New York, Sotheby's, 15 October 2015, lot 93.
THE CULTURE OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY ROYAL RECREATIONS
Copies of eighteenth-century pieces were highly valued in nineteenth-century culture, as they often cost more to make than the original would have been worth on the open market. Rather than seeing them as derivative copies or fakes, nineteenth-century audiences recognized them as works of art in their own right. Collectors often mixed eighteenth- and nineteenth-century pieces in their collections and found them equal in comparison of quality and technique. The Wallace Collection embodies this unique mix of originals and copies, as one of its creators the 4th Marquess of Hertford consistently purchased Louis XV and Louis XVI pieces while also simultaneously commissioning reproductions from leading contemporary cabinet makers. A copy of Riesener's celebrated jewel cabinet made for the Comtesse de Provence commissioned by Lord Hertford from John Webb was sold at Sotheby's, New York, for $3,176,000.00.2 Empress Eugénie was an important tastemaker in this regard as well in her quest to redecorate the Tuileries and Saint-Cloud with eighteenth-century pieces supplied to Marie Antoinette. Her interest in Ancien Régime work compelled her to commission recreations as many important pieces sold during the Revolution were not available, often having already left the country. To educate the public, exhibitions dedicated to eighteenth-century work were held, including one organised by the Empress at the Petit Trianon in 1867 and a showcase at the Exposition de l'Union Centrale des Art Décoratifs in 1882.
Many of the greatest nineteenth-century Parisian cabinetmakers were commissioned to reproduce this model including Charles Winckelsen, the creator of the current pair; Henri Dasson, whose reproduction of this model was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, for $853,000; the Beurdeley family; the Sormanis; and François Linke.3 Three pairs of nineteenth century commodes of this model exist in public collections: a pair by Fourdinois, the mounts cast by the Denière foundry, in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen; a pair in the Royal Palace, Madrid; and another by Blake of London in the Frick collection, New York. It appears that this diverse group of cabinetmakers was able to reproduce Boulle’s model thanks to the Gore House exhibition in London held from May to July 1853. At this exhibition, eighteenth-century works loaned by various collectors, including the Duke of Hamilton, were exhibited. The Duke of Hamilton’s commode by Boulle himself, and now in the collection of the English National Trust at Petworth House in West Sussex was most probably copied by John Webb for the 4th Marquess of Hertford. Through the careful and costly process of copying the mounts, the commode was able to be reproduced in its exact dimensions.
THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY FASCINATION WITH BOULLE MARQUETRY
Andre-Charles Boulle was known for his distinctive marquetry, which is based on an originally Dutch decorative inlay technique. While Dutch marquetry typically involves different types and cuts of wood, Boulle elaborated on this method by incorporating more expensive and exotic materials such as tortoiseshell, brass, copper and pewter. This opulent and visually exuberant technique remained in fashion in France from Louis XIV’s reign up to the Second Empire and even the Third and Fourth Republics. The catalyst for the revival of this style in the nineteenth century in France was the British fashion for what was termed ‘Buhl’ furniture across the Channel. The decoration of Carlton House by the Prince of Wales, later George IV, involved the acquisition of ‘Buhl’ pieces. As the fashionable tastemaker of the Regency period, the Prince of Wales inspired a broader renewed interest in Boulle furniture that spread to the Continent. The English fascination with the Boulle technique inspired a French cabinetmaker, Louis le Gaigneur, to set up a 'Buhl factory' in London in 1815, and shortly after, the English workshop of George Bullock, who specialised in the Boulle technique, was established. Another maker and repairer was Thomas Parker of Air Street in London and from the 1830s, the firm of Town & Emanuel advertised themselves as 'Manufacturers of Buhl Marqueterie, Riesner and Carved Furniture'.
CHARLES-GUILLAUME WINCKELSEN (1812-1871)
Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen, whose workshops were recorded in Paris at 23, Val-Sainte-Catherine in 1854, ranks as one of the most important mid-nineteenth century cabinetmakers alongside Fourdinois, Grohé, Dasson, Beurdeley and Millet. By 1860 he had moved to 21, rue Saint-Louis in the Marais, and in 1867, he relocated his premises to 49, rue de Turenne. His production varied from furniture to decorative bronzes and works of art, yet he was known for his high-quality works in the Louis XVI style. He had a distinguished clientele, including Laffitte, Behague, the Marquis de Lillers and the Prince Radziwill. Jean-Louis-Benjamin Gros was his principal cabinetmaker, and Joseph-Nicolas Langlois his bronze chaser. Following Winckelsen's death in 1871, Henri Dasson purchased the workshop and stock from Winckelsen's widow for 14,000 French francs.
1 Dell 1992, p. 209
2 New York, Sotheby's ('A Private Collection'), vol. II, 19 April 2007, lot 105.
3 New York, Sotheby’s, 24 October 2007, lot 326.
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