- B. Chevallier, Saint-Cloud, le palais retrouvé, Paris, 2013
- P. Verlet, Le mobilier royal français, Paris, 1945, n° 36, pp. 100-104 and pl. L-LI
A few years after the publication of his book and probably due to loans for the “Le Cabinet de l’amateur” exhibition at the Orangerie in 1956, where the Comte de Ribes lent many works including the famous “Clock with Negress” and this fire screen, Pierre Verlet was able to add to his initial research and republished an in-depth study in 1990.
The 1789 inventory of the Château de Saint-Cloud details very precisely a piece of furniture (set of carpentry wares comprising matching furniture including: a bed, a pair of large armchairs, twelve folding chairs, a folding screen, our fire screen and a stepladder) describing martial iconography with warrior attributes and military trophies.
“The wood for the armchairs, folding chairs, folding screen and fire screen are all sculpted, namely: the wood on the armchair, with back legs in the form of fasces adorned with laurel leaf, spike and cannonball, the centre of the rail with a Minerva head and laurel leaf branches, rounded shield, the rest is composed of Ionic capitals, crowns, water-leaves, ropes, acanthus leaves, rosettes, volutes, grooves, lion heads, etc. ; wood on X-frame chair and cross beams with lion heads and egg and dart pattern, water-leaves, grooves, and beads, brackets, rood beams, crowns and lion paws, cross beams are adorned with a rounded shield, Apollo’s head, laurel leaf crown and branches in the centre; the wood on the folding screen, fire screen is analogous to the earlier noted wooden chairs.”
Jean-Baptiste Sené was in charge of furniture, as attested by his memoir:
“8bre (October) 87. The 4. N 2. Saint-Cloud. For the service of the King. (...)
- The carpentry of a bed with 2 bedside tables (...) 700 L.
- For the bed model (...) 48 L.
- For change (...) 54 L.
- A wood-veneered stepladder (...) 16 L.
- The carpentry of two large armchairs prepared in walnut wood (...) 48 L.
- The carpentry of twelve folding chairs (...) 252 L.
- A folding screen of 6 wood-veneered panels (...) 27 L.
- A screen with hats, made of walnut, prepared to be richly sculptured, the feet brackets assembled in two parts ......................... 30 L.”
Terracotta and wax scale models were needed prior to the final fabrication of the furniture, Martin had provided Sené a “model of armchair and screen in wax to instruct the execution ........ 72 L.”
Hauré, who supervised all the production entrusted most of the sculpture to Alexandre Régnier:
Memoire by Hauré. 1st semester 1788. Saint-Cloud. Month of 8th. 4. N 1st. for the King's Bedroom.
“For the sculpting of the King's bed (...)
- Alexandre (Reignier) - For sculpting the whole bed, paid ...... 1.356 L.
- Alexandre - For the sculpting of the two large armchairs analogue to the bed .... 336 L.
- Alexandre, eleven; Vallois, a - 12 X-shaped folding chairs, analogue to armchairs .... 1.152 L.
- Alexandre - A square screen analogue to the bed; on the top rail, Minerva head and branches of lilies, uprights in bundles, cross rails embellished with the attributes of Prudence and Wisdom, feet brackets with lion claws, very rich allover ...... 216 L.”
Chatard undertook the gilding: “the golden gilt burnished with great care” was estimated at the price of 4,860 livres.
The upholsterer Capin was in charge of the fabrics which were woven in Lyon.
“Order no. 2. From 4. 8bre (October) 1787. Capin will make for the Sleeping Chamber for the King a furniture with gros de Tours embroidered white ground, arabesque flowers pattern (...).”
Desfarges had the “white gros de Tours embroidered with arabesques for the summer” made for 56,538 livres, this expenditure concerned all furniture items, the curtains and doors. Silks were often the largest expense, while the lace maker, Fizelier's accessories were more costly than carpentry and sculpting combined, and as much as the gilding.
After the torment of the Revolution and its use by Napoleon I during his early reign, this suite of furniture was reinstated into the Garde-Meuble (Royal Household) in 1808. It was transferred to the Château de Fontainebleau in 1839 for the bedroom of the Duc d’Orléans, where it was completed. The bed underwent transformations by Michel-Victor Cruchet, a screen was renovated, four chairs and two other armchairs were made under Louis-Philippe to complete the set. Pierre Verlet praised the skill of the artisans who made the additions, the armchairs were made to the model and present minimal differences to the carved ornaments. On the other hand, due to the missing model, the screen has had a freer and less precise interpretation. The motif with the attributes of Prudence and Wisdom so delicately carved along the bottom of the framework of the original screen was replaced on the reworked screen, with the Apollo head cartouche which is on the headboards of the bed and the front crossbar of the armchairs. The bed, armchairs and four chairs are now kept in the bedroom of Pope Pius VII at the Château de Fontainebleau (Figs 4 and 5) while part of the panel of one screen is in the Louvre Museum.
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