Feature Mondays - Louis XIV ormolu-mounted ebony, fruitwood and marquetry commode archive
Thursday 4 August 2016
We take a look at the top lot from Bonhams’ ‘Europe - Defining Style’ auction
This fantastic Louis XIV ormolu-mounted ebony (Diospyros spp.), fruitwood and marquetry commode features a rectangular top with rounded corners inlaid with a central urn filled with summer flowers including tulips, jasmine and carnations, on a platform supported by a grotesque mask. All of this decoration is surrounded by elaborate scrolling foliage, strapwork, butterflies and birds. The four long graduated drawers are of arc-en-arbalete form, panelled to simulate eight short drawers with conforming marquetry. The canted corners with outset scrolling bases are mounted on short feet formerly with mounts and the sides are further decorated with marquetry vases of flowers and leafy scrolls. The piece measures 1200mm wide × 680mm deep × 870mm high.
André-Charles Boulle has become synonymous with the distinctive marquetry technique whose primary elements are brass and tortoiseshell; however, he was also a practitioner of marquetry in multiple woods, including fruitwood, throughout his career. His design sources included those of Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer and his sons, over 300 of whose studies for flowers and birds he owned. His inventory upon death in 1732 also included a collection of flower paintings by Beaudesson. At the age of 63, in the Acte de Délaisement of 1715, the ébéniste recorded in his stock various floral marquetry furniture items of the present type, including five tables, seven cabinet doors, 19 crates of coloured veneers together with other supplies of timber for producing marquetry veneers. In 1720, the damage resulting from a workshop fire included the loss of two coloured marquetry bureaux demonstrating marquetry of this genre remained fashionable at that date. Furniture of this kind in Boulle's documented oeuvre includes a table with provenance from Blondel d'Azincourt and subsequently at Wanstead, sold from the Riahi Collection, Christie’s New York on 2 November, 2000 and a pair of cabinet stands also from Wanstead sold from 'Boulle to Jansen' at Christie's London on 12 June. A group of commodes closely related to the present lot include an example from the Wildenstein Collection, sold at Christie's London on 14 December, 2005 and 500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe, Including Oriental Carpets at Christie’s New York on 23 November, 2010.
Another ébéniste producing similar commodes was Aubertin Gaudron, whose workshop was in the rue Saint-Honoré. Enjoying Royal Patronage, Gaudron's clients included the Prince de Condé, the duc de Chartres and the duc d’Anjou. He last recorded receiving a payment by the Garde-meuble de la Couronne in 1713. Among his commissions was a commode supplied for the château de Compiègne. It is recorded in the following description: 'de bois de plusieurs couleurs fond d’ébène ornée au milieu d’un vase rempli de fleurs posé sur un bout de table et un masque grotesque au dessous le reste rempli de rinceaux fleurs oiseaux et papillons au naturel...(AN 01/3308)'.
The last private owner of Abney Hall was the grandson of Sir James Watts (1804-1878). Sir James' grandson was Agatha Christie's brother-in-law. James married Agatha's sister, Marjorie (Madge) Frary Miller (1879-1950) in 1902. Agatha Christie often visited the Hall and wrote two stories from there: the novel After the Funeral and the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.