The present cabinet is based on an important series of armoires of medium height which have been studied by Alexandre Pradère, "Les Armoires à Médaille de l'Histoire de Louis XIV par Boulle et ses suiveurs", in Revue de l'Art, no.116, 1997, pp. 42-53.
This series was created by André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) after 1700 and its production was continued in the Boulle workshops during the first of the 18th century. The prototype was almost certainly a medal cabinet such as the one now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford which is fitted with vertical rows of drawers for the storage of medals. Fully packed with medals, the cabinet would have been extraordinarily heavy which necessitated the additional central foot. The concept of a medal cabinet was further illustrated by the use of medals, or casts of medals, as the decorative devices on the front doors. In fact, these armoires were not frequently fitted with drawers for medals, but were made to serve a variety of purposes, most usually as bookcases, the central foot was retained although it no longer served a useful purpose.
During the 18th century, the impetus for the neoclassical production of these cabinets seems to have been the celebrated Parisian marchand-mercier Claude-François Julliot (1727-1794).
A number of similar 18th century cabinets are known today, most of them in public collections. Ten are in the French national collections, one pair is in the collection of H.R.H Queen Elizabeth II, and other pairs are at Chatsworth and the Hermitage Museum.
During the 19th century, this celebrated model is known to have been copied by Joseph-Émmanuel Zwiener as well as by Mathieu Befort as in the present lot.
Mathieu Béfort, dit Béfort Jeune, comes from a dynasty of Paris cabinetmakers with a workshop established as early as 1817 in the faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris.
Compare a similar piece which sold Christie's, London, September 28, 2006, Lot 53 for £ 84,000.
A pair of 18th century original cabinets sold Sotheby's, New York, Property from the Estate of Ogden Phipps, October 19, 2002, Lot 126, $ 2,429,500.
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