Although the outline and detail in this screen is clearly looking back to the traditional themes of rocaille that were first seen under the Regence in the 1720s, this style has become eternally linked with that of the reign of Louis XV and was the underlying theme of Linke's Gold Medal winning stand in 1900. However there is a clear evidence of the hand of Léon Messagé in the pieces exhibited and also in the present lot. Messagé had been an independent sculptor working in Paris in the 1880s designing for Roux et Brunet as well as Zwiener who was thought to be Linke's German 'master' in his early days in Paris in the 1880s. Messagé's undoubted talent as an inventive modernizer of the much loved Louis XV style which he so cleverly blended with contemporary art nouveau, was somewhat marred by his affinity to a chopin of wine. However Linke appears to have been able to harness the sculptors' talent and behaviour to produce a spectacular array of innovative and instantly recognisable furniture.
The first evidence of a version of this screen being ready can be seen in a contemporary photograph of Linke's stand at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.
It appears that only three versions of the original three-fold screen were made, 1903, 1907 & 1908, with a simplified version in 1909. Two larger four-fold versions were made to special order in 1918-1920. The Blue Daybook shows that the plaster models were started in July 1900 but the writhing dragon not finished until May 1901 by which time several master casts had been made. The total payment to Messagé and his team of three sculptors/modellers was 2,822 francs, more than 25% of the total cost of making the first screen.
The present lot, coming as it does directly from the Linke family on the female line has never been restored. It and the companion table À ouvrage in today's sale were at the Linke family apartment in the late 1970s when occupied by, François Linke's daughter Caroline and his granddaughter, Genevieve on the Quai Henri IV, Paris.
Footnote courtesy of Christopher Payne.
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