la bordure moulurée sur le haut des montants. Bronzes avec une dorure au mercure présentant quelques usures (très vraisemblablement la dorure d'origine). Une piastre remplacée (tiroir central). Très beau marbre (broché) avec une faiblesse sur l'angle arrière droit. Clé manquante. En conclusion, beau meuble dans un état de conservation satisfaisant. The illustration of the catalogue is accurate.Beautiful commode, well made in a satisfying state of preservation. The comparison with other similar commodes, the one sold by Sotheby's, November 2009, the one exhibited in 2014 at Versailles in '18e aux sources du Design, chefs-d'œuvre du mobilier 1650-1790', and the other commode Christie's Paris, November 2017, show differences in constructions and woods, but the global aesthetic is almost the same. Our commode uses panels and solid mahogany leaves (lateral sides) and veneer of different thicknesses (front). Doors are made of mahogany veneered leaves and joined.The commode had been restored, especially to the lower central drawer which had been re-veneered (above the original veneer), probably because of severe previous sanding. There are minor traces of restoration on the inside doors. There are some minor vertical surface cracks on the doors. The interruption of the horizontal mahogany moulding under the upper drawers, on the curved corners, is original. The mercury gilt-bronze elements are slightly rubbed (almost certainly the original gilding). One piaster had been replaced (central drawer). Beautiful marble top (reinforced with metal elements) with an accident to the back right hand side corner which would benefit from a restoration. The key is missing but could be easily recreated. Very nice commode in quite good overall condition.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Jean-François Oeben, master in 1759 It is interesting to study this commode with the one that was part of the Karl Lagerfeld collection auctioned at Christie's Monaco on 28 April 2000, lot 78 and the one that was sold at Sotheby's Paris on the 10 November 2009, lot 81, both described with the provenance of the apartments of the Château de Ménars, owned by Madame de Pompadour.

The inventory after Pompadour’s death (see J. Cordey, 1939) reveals that she had seventeen “à la grecque" commodes at Ménars, twelve of them in mahogany, estimated around 180, 200 and 240 livres and allocated to furnish the guest apartments.

The terminology “commode à la grecque" was studied by A. Pradère (Connaissance des Arts, Dec. 1989, 454) and refers to a specific commode model with a central projection framed by door panels developed by Jean- François Oeben whose particularity lied with an elaborate locking system, a single lock controlling all the drawers and door panels along the facade. A summary description was featured in 1763 after Jean-François Oeben’s death inventory, who was indisputably the appointed cabinetmaker of Madame de Pompadour, "Item, deux corps de commode de bois d'acajou massif, (...) garnis chacun de de trois tiroirs, dans le milieu deux petites portes sur le côté, prisés ensemble 220 livres”. (Item, two solid mahogany wood commode cores … each fitted with three drawers, middle with two small doors on the side, priced at 220 livres).

Among the commodes stamped by Jean-François Oeben that may match the model at Ménars, three commodes have an incised mark under the marble top, no. 10 for the one from the former Lagerfeld collection (presented at the Madame de Pompadour et les arts exhibition in 2002, no. 151), no. 17 for the one from Sotheby's auction in Paris (10 November 2009, lot 81) and our commode with no. 11. The model is scrupulously identical with a row of three drawers along the apron, two drawers in the center flanked by two panels, ten pull drawer handles with roundels and the original shape of the gilt bronze feet tips. Concerning these two commodes, it is apt to link them with six other commodes of this type (auction Paris, Palais Galliera, 22 November 1982, lot 144; auction Cheverny, 23 June 1990, lot 416; auction Paris, Me Cornette de Saint-Cyr, 4 November 1995; a pair auctioned at Sotheby's Zurich, 10 December 1996, lot 448; and a commode illustrated in A. Pradère, Les ébénistes français de Louis XIV à la Révolution, 1989, 260, fig. 275). They have one common distinct detail: the marble top’s profile, with two ogee moldings, one median overhang covering another double recessed molding. There is a likelihood to identify these “à la grecque" commodes with those mahogany ones delivered at the Château de Ménars. The same repetition of the model and its quantitative presence in this château reinforce the true plausibility of this provenance. Moreover, the existence of the incised mark under the marble top indicates that they fit indistinctly atop “à la grecque" mahogany or bloodwood commodes and that these numbers did not designate a location in the château. Otherwise, the various marble tops such as mixed Campan, red Languedoc and Aleppo breccia should match to those used for the construction of the room’s fireplace.

Madame de Pompadour acquired Ménars in June 1760 and undertook a major renovation and layout that were resolutely "modernes". It was during this period that she paid Jean-François Oeben 17,400 livres "comme acompte sur des meubles à fournir pour ses différentes maisons" (as down payment on furniture to furnish its different houses) and the latter purchased "trente-quatre madriers d'acajou (...) par l'ordre et pour le compte de la dite dame marquise de Pompadour pour être employés à faire des meubles pour les différentes maisons de la dite dame" (thirty-four mahogany beams … by order and on behalf of the mentioned lady Marquise de Pompadour to be used to make furniture for the different houses of the mentioned lady) “(inv. Jean-François Oeben, op cit). At the Marquise’s demise, Ménars and its contents were bequeathed to her brother, the Marquis de Marigny, who continued the project. Contrary to his deeds at other residences, he kept Ménars almost intact, probably because of the modern aspect of the furnishings.