An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)

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Lot 70TP
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)

£ 200,000 - 300,000
US$ 240,000 - 360,000
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
Circa 1770, the moulded marble top surmounted by a pierced Vitruvian scroll mounted gallery, above a frieze drawer mounted with a laurel-leaf garland trail and patera angles, over a fall decorated with Cupid holding a flaming torch aloft and others beneath a sunburst emanating from a lyre in the sky, within a beaded entrelac mounted border, with a ribbon-tied Cupid trophy escutcheon, enclosing a retractable tulipwood veneered unit comprising four short drawers and two shelves, the reverse of the fall inset with a tooled leather writing surface, above a Vitruvian scroll-and-foliate mounted waist centred by a shell, over a pair of doors decorated sans traverse with a maiden burning incense in an athenienne before an allegorical figure holding a cornucopia alongside assorted figures, putti and a large ewer, enclosing one tulipwood veneered shelf, within beaded entrelac borders, each canted angle painted with a figure holding an urn aloft below a Caduceus, the panelled sides similarly decorated and with allegorical winged figures holding cornucopiae, with thyrsus-adorned rear pilasters, on spiral reeded toupie feet, twice stamped: 'P. CHORIER', 80cm wide x 39cm deep x 134cm high, (31in wide x 15in deep x 52 1/2in high)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The offered lot appears in an inventory of the Duthuit collection undertaken at the Petit Palais, Palais des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, and published in 1907, H. Lapauze, Catalogue Sommaire des Collections Duthuit, Paris, No. 1506, p. 296. As a result it seems highly likely that the present secretaire a abbatant formed part of the famous 1900 Exposition Universelle which occurred at the Petit Palais very shortly after architectural construction had been completed there.

    Rene Dubois, maitre in 1755.

    This Dubois secretaire is illustrated and catalogued in Le Meuble Leger en France, (ed. by) P. Hartmann, 1952, Paris, No.'s 188-189 & p. 353. The fact that it is featured in two photographs amidst the total of three hundred and twenty-four included in this important tome shows its significance within the history of French furniture, as well as proving it merits inclusion within such a widely revered canon. It is catalogued in Hartmann alongside some of the oeuvre of the most renowned French cabinet makers and marchands merciers of the 18th century. Among those who figure are Jean-Henri Riesener, Jean-Francois Leleu, Roger Vandercruse (dit R.V.L.C.), Adam Weisweiler and Montigny.

    The offered example is notably prominent in A. Forray-Carlier & M. Kopplin, Les Secrets de la Laque Francaise, Le Vernis Martin, 2014, Paris, fig. 172 & pp.'s 220-1. This, along with another secretaire of closely related form and comparable decoration formerly from a private collection, are also illustrated in N. de Reynis, Le Mobilier Domestique, Vol. II, 1987, Paris, pl.'s 4191 & 4206, pp.'s 1105 & 1110.

    Evidently the grisaille painting on the present piece is based, although perhaps somewhat loosely, upon various sculptural tableaux executed in an early Neoclassical style by Louis-Felix de la Rue (1731-1765). Such antique 'faux-relief' type decoration was originally intended to harmonise with similar overdoor panels prevalent in the most fashionable French interiors of the 1770s, while in turn the latter were influenced by the output of Plat-Joseph Sauvage and the sculptor-decorator, Jean-Baptiste Boiston. However, in Forray-Carlin and Kopplin it is suggested that the trompe l'oeil effect of the shaded border (or illusionistic frame) surrounding the front panels on this secretaire is a unique though recurring characteristic of this genre of work by Rene Dubois, Les Secrets de la Laque Francaise, 2014, fig. 172 & pp.'s 220-1.

    A similar version by Dubois, also circa 1770 albeit slightly smaller, sold Christie's, New York, 23 October 1998, Arts of France, lot 164 and also appears in T. Wolvesperges, Le Meuble Francais en Laque au XVIIIeme Siecle, 2000, Brussels, fig. 170, p. 308. It is stated therein that L.F. Delarue, who was in fact a cousin of Rene Dubois, was most likely to have executed the painting for this particular secretaire, while his name is listed in the Dubois accounts of that time. Delarue is even recorded as having received 214 livres for this work in 1772, A. Pradere, Les Ebenistes Francais de Louis XIV a la Revolution, 1989, p. 295.

    Other models with related Delarue style decoration include a secretaire painted with landscapes, a demi-lune commode and a small vitrine. These pieces, all of which are notably stamped: 'I. Dubois', previously formed part of Anthony de Rothschild's collection and were sold on behalf of the Estate of Helene Beaumont, Sotheby's, Monaco, 4-6 December 1992, lot 15-17. Also another landscape decorated demi-lune, which was previously at Waddesdon Manor, features in G. de Bellaigue, The James A. De Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, Vol. I, 1974, London, cat. 49, p. 224.

    A further comparable with a green ground colour, which is stamped for Rene Dubois and from the Estate of Madame Henri Forman, previously sold Tajan, Palais Galliera, Paris, 15 March 1973, lot 125 and then subsequently Christie's, Paris, 29-31 March 2011, Les Collections du Chateau de Gourdon, lot 733. This can also be found in A. Pradere, Les Ebenistes Francais de Louis XIV a la Revolution, 1989, Paris, p. 303 and P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Francais du XVIIIeme Siecle, 1989, Paris, p. 278. Interestingly Kjellberg likewise refers to its classical or a l'antique Vernis Martin decoration as being trompe l'oeil in imitation of shallow-relief carving, Ibid, Le Meuble Francais, Du Moyen Age a Nos Jours, fig. 427, p. 366.

    The Madame Forman example, which last sold at Christie's in 2011, itself conforms to a secretaire housed at Ludwigsburg Palace, in Bade-Wurtemberg, illustrated in B. Franz, Le Prestigieux Mobilier du Chateau de Luisbourg, "L'Estampille - l'Objet d'Art", February 2001, pp.'s 58-9. However, although both have a similar scheme of ormolu mounts overall, the frieze of the former is beautifully adorned with running Vitruvian scrolls whereas the Ludwigsburg version has a flute-embellished frieze. Despite the frieze of the offered lot being different yet again, its own Vitruvian scroll mounting to the central waist section appears virtually identical to the frieze on the Forman secretaire. The other aforementioned model was purchased by the Prince of Hesse for Schloss Ludwigsburg, circa 1775, thus exemplifying the appeal of the latest Parisian trends among the European aristocracy at that time.

    In 1772, following the death of Rene's father Jacques, all of the furniture then stored in the Dubois workshop was purchased by Rene from his recently widowed mother for 25,000 livres. And, probably as a result of this change of ownership, an inventory of the stock was completed then. This inventory lists a total of eighteen secretaires with related polychrome or grisaille decoration, predominantly with green ground colours, which are recorded as follows:

    '2 secrétaires vernis garnis de fontes dorées, estimés ensemble 720 l.
    2 autres secrétaires plus petits, estimés ensemble 480 l.
    1 secrétaire de 3 pieds richement garni de fonte en couleur, estimé 300 l.
    2 autres secrétaires peints en vert avec des tableaux dans les panneaux, estimés ensemble 1.200 l.
    2 autres petits secrétaires peints, estimés ensemble 1.000 l.
    quatre autres secrétaires en pente à gaine peints en vert avec différents tableaux, estimés 1.200 l.
    2 autres secrétaires en armoire plus communs, aussi peints, estimés ensemble 720 l.


    While it seems probable that the first line of this document refers to the Forman and Ludwigsburg versions, it is unfortunately not clear which line is the correct description for the offered variant. This is due to the rather vague text supplied therein. For example the term 'tableau' might just as equally have been used to reference a secretaire painted with polychrome landscapes in the manner of Joseph Vernet as it could have been applicable to one with monochrome trompe l'oeil panels, as on the above. Consequently it remains unclear how much the item was originally valued at in terms of livres.

    Clearly the present lot is one of these secretaires listed above and thus belongs to this historically important group of decorated early Neoclassical pieces produced by Rene Dubois before 1772. As previously mentioned, a number of these examples can be found in some of the most widely celebrated collections such as Waddesdon Manor, the John Paul Getty Museum and the Ephrussi de Rothschild Collection. The majority are decorated en grisaille with classical scenes involving bacchic putti, Cupid and allegorical figures, whilst the remainder are more naturalistically painted with harbour and seascape vistas after Vernet.

    Although it appears Dubois offered most of his own output for sale directly himself, Nicolas Hericourt who was a major marchand-ebeniste of the period is documented as having sold a number of green ground-coloured and monochrome decorated comparables in 1774. This selection included 'une armoire en secretaire vert et blanc de deux pieds de large par quatre pieds deux pouce de haut' supplied to the Duchesse de Valentinois. The 'P. Chorier' stamp on the offered lot almost certainly provides the name of a similar marchand-ebeniste, or more likely marchand-mercier, responsible for previously, or perhaps even originally, selling this particularly beautiful model.
Contacts
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
An important late Louis XV ormolu mounted grisaille Vernis Martin, parcel gilt and green painted secretaire a abbatant attributed to Rene Dubois (1734-1798)
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