André-Charles Boulle, appointed Ebéniste, Ciseleur, Doreur et Sculpteur du Roi in 1672.
18TH CENTURY REFERENCES TO THIS MODEL
Consoles of this model appear quite frequently in 18th century sales. Three were included in the Julienne sale in 1767, lots 1642, 1648 and 1649; one en contrepartie, was in the Dubois sale in 1785, lot 215; another was in the Chevalier Lambert sale in 1787, lot 310. Another was sold anonymously in Paris, 18 April 1770, lot 311.
It is interesting to note that Lalive de Jully, a client of Leleu, possessed 'une jolie table contournée de marqueterie en écaille, à quatre pieds de biche et deux gaines avec entrejambes; elle est très orné de masques, gaudrons, rosettes et autres agréments; sa longueur est de 3 pieds 7 pouces 6 lignes, largeur 17 pouces 6 lignes, hauteur 2 pieds 5 pouces'.
It appears that Boulle did not design these consoles in pairs; however, from 1750-1760, the great connoisseurs including Gaignat, Randon de Boisset, Duruet, Senozant and the ducs de Luynes and de Noailles, all possessed them in pairs. This includes:-
'Saisie du mobilier de Senozan - 21 Thermidor an 4 no. 5114 Deux Tables en console de marqueterie de Boule sur six pieds ornées de macarons, encadrement et carderons de bronze doré d'ormoulu entre les pieds est un ornament à pomme de pin aussi en bronze doré, portant 3 pieds de long 8 po de profondeur et 2 pieds 6 po de haut, sur le devant un tiroir fermant à clef, chacune avec leur clef, sur une desdites tables manque plusieurs ornements de cuivre plaqué.'
This model of console enjoyed enduring popularity throughout the second half of the 18th century and particularly in the early 19th century in England, where enthusiasts included the Tylney-Long's at Wanstead, the Earls of Ancaster at Grimsthorpe, the Earls Brownlow of Belton, George Watson Taylor, the Duke of York and the Duke of Buckingham.
A further pair feature amongst the sumptuous 'Parisian' furnishings assembled at Lord Tylney's Wanstead, sold by Messrs. Robins in June and July 1822:-
'Lot 24 A COSTLY ANTIQUE BUHL AND TORTOISE-SHELL PARISIEN PIER TABLE, with three drawers in the frame, and ornamental rail shelf under, with or-moulu tripod frame, vase in the centre, elegantly mounted with rich chased mouldings, &c. on six legs, and twisted shell feet, 3-feet-11 wide.
Lot 25 A DITTO, to correspond'
The design for these tables follows in all essentials and many details the drawing ascribed to André-Charles Boulle now in the musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (reproduced in P. Verlet, Les Ebénistes du XVIIIe Siècle Français, Paris, 1963, p.34, fig.2). The design was later engraved and considerably coarsened in the process, appearing on Plate 5 of Nouveaux Desseins de meubles....inventés par André-Charles Boulle, chez Mariette, entitled Grand Table.
This model dates from the very first years of the 18th century. Professor Lunsingh Scheuleer has drawn a parallel between the design of the marquetry tops of some of the tables within this group and the table created for the Menagerie at Versailles in 1701. In order to amuse his granddaughter, the duchesse de Bourgogne, who was still a child, Louis XIV - who wished 'la jeunesse répondue partout' - commissioned a new decortative scheme. Several pieces of furniture were delivered by Boulle including a table with a top decorated 'dans le milieu un amour sur une escarpolette balancée par deux amours et un berger jouant de la musette, le reste remplis de figures et animaux grotesques et ornemens'.
The template for the Triumphal Car and Birdcage marquetry tops on these tables survives in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and is discussed and illustrated in Richard H. Randall Jr., 'Templates for Boulle singerie', The Burlington Magazine, September, 1969, pp.549-553. A commode with the same marquetry to the top was sold at Ader, Picard, Tajan, Monaco, 11 November 1984.
TABLES OF THIS MODEL
Of the tables of this overall form, three sub-groups can be clearly identified. The first, earliest and and largest group - including the present pair - distinguishes itself by being the closest to the original design, with satyr-masks on the front legs, the marquetry tops all inlaid with either the 'Triumphal Chariot' or the 'Birdcage' design.
The second and slightly later group of tables have female-masks heading the legs, are generally slightly larger and have a more elaborately shaped frieze drawer. The third and final group are entirely the product of Louis XV mid-18th century ébénistes responding to popular demand, several of which are executed by Adrien Dubois.
The earliest group of tables, including the Wildenstein pair offered here, comprises:-
- Two in the Wallace Collection, illustrated in Peter Hughes The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture, vol. II, London, 1996, p.750-760, no. 160 (F425) and F425, stamped by Dubois and Leleu respectively
- Former collection of R. Ancel, sold at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 25 May 1986, stamped I.Dubois and E. Levasseur,
- Former collection of the Duchesse de Talleyrand, Sotheby's Monaco, 14th June 1982, lot 492, re-offered, Sotheby's New York, 21st May 1992, lot 101.
- A pair, formerly collection of Jules Strauss, Private collection, with marble tops,
- A pair, probably those offered here, originally in the collection of Adelbert Wellington, 3rd Earl Brownlow, removed from Ashridge Park, Berkhamsted, Herts and 8 Carlton House Terrace, S.W., Christie's London, 3rd May 1923, lot 87,
- A pair at Grimsthorpe Castle, England, which are first listed at Grimsthorpe in the 1813 Inventory (illustrated in A. Pradère, 'Le bureau de Cressent à Grimsthorpe', L'Estampille L'Objet d'Art, July 1999, p. 61, in contre partie, stamped 'Dubois')
- Sotheby's London, 30th November 1984, lot 275, stamped by G. Beneman, with marble top.
-A pair originally in the collection of May, Princesse de Faucigny-Lucinge; subsequently sold from the Akkram Ojjeh Collection, Christie's Monaco, 11 December 1999, lot 45 (7,727,500 Ffr.).
A further variant of this form of table, but with a leather top, known as a table en bureau - was introduced circa 1700 and forms the prototype for Boulle's marquetry bureaux plats. This includes that from the Riahi Collection, sold Christie's New York, 2 November 2000, lot 39 ($2,536,000); another, formerly in the collection of Jules Strauss, mentioned by A. Theunissen in Meubles et Sièges, Paris 1933, p.59 (this table had traces of Boulle marquetry to the reverse and a later marble top); and that now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, illustrated in Kurfurst Max Emmanuel, Munich, 1976, p.179. This table en bureau was originally at the Residenz, Munich and is discussed in B. Langer, Die Möbel der Residenz, Munich, 1995, Vol.1, pp 254-6. This latter table was already recorded in the Residenz, Munich by 1769, when it was listed in the Inventory of the apartments of the Kaiserin Marie Amélie (1701-1756), widow of the Kurfurst Carl Albrecht, who ruled as Kaiser from 1742-45.
In the Déclaration somptuaire d'André-Charles Boulle of 1700, 'deux bureaux de marqueterie, ornements de cuivre doré, quatre bureaux de marqueterie avec ornements de cuivre doré' are listed, and this proves beyond doubt that at least two different models were already in production at this time.
In 1720, in the terrible fire that ravaged the atelier of the ébéniste, douze tables d'environ quatre pieds de long were destroyed - and not one console is mentioned in the Acte de Délaisement of 1715, where as 'deux tables pareilles à celles de Mrs Bourvallais et Grouin en bois blanc avec quelques bandes et filets et autres modelles....300 livres' are described.
Amongst the engravings published by Mariette after 1707, this model of table encased by a border on all four sides is called a 'grande table'.
In 1727, the Inventory drawn up following the death of Paulin Pondre records 'deux petits bureaux d'ébéne à marqueterie de cuivre à un tiroir sur leur pied de pareille marqueterie d'écaille avec les tapis de maroquin couleur citron 400 livres'. Whether these were in fact tables, consoles or bureaux remains tantalisingly unclear owing to the terminology employed, particularly as specially made leather cases for Boulle furniture are recorded in the 18th century for safekeeping. This confusion is further reinforced by the same Inventory, in which deux petites tables en bureau de marbre portor, 118 cm. (46½ in.) wide are described and these would appear to be what we would now describe as consoles. Interestingly, the celebrated commodes by Boulle delivered to Louis XIV for the Grand Trianon in 1708 were then also described as 'bureaux'.
THE BROWNLOWS OF ASHRIDGE PARK
These consoles are almost certainly those from Ashridge Park, described in the Brownlow sale of 1923, lot 87:
'A PAIR OF BOULLE CONSOLE-TABLES, inlaid with Cupid in a chariot drawn by oxen, and with grotesque masks in brass on red tortoiseshell, the frieze and cabriole legs inlaid with tortoiseshell on white metal ground, and mounted with or-molu foliage borders and female masks, with plate glass tops.'
Ashridge was built on the site of a 13th century monastery. After the Dissolution, it became the residence of Royalty, then passing into the Egerton family during the reign of James I. The house was rebuilt by John William Egerton, 7th Earl of Bridgewater (1752-1823), between 1808 and 1820, after designs by James Wyatt and completed after his death by his nephew Jeffry Wyatt, later Sir Jeffry Wyatville. In employing such a progressive architect (Wyattville is best known for his transformation of Windsor Castle in the gothic style for George IV) Egerton was in the vanguard of contemporary taste.
A tempting parallel can be drawn with the Francophile tastes of another Egerton connection - the Duke of Bridgwater. The latter had bought en bloc the finest Italian paintings from the fabled Orléans Collections. Perhaps he also acquired French furniture as part of this, or a related transaction? The Orléns pictures subsequently descended into the collections of the Dukes of Sutherland and the Earls of Ellesmere.
THE REVERSE OF THE TABLES
Both of the Wildenstein tables are decorated with Boulle marquetry to the reverse, suggesting that they were intended to be placed or used as bureaux either in the middle of a room, or in a window bay. Whilst one has a relatively plain goût Grec line decoration which could conceivably reflect the intervention of a marchand such as Julliot in the third quarter of the 18th century, the other has a beautifully drawn première partie marquetry panel. This latter panel is of identical design to the side table in the Wallace Collection (F424) - which also displays the apparent anomaly of only having brass line inlay to the reverse of the front stretchers not the back stretcher. This exact template of marquetry was also employed on the Byng table sold from the Riahi Collection, Christie's New York, 2 November 2000, lot 39.
A MATCHED PAIR OF LOUIS XIV ORMOLU-MOUNTED AND BOULLE BRASS-INLAID BROWN TORTOISESHELL PIER TABLES
Inlaid overall en première partie, the rounded rectangular tooled long-grain brown leather top with monumental pounced and moulded border with domed lambrequin and scallop-shell corner clasps, the inverted breakfront frieze with three walnut-lined frieze drawers, the central drawer with weeping Heraclitus handle, all inlaid with foliate arabesque marquetry within channelled borders, the kneehole flanked by gadrooned berried laurel swept mounts, the shaped side drawers with cartouche escutcheons and baluster handles, the arched ends with further arabesque panels with a Bacchic mask with ribbon-tied garlanded hair, with descending husk-trailed chutes and acanthus scroll sabots, the plain ebonised walnut moulding directly beneath the top almost certainly original but with one end section replaced, the central drawer with replaced support, the side drawers with later cross-struts to the interior to prevent tipping, the right-hand of the kneehole concealing a spring-loaded hidden secret drawer to interior, the underside of the top inscribed 'DEVA', the reverse of the frieze with simulated drawers with handwritten blue paper label numbered '8944'
This lot will require a CITES licence if it is to be shipped outside the EU. For more information please contact Leah Heneghan ++44 (0)20 7389 2828 in Christie's Art Transport Department.
31¾ in. (80.5 cm.) high; 80½ in. (204 cm.) wide; 41¼ in. (105 cm.) deep (2)
A. Pradère, Les Ebénistes Français de Louis XIV à la Revolution, Paris, 1989, p. 107, 275-6.
Peter Hughes The Wallace Collection, catalogue of Furniture, vol. II, London, 1996, p.757, (F424), note 9, no's 11 and 12.
Probably acquired by either by Sir Abraham Hume, Bt., (d. 1838) husband of Lady Amelia Egerton (d. 1809), (sister of the John William Egerton, 7th Earl of Bridgewater (d. 1938) who built the current Ashridge Park), or by their daughter Sophia (d. 1814), wife of John, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl Brownlow, for Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire.
Thence by descent to their grandson Adelbert Wellington, 3rd Earl Brownlow, Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire, Christie's London, 3 May 1923, lot 87 (to Claude Partridge).
Acquired from Jacques Helft, 28 September 1923.