Lot 1015
  • 1015

An early Louis XV gilt-bronze mounted kingwood, marquetry, and Japanese lacquer commode en cabinet, circa 1725-30

70,000 - 100,000 USD
50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Kingwood, marquetry, gilt bronze, Japanese lacquer
  • Width:  43 inches
incorporating ten drawers taken from a 17th-century Japanese lacquer cabinet.


Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, March 18-19, 1981, lot 245 (bis)

Catalogue Note

This striking commode en cabinet represents an extremely rare fusion of two distinct types of furniture: lacquer cabinets imported from Japan, and the early form of the classic commode, invented by French cabinetmakers towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV (d.1715). Objects in lacquer were first brought into Europe by the Portuguese in the late 1500s, and trade increased with the establishment of the English and Dutch East India Companies in 1600 and 1602.  By the end of the century most households of higher standing possessed works in Asian lacquer, and Japanese work was considered superior in quality to Chinese wares.  The most popular items were cabinets containing ten and more small drawers and large lidded coffers.  The former were meant to be placed on tabletops or elaborately carved stands, and the latter directly on the floor or specially designed low stands.  

The Régence period of the 1720s saw significant innovation and experimentation in furniture design, and one new development was the adaptation of imported Japanese lacquer cabinets into commodes by effectively inserting the drawers or drawer fronts into the façade of a low framework on stand.  Probably the earliest recorded example of this new hybrid is in the Pagodenburg Pavilion at Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich, with a giltwood apron bearing the coat of arms of the Elector of Bavaria, and its probable companion piece that appeared on the Paris art market in 1974, ill. in Thibaut Wolvesperges, Le Meuble français en laque au XVIIIe siècle, Paris 2000, p.80 fig.60.  A further commode from the same period, formerly with Segoura in Paris (ill. Wolvesperges, p.81 fig.61), embraces more wholeheartedly the nascent form of the classic Régence commode with a marble top and serpentine sides veneered with lacquer panels taken from the doors or sides of a cabinet. Wolvesperges (p.80) dates these works and the present lot to the mid 1720s and points out that the Keck commode is unique in having a kingwood veneered carcase and bronze carrying handles on the sides, a direct allusion to the lacquer drawers’ original incarnation as part of a cabinet designed to be easily transportable.

Although unusual, the commode en cabinet clearly appealed to a small but discerning group of patrons and collectors.  Works of this model appear in the 1764 inventory of Madame de Pompadour’s furniture at the Château de Saint-Ouen, and the 1768 Gaignat sale.  The form quickly evolved after 1730 however to embrace the latest changes in taste, exemplified by the sumptuous commode by Bernard van Risenburgh bearing the label of the marchand mercier François-Charles Darnault now in the Louvre (Fig.1), This superlative work maintains the principle ten-drawer façade organisation and side panels re-used from an older cabinet, but the pronounced sinuous lines and rich gilt bronze mounts already anticipate the mature Louis XV style.  Possibly made in the early 1730s, this work would predate by several years the celebrated commode supplied by BVRB in 1737 to Queen Marie Leczinska at Fontainebleau (now in the Louvre), which established the new direction lacquer-mounted furniture would take: re-used Japanese lacquer elements would now conform to European forms as luxurious surface decoration, rather than attempt to evoke an actual imported Asian cabinet.  

The fashion for commodes en cabinet lingered on into the Neoclassical Louis XVI period, but always remained a minority taste.  Few examples from the first half of the 18th century appear to have survived however, making the present lot an extremely rare appearance on the market of this elegant and fascinating model.