Monday, 30 May 2011

The Wallace Collection - French Furniture

In 1791-95 it was used as the Spanish Embassy and soon after, in 1797, the 2nd Marquess of Hertford (b.1743-d.1822) acquired the lease of the house. The 2nd Marquess used the house as his principal London residence, holding many parties there, the most prestigious of which was the Allied Sovereigns’ Ball held after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
The 3rd Marquess (b.1777-d.1842), as Earl of Yarmouth, was a close friend of the Prince of Wales and from 1810 to 1819 sometimes acted as saleroom agent for him. In 1836-51 the house was let by the 3rd Marquess as the French Embassy.
The 4th Marquess (b.1800-d.1870) lived largely in Paris and used Hertford House as a London store for his increasing art collection. It was only with the Paris Revolution of 1871 that Richard Wallace (b.1818-d.1890), the 4th Marquess’ illegitimate son, decided to move back to London, bringing a substantial amount of his Parisian collection with him.
He redeveloped the house, creating a range of galleries on the first floor. After his death the house was converted into a public museum by the Office of Works and first opened as a museum on 22 June 1900.

Sir Richard Wallace, 1st Baronet (21 June 1818 – 20 July 1890) was an English art collector.
He was the illegitimate son of Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, for whom he worked as secretary, and inherited his unentailed father's estates, and extensive collection of European art in 1871. Wallace expanded the collection himself, and in 1897, after his death, the collection was donated to the nation by Wallace's widow. It is now located in what was his London home, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London - which houses the Wallace Collection. His bequests to the people of Lisburn in Northern Ireland include the Wallace Park and The Wallace High School. His town house on Lisburn's Castle Street is now used as offices by the South Eastern Regional College. His country house at Sudbourne Hall, near Orford, Suffolk, was demolished during the 20th century.
Despite his father's penurious reputation, Wallace achieved fame during the Siege of Paris for notable acts of charity.
At his own expense, Wallace organized two full scale ambulances to operate during the siege; one to serve French wounded, and the second for the benefit of sick and destitute Britons."
By the end of the siege, Wallace is estimated to have privately contributed as much as 2.5 million (1870) francs to the needy of Paris. This is perhaps equivalent to $6.5 million in 2010 money. As a result, Wallace was thought to be the most popular British citizen inhabiting Paris during the siege. The last balloon to leave Paris before its capitulation was named for him as was a Paris boulevard. He received a Legion d'Honneur for his efforts.
Wallace was created baronet in 1871 and was a Conservative and Unionist Member of Parliament for Lisburn from 1873 to 1885. He was Honorary President of Ipswich Museum from 1874 until his death.

The Wallace Collection holds one of the most important collections of French furniture anywhere in the world. Totalling more than five hundred pieces, the collection consists largely of eighteenth-century French furniture but also includes some significant pieces of nineteenth-century French furniture, as well as interesting Italian furniture and a few English and German pieces. The collection ranges from cabinet furniture, much of which is veneered with brass and turtleshell marquetry (commonly known as "Boulle" marquetry) or with wood marquetry, to seat furniture, clocks and barometers, gilt-bronze items including mounted porcelain and hardstones, mantelpieces, mirrors, boxes and pedestals. One highlight of the collection is the major collection of furniture attributed to André-Charles Boulle (1642–1732), perhaps the best-known cabinet-maker ever to have lived.

Remarkable and curious: the quantity and superb quality of 18th-century French furniture in English collections is testament to the British passion for their neighbours' designs, yet the presence of these works is little known in the UK or abroad. by Michael Pick‏

There are important collections and examples of French furniture within the United Kingdom, with some--such as the Mavrommatis or Safra collections, formed in recent times--only known to the public after their sale. The great contrast between national tastes and styles leads many French collectors of their own heritage to assume that Britain has little to offer to the connoisseur of the 18th-century French ebenistes beyond the more famous examples within the Royal Collections. Few have the opportunity to see these except as illustrations, and this applies to the British rhemselves--but various publications and articles are augmented by regular exhibitions in the Queen's Gallery and open days at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

For the most part, handbooks issued by English country houses open to the public are remarkably reticent about their holdings of French furniture, or furniture of any provenance. Usually written by architectural historians, the house and family receive the bulk of the attention, followed by paintings and more unusual works of art. Television programming highlights the public fascination with furniture of all kinds, yet most house websites focus on the fun-fait side of their attractions, and are unlikely to entice the furniture lover--not least from France.

During the last 20 years, the most serious London dealers in the best French furniture have gone, and although auctions still provide collectors with opportunities, the perception is that French furniture is solely concentrated in three major collections open to the public: the Wallace Collection, Waddesdon Manor and the Bowes Museum. The Royal Collections are famous, largely by reputation, as are the large holdings of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), not generally known to have much French furniture.

A major reason for the extent of 18th-century French furniture in British collections lies, of course, in the sale of emigre possessions in London following the 1789 Revolution, followed by the sale of seized royal and emigre possessions, once the Terror had taken its toll and the economic downturn created a need for cash. Yet there were British purchasers of French furniture during the 18th century, buying what was fashionable or curious.

Although French purchasers acquired items at the enforced auctions, English dealers and collectors carried off many of the finest lots.

The French author and collector Philippe Jullian noted in 1966 that few of his countrymen collected seriously until: 'Around 1860 the life led by their grandparents before the Industrial Revolution began to appear delightful and so the objects they had used won new affection ... it is impossible to imagine a subject of Louis XVI bringing out furniture dating from Louis XIV. When the Empress Eugenie started to take herself for Marie Antoinette entire suites started to come down from the attic to the salons. The antique dealers are the attics of the newly rich.'

The recent publication of Bric-a-Brac--a brief account of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild's collecting career culminating in Waddesdon, written in 1897--demonstrates that early in the 19th century, curios or curiosities were a more usual European collecting field for those with the taste and means to satisfy it, including various members of de Rothschild's family well into the 19th century.

In one significant respect we now know that Jullian was wrong. Furniture by Andre-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), his sons and imitators, with its brass, pewter and turtle-shell marquetry marquetry (mär`kətrē), branch of cabinetwork in which a decorative surface of wood or other substance is glued to an object on a single plane. , became highly prized by French collectors in the 18th century. It underwent restoration, re-modelling and copying, notably by Etienne Levasseur (1721-98), with many examples of the popular pedestal plinths found in various collections--such as that formed by the first of the Dukes of Wellington at Stratfield Saye or at Uppark , the house of the connoisseur Sit Harry Fetherstonhaugh (1754-1846), who entertained the Prince Regem and was among those who influenced his taste.

Reproduction Boulle furniture became a standard furnishing item in 19th-century interiors, the genuine article appearing early in Britain. At Boughton, a house consciously modelled on the style of Versailles by Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagn (an ancestor of the current Duke of Buccleuch The title of Duke of Buccleuch was created in the Peerage of Scotland on 20 April 1663 for the Duke of Monmouth, eldest illegitimate son of Charles II of England, who had married Anne Scott, 4th ), there is French furniture he collected while serving as British Ambassador to Louis XIV at various points between 1666 and 1678--notably the small bureau predating Boulle in its form of decoration to the top, but not in its carved gilt wood supports . The piece, attributed to Pierre Gole (c. 1620-84), is thought to have been a gift from Louis XIV, and it may well be the same one delivered to him in 1672. Gole was a Dutchman skilled in marquetry, like so many of his foreign successors as royal ebenistes, first working for Mazarin and later as maitre menuisier en ebene ordinaire du foi (master ebony furniture maker-in-ordinary to the king). He supplied Louis XIV and the Grand Dauphin with furniture, being employed in the Manufacture Royale des Gobelins and evolving elaborately decorated pieces from his more austere designs.

Gole's work was recently represented in the exhibition devoted to Louis XIV held at Versailles, which also included a cabinet thought to be by Gole and Domenico Cucci (1635-1704) from the collection of the Duke of Northumberland The Duke of Northumberland is a title in the peerage of Great Britain.

In Latin, ealdormans of Northumbrians were called Dux when they were vassals of Anglo-Saxon kings of England (Wessex). Bamburgh's lords (holders of Bernicia), Osulf I (d. at Alnwick. This must have opened many French eyes with its display of inlays and decoration of pietra dura, including lapis lazuli, agates and jasper considered to have been made for Versailles' Salon de Mars in 1682. Another example was sold last year and had been in the possession of King Charles X of Sweden before 1735, when it left that collection.

Clearly the Boughton bureau is of great importance in delineating the history of French furniture in Britain, as is the 'State Bed' of the 1st Duke, returned on loan from the V&A, donated in 1916 by the 8th Duke (Fig. 2). Now restored, it is thought to be the work of French upholsterers.

French taste was often transmitted and diluted into English taste. For example, Gerreir Jensen (1680-1715) was a highly skilled Flemish cabinet-maker, making his name in England as an interpreter of Boulle's designs in his own idiom and patronised by the court of William and Mary Noun 1. William and Mary - joint monarchs of England; William III and Mary II and its followers. Similarly, the Frenchman Daniel Marot (c. 1663-1752) was commissioned both in Holland and England by William of Orange William of Orange: see William the Silent; William II, prince of Orange; William III, king of England. (1650-1702) to devise complete room interiors and their furnishing, much as Louis XIV employed his own architects and designers. Jensen may well have been a Huguenot. He was appointed Cabinet Maker in Ordinary to Queen Anne in 1704, and is considered to have brought the latest styles and techniques to furniture making.

Throughout the 18th century, French furniture found favour with sophisticated English tastes, such as the Roentgen roentgen /roent·gen/ (rent´gen) the international unit of x- or ?-radiation; it is the quantity of x- or ?-radiation such that the associated corpuscular emission per 0. cylinder bureau--now in the South Sketch Gallery at Chatsworth with other items from this suite and possibly acquired by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, in Paris. In fact there are earlier French influences seen in elements of the design and decoration at Chatsworth, with Boulle furniture first described there in 1735 and found in the collection acquired over three centuries (a bureau Mazarin having been there since 1745). Subsequent acquisitions followed through the next century.

Equally interesting examples are to be found at Erdigg, Blenheim and Petworth, all acquired at differing dates and in different circumstances, the constant being an appreciation of the craftsmanship. The recent exhibition devoted to the work of Andre-Charles Boulle in Frankfurt-am-Main has underlined the importance of the English collectors and collections.

As indicated, there was 18th-century French interest in the finer products of ebenistes. Royal patronage intended the continuing development of more astounding technical and design feats to stimulate French prestige and the economy. Where the king led, others followed, just as today the French couture industry is actively fostered by the state.

Eighteenth-century French interest in older forms is attested by catalogues of estate sales, such as that of Pierre-Louis Randon de Boisset held in Paris from 27 February to 25 March 1777, when lot 794 (consisting of a pait of Boulle torcheres) sold to an agent named Feuillet on behalf of the Comte de Vaudreuil ( 1740-1817). These were later sold at his sale in Paris on 26 November 1787 as lot 362, underlining the fact that a fashionable friend of Marie Antoinette had a passion for such furniture. The torcheres were later in the London sale of items from 7 Carlton House Terrace Carlton House Terrace refers to a street in the St. James's district of London, England, and in particular to two terraces of white stucco-faced houses on the south side of the street overlooking St. James's Park. belonging to the 12th Earl of Pembroke--at the Christie's sale of 5-12 May 1851 as lot 247--selling to Lord Normanton, a major figure in the 19th-century history of collecting. The Comte de Vaudreuil escaped the Revolutionaries and came to Britain, where he married his second wife in 1795--his cousin, Marie Josephine de Rigaud de Vaudreuil (1774-1859)--and returned to France under Louis XVIII, who appointed him Governor of the Tuileries. Not only was he a collector of various forms of French furniture before the Revolution, but was in London as the greatest phase of British collecting began.

The British taste for French furniture was partly fuelled by the acquisitions of George IV (1762-1830), forming today an important part of the Royal Collections at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. As Prince of Wales Prince of Wales switches places with his double, poor boy Tom Canty. [Am. Lit.: The Prince and the Pauper]

See : Doubles (1762-1820) and Prince Regent (1811-20), he not only bought French furniture and employed French craftsmen when decorating Carlton House, (24) but also collected furniture sold in the wake of the French Revolution--including the cylinder bureau attributed to Riesener, and one of the greatest masterpieces of 18th-century cabinet-making, the Riesener jewel cabinet (Figs. 1 & 6). Their purchase was made at one remove from the misfortunes of the French royal family, as they formed part of the collection of George Watson Taylor (1771-1841), who fell on hard times due to his extravagance--unlike George IV, who already owed the equivalent of some 50m [pounds sterling] in 1795, pleading justification for the sum involved in buying the jewel cabinet.

The background to this and subsequent British 19th-century collecting is only comprehensible in terms of the auctions conducted by the Revolutionaries' regime. The auction at Versailles lasted from 25 August 1793 until 11 August 1794, comprising 17,182 lots, with Fontainebleau from 10 June to 29 October 1794, Marly marl
A crumbly mixture of clays, calcium and magnesium carbonates, and remnants of shells that is sometimes found under desert sands and used as fertilizer for lime-deficient soils.

tr.v. from October to 25 November 1793 and St Cloud from 29 March to 5 September 1795. Other sales of items seized from royal or emigres' houses followed, ignoring the economic mistake of flooding a restricted market with goods. The jewel cabinet, intended as a museum exhibit before the auctions, was later offered to Napoleon at a reduced figure. He turned it down in favour of something new, clearly for political reasons.

Such dispersals involved agents or dealers; the Prince of Wales famously used his former pastry cook and servant, amongst others. He also consulted Lord Yarmouth (1777-1842), the 3rd Marquis of Hertford (from 1822) and father of Richard Wallace, originators of the Wallace Collection. Wallace lived in Paris, as did John Bowes, originator with his wife of the Bowes Museum. Both the Royal and Wallace Collections are well documented, the catalogues updated with ongoing research and conservation, as are the Rothschild collections formed later in the 19th century at Waddesdon. The catalogues for the 1977 auction of Baron Meyer de Rothschild's (1818-74) collections at Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire give insights into the possibilities available to affluent 19th-century collectors. The availability of French furniture was illustrated at Mentmore by the occasional use of lesser commodes as hand basins, the necessary holes cut in the tops for basin and plumbing.

There were other less affluent collectors. John Jones (1800-82), donor of the Jones Collection to the V&A, was a successful military tailor in Waterloo Place, moving in 1865 to Piccadilly with the fruits of his obsession for French furniture, porcelain, paintings and sculpture. His frugality of lifestyle was as singular as his use of Edward Holmes Baldock (1777-1845), advisor and dealer to numerous collectors including George W, William 1V (176S-1837) and Queen Victoria (1819-1901). The 3rd Duke of Northumberland (1795-1847) was a client, buying the Gole-Cucci cabinet mentioned above in 1824 for 2000 [pounds sterling], as was the 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806-84).

Jones paid substantial sums to Baldock, who also dealt in or had made other inlaid furniture. Some of the pieces are clearly not 18th century in origin, nor even French. Whether they were sold as originals or copies is not clear; the fashion for French antique furniture was such that numerous cabinetmakers made copies, sometimes utilising old components. In Paris firms such as Henri Dasson and Beurdeley also made tine tine (tin) a prong or pointed projection on an implement, as on a fork.

When looking for a master in detailed design on furniture, take a look back at the marquetry work of Andres Charles Boulle, a French designer who is heralded as one of the top, if not the top designer in the field of marquetry at his time. He has even had a style of decorative inlay named after him (Boulle).
For Boulle, it wasn’t so much that he was the first to come up with artistic ideas to inlay furniture, but it was that he was so intricately detailed in the designs that he inlaid and carved into modern furniture that he was well known. Though he was headquartered primarily in Paris, France, Boulle was called all over the country to utilize his skill in placing a veneer on furniture in a variety of materials, including tortoiseshell, pewter and brass.
Early on he spent a lot of time working at Versailles where he created the walls, the wood mosaic, paneling and other carved furniture such as the Commode with heavy etching, carving and ornate designs.
Born in 1942, Andres Charles Boulle was a master cabinetmaker by age 24 in 1666; only six years later at the age of 30, Boulle was lodging at the Palais du Louvre with the king’s blessing and he was also a personal designer to Louis XIV, or the King of France creating cabinets, sculptures and other modern artwork of the times. He produced furniture as well as gilded pieces using gold and gilt bronze chandeliers, lights, mounts and other furniture.
Despite his great creativity, he was a poor businessman and was even occasion ordered arrested for various credit issues.
Despite this, his unique skill in marquetry that allowed him to create unique modern furniture covered with a fanciful inlay of ivory or other material that helped create a beautiful picture or ornamentation.
Breuer, who was still influenced by the late Renaissance ornamented with an emphasis of what is now considered a Baroque stlye, ornamentation in bronze and ebony.
One of Boulle’s most significant pieces, widely known by many in the furniture design world is the Queen Anne chair, a wooden carved chair with a soft cushion. These chairs have carved shell or scroll motifs in different areas of the chair. Part of the Queen Anne style, its design was heavily influenced by Andre Charles Boulle who helped create the Baroque or Rococo style in France. This influence didn’t stay long as Oriental influences were coming in that were streamling and making furniture more modern. Andres Charles Boulle has examples of his work around the world, including some incredibly famous places such as Versailles, Fontainebleau, the Louvre, Windsor Castle among others.
Boulle set the trend for veneers using ebody and tortoiseshell, so much so that many fakes were created of the design. No matter how cheap it was, it was still confused for the real inlay. As Boulle’s skill increased be began adding other elements to make the work his own such as a gold leaf or other ornamented pieces such as feet, trims and various ornaments to help protect and to decorate further.
Very few people since have been able to accurately replicate the work of this great French artist and furniture designer. His contemporary, yet creative designs for living room, bedroom and other furniture were unmatched during his time, with few having the skill to compete.
Andres Charle Boulle was not only a great furniture designer, but he passed the skill onto his children who were also noted as great cabinetmakers and continued on the family design name.

Charles Cressent (1685-1768) is considered to be one of the best decorative artists of the 18th Century. Born to Francois Cressent, a sculptor du roi and the grandson of Charles Cressent, a furniture maker and sculptor; it would make sense that he would continue in their footsteps as a French furniture maker, sculptor and fondeur-ciseleur of the late Régence and early Rococo periods. In the beginning of his career his works reflected his extensive training by André Charles Boulle, in the school of Boulle. Later, as he developed as an artist, his pieces would reveal his own unique and original style.
This style, rich with line, detail and ornamentation, he is best known for his highly sculptural gilt mounts that ornamented his furniture. This is expressed through female figures placed at the corners of tables as well as bronze mounts said to rival that of one of his contemporaries, Jacques Caffieri, master of the Rococo style. Executed with a sharpness of finish with an elegance and strength of outline, he produced furniture and clocks that were rich in color and intricate detailing. Gilt handles, representing Chinese dragons designed for his bathroom at the Hertford House, was one of his most elaborate. He boasted of producing the finest art pieces suitable to be placed in the finest of settings.
In order to supervise production and guarantee the quality of his mounts, he broke the strict rules of the French guild system and employed both master casters and gilders in his workshop. He was prosecuted by the guild for this practice.
Noted for his confidence in his artistic talents, he maintained careful records of the sale of his works published in three catalogues allowing for ease of identification and location. Because of this, much of his work has survived and is still able to be viewed and enjoyed until today.
One of his best known pieces is the bust of Louis, the son of Philip ll, Duke of Orléans whom he was also commissioned to make furniture for. The famous medailier, considered an outstanding example of 18th century French furniture is on display at the Bibliotèque Nationale. Additional original pieces of his work can be viewed at the Louvre and the Wallace Collection, a world famous museum in London specializing in display of fine and decorative art from the 15th to the 19th century.
His style of ornamentation included extensive use of marquetry; inlaid veneers of tortoiseshell, satinwood and amaranth woods fitted together to form an intricate design. This use of color and exuberance typified the Régence and early Rococo style.

In the early 1700s, Baroque accents in design were still heavily in vogue as was the Rococo influencein visual arts and modern design. It was during the Renaissance that these designs gave way and were heavily influenced by ancient Roman and Greece designs, but was in the early 1800s that modern design began to pull away from the Baroque influence into a more neoclassical influence from a more traditional Rome and Greece that didn’t emphasize the romantic elements of church and religion which inspired an entire design concept.
It was during this time that the ebeniste became popular in France. Ebeniste means cabinet-maker in French, but truly goes beyond the simplicity of a cabinet-maker. While early on in the 1700s baroque was popular, it became clear as time passed that a simpler, cleaner look was influencing design despite the ostentatious designs of King Louis XVI who later on in life simplified his designs, but still loved the embellishments of marquetry created by the proper ebeniste.
One popular ebenist and furniture designer was Jean Henri Riesener, born July 4, 1734 in Gladbeck, Westphalia, Germany before moving to France later on in life to begin his modern furniture design career. After marrying the widow of the man he apprenticed with, he became master ebeniste before working for the king where he eventually rose in the ranks to be known as the “greatest Parisian ebeniste of the Louis XVI time period.” His work became significant in what is now known as the Louis XVI style, a mix of Baroque and Rococo influence with the beginnings of Neo-classical design beginning to influence modern interior and furniture design.
Louis XVI was married to Marie Antoinnette who loved Riesener’s marquetry work on her cabinets and regularly had him make her creations. Riesener was skilled in may techniques from parquetry to trelliswork to gilt-bronze mounts and he preferred to hide the screwhesads on his work.
Riesener made many different items from cabinets to desks to secretaries to commodes with fancy inlay for the new King and Queen and was in high demand until he died in poverty. His pieces for Royalty and for the upper-elite may have made him wealthy. His designs were innovative with mechanical fittings that raised or lowered the table or desk.
Despite surviving the French revolution by removing fancy emblems from his furniture design, Riesener bought back many of his grand creations in hopes it would become vogue again, but eventually they didn’t and he finished his life in obscurity despite his heavy influences on the new neo-classical furniture design.

Born in Gladbeck, Westphalia, in 1734, Jean-Henri Riesener moved to Paris at an early age and by 1754 was apprenticed to Jean-Francois Oeben at the Arsenal. Riesener took over the workshop in 1765 and ran it on behalf of Oeben's widow until attaining his mastery in 1768, at which time, having married Oeben's widow, he took over the quarters at the Arsenal. In June 1774, Gilles Joubert formally relinquished his office of ébéniste de Roi to Riesener. From 1774 to 1784, Riesener supplied more than 938,000 livres worth of furniture to the Garde Meuble Royal.


Anonymous said...

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Miz Inspyre said...

What a magnificent collection! The images are so profound on many levels. I especially love the use of the amaranth. Thank you for your contribution.

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