Lot 177
  • 177


60,000 - 100,000 EUR
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  • Haut. 74 cm, larg. 55 cm, prof. 33 cm ; height 29 1/4  in., width 21 2/3  in., depth 13 in.
signed Linke, the articulated top with three compartments


Art et Curiosité, October 1904, illustrated p. 162
Payne, Christopher: François Linke, 1855-1946, the Belle Époque of French Furniture, Antique Collector's Club, pp. 135, 138, 378-379, 382 and 378; illustrated pls. 148, 422-425
Payne, Christopher: Paris, La quintessence du meuble au XIXe siècle, Éditions Monelle Hayot, 2018, illustrated p. 445


Illustration is accurate. Very fine marquetry with elaborated contrasts in the timbers. Pretty and elegant model. The gilded mounts will benefit a light cleaning.
"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

Combining traditional Louis XV values with the modern idiom of the Art Nouveau, this table of unusual and innovative design, is a seminal item of Belle Époque furniture, the apogee of Linke’s collaboration with his idiosyncratic sculptor Léon Messagé. First designed circa 1898, this table à ouvrage has a similar but not identical footprint to Linke’s ‘Petit Bureau Louis XV,' index number 552. The table was an important part of Linke’s oeuvre for his stand at the 1900 Exposition Universelle where he was awarded the Gold Medal. The stand included most of his iconic furniture for which he is celebrated today, although the Paravent Louis XV assortie avec meubles de l'exposition, lot 178 in today’s sale was not finished in time. The top and inside of the lid are a tour de force of marquetry, the majority by either Fauchon or Béranger, both of whom supplied much of the marquetry for Linke in the 1900-1920 period. Small tables of this type were the staple diet of Linke’s production, Linke commenting at the 1900 Paris exhibition that he had sold many small tables. The model was so popular, that between 1900 and 1939, Linke may have made as many as twenty-one examples; however at least one, made in 1907, omitted one of the table's most endearing features, the swan marquetry on the inside of the lid.

In researching his 2003 monograph on Linke, Christopher Payne discovered the original piqués drawn in the late 1890s for the marqueteurs to cut out the intricate coloured wood sections. They were lying forgotten in a pigeonhole in the Parisian workshop once owned for three generations by the Immauville family who Linke had last used in 1942. The complex marquetry for the inside with a swan on a lake shows there were ten tones of green alone with the instructions ‘ne rien ombrer dans l’eau sauf les arbres et leur ombre,' ('no shading on the water, except for that of the trees') (Linke, caption to pl. 425). Despite the complexity of the marquetry, the cost of the work seems modest by today’s standards, with the first four being cut by Fauchon at 475 francs per set; he had to agree to make the next set of four at 390 francs, which Linke whittled down to 375 francs. This can be measured against the cabinetmaking of the first example at 150 francs, the chasing of the bronzes 90 francs and the gilding, 65 francs. 

The present lot, coming as it does directly from the Linke family on the female line appears never to have been restored. The complexity of construction of this small table must not be underestimated. In 2003 a similar table, later sold at Sotheby’s New York, A Private Collection, 26th October 2006, lot 178, had been painstakingly conserved. Careful removal of the bronzes and their subsequent re-fitting revealed many unusual features of cabinetmaking difficult to recreate today. The table is unusually heavy with a weighting sandwiched between two boards of mahogany. Although not visible, it can reasonably be assumed that it is lead, as noted on the cabinetmakers’ plan by Linke. The bottom panel weighs 2.8 kilos alone, while the three elegant and slender legs of the table weigh just over 2.2 kilos, indicating the importance of the weighting for the table’s overall stability. Considering the added weight of the bottom panel, the chosen fixing is surprisingly fragile, suggesting that it was added by Linke to aid the stability of what was an innovative design. Technically the most remarkable feature of the table is the delicate cabriole legs veneered in minute detail on all six sides. However it is the rear leg that is a masterpiece of construction, one difficult to replicate today. The complex line of the leg is veneered on an almost 180 degree curve; this and the other legs would have taken many hours of work to prefect and are almost unique in veneering technique.

In accordance with Linke’s practice from circa 1897, the lock is by his brother, Clément, stamped ‘Ct Linke, Serrurerie, Paris.'  Unusual for French locks, it is made using the Chubb patent invented in England in the early 19th century (see Clive Edwards, Encyclopaedia of Furniture, Materials, Trades and Techniques, p.125). François Germond, in L’Ebéniste Restaurateur (Paris 1992), does not describe any similar lock used on 'French' made furniture. Generally, locks made in France are simple and make use of a tumbler spring still popular today. 

Despite numerous drawings of locks illustrated by Paulin Désormeaux in Nouveau Manuel Complet du Serrurier (Manuels Roret, Paris 1866), there is no Chubb patent lock shown; it might be possible to conclude that Chubb locks were not known by Desormeaux, thus not known in France before 1866. Chubb patent locks are generally more reliable than simple tumbler spring locks and it is interesting that Linke has chosen an English style of lock and it suggests that the Linke brothers, François and Clément, were aware of ‘superior’ English technology. This is in keeping with Linke's perfectionism, which he was only too happy to include in their own production if it improved the international standing of their furniture.