The Getty Furniture page contains 60 images of cabinets, commodes, cupboards, tables,
chairs, beds and other decorative objects compiled from several visits to the Getty Center.
Included are several superb examples of Mannerist, Baroque and Regency craftsmanship.

The Getty Museum and Getty Villa sections have been uploaded with only the images
while the captions (description and art history) are written. Each page will be replaced
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Rolltop Desk Molitor Boulle Cabinet Montigny HS4883

Rolltop Desk, Bernard Molitor, mounts by Gambier and François Rémond, French, Paris, c. 1785-1788
Oak veneered with mahogany and ebony, gilt bronze mounts; griotte de Flandre marble top

When the roll-top is raised, a writing slide may be pulled forward, revealing dummy drawer fronts that match the interior desk drawers above. Additional writing slides pull out at the sides, perhaps for assistants to take dictation. The desk was originally designed to sit in the middle of a room, where it could be seen from all sides; the gilt bronze mounts that decorate the lower frieze once continued around the back.

The ébéniste Bernard Molitor, who made this desk, received many commissions from the French court. Although scholars are unsure exactly who commissioned this grand piece, an entry in a sale catalogue of 1800, when it was sold at auction, described it as having come from the royal château of Saint-Cloud. A further clue to its original owner are the very small fleurs-de-lis, symbol of the monarchy, stamped on the drawer handle of the center drawer. An early purchase by J. Paul Getty in 1938.

The Figures atop the Rolltop Desk and the Boulle Cabinet, Standing Candelabra, and Porcelain Vases will be detailed below.


Boulle Cabinet Montigny HS4874

André-Charles Boulle's name is synonymous with the practice of veneering furniture with marquetry of tortoiseshell, pewter, and brass. While he did not invent the technique, Boulle was its greatest practitioner and it is named after him: boulle work.


Candelabra with Vase Feuchere 3860

Boulle Cabinet, attributed to Philippe-Claude Montigny, French, Paris, about 1785-1790
Oak veneered with pewter, brass, tortoiseshell, amaranth, and ebony; gilt bronze mounts; bianco e nero antico marble top.

The technique of veneering furniture with tortoiseshell, brass, and pewter, known as boulle work (named for André-Charles Boulle) first became popular in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The method became fashionable again during the 1780s, when craftsmen such as Philippe-Claude Montigny produced this cabinet.

Montigny specialized in the restoration and production of furniture decorated with tortoiseshell and brass marquetry panels, which he either made himself or took from early pieces. To veneer the central panel on the front of this piece, he took marquetry from the door of a cabinet of the late 1600s. The inner surfaces of old doors served to decorate the sides of this cabinet.

Pair of Vases, Porcelain: Chinese, 1662-1722; mounts: French, 1770-1775.
Hard paste porcelain, black ground color, gilding; gilt bronze mounts.

These Kangxi Chinese vases are known as "mirror-black ware" because of their hard glaze and lustrous finish. Potters applied the black glaze, made from ground minerals such as iron oxide, to dry porcelain. When the color dried, the porcelain was fired again and then decorated  with gilded patterns. The gold, however, had never been baked onto the surface of the vessel and tended to rub off easily, leaving only a slight shadow on the surface of the porcelain. The original pattern can still be faintly detected on the surface of this pair.

The vases were imported into France and mounted in the 1770s with gilt bronze leaves, guilloches, and wave-patterned mounts of a unique design around the necks. Gilt bronze lids (lost) would  have covered the tops. The simple swelling form of each vase, known as a double-gourd shape, and the gilt-bronze ornaments reflect shifting fashion towards the Neoclassical style in Paris.

One of a Pair of Standing Candelabra, attributed to Lucien-François Feuchère
French, Paris, 1784-1786, blued metal, gilt bronze

Candelabra such as this pair would have been placed on a mantelpiece, a commode, or a secrétaire in a salon of a stylish Parisian townhouse.

Scholars use various decorative details to identify and precisely date an object like this. The gilt bronze figures of women with Egyptian headdresses and acanthus leaves clustered with fruit and flowers are of the same form as the mounts on three Chinese porcelain vases now in the Musée du Louvre. The aunts of Louis XVI, princesses Adélaïde and Victoire, ordered these vases from the marchand-mercier François-Charles Darnault in 1786 for their château of Bellevue. The candelabra may have been produced at the same time.


Rolltop Desk Figures Mantel Clock 3171c

Mantel Clock, case attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, movement by Charles-Guillaume Manière,
French, Paris, c. 1789, patinated bronze, gilt bronze, enameled metal, glass, white marble, griotte marble.

An ancient Roman religious rite inspired this clock, designed in the Neoclassical style after a drawing by Hubert Robert. Two bronze priestesses of the temple of Vesta, the ancient Roman goddess of the hearth and its fire, carry the altar bearing the sacred flame. The sacred flame and the vigilance of the Vestal Virgins, who kept the altar fire burning continuously, came to symbolize eternity, a suitable association for a timepiece. The theme extends to the hour and minute hands, which are in the form of a snake, another symbol of eternity.

The French craftsmen added fine chasing to emphasize decorative details on the pedestal altar, the delicate ritual vessels, and the arabesque patterns on the altar cloth  surrounding the clock face. Panels representing Art and Science flank a frieze with cherubs and a goat. Four lounging lions and a marble plinth support the clock. Pierre-Philippe Thomire designed a number of examples of this piece, two of which belonged to Queen Marie-Antoinette.

Pair of Decorative Bronzes with the Figures of L'Etude and La Philosophie, Pierre-Philippe Thomire,
(probably after a model by Louis-Simon Boizot), French, Paris, c. 1785, gilt and patinated bronze

The reading female represents an allegory of Study, while her male companion who writes on a tablet is Philosophy. These purely decorative objects copy the form of ancient oil lamps, but they were not actually functional.

In 1780 the sculptor Louis-Simon Boizot sold models for these figures to the Sèvres porcelain manufactory, which produced them in unglazed white porcelain until 1786. The bronze chaser Pierre-Philippe Thomire mounted many pieces of the porcelain sold by the factory and therefore could have obtained Boizot's models for these bronze pieces through this close connection.


Secretaire Riesener 1689

Secrétaire, attributed to the royal cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener, French, Paris, c. 1785.
Oak veneered with ebony, set with panels of Japanese lacquer, gilt bronze mounts, black marble top

The front of this desk, known as a secrétaire, drops down to reveal an interior compartment divided into drawers, while the fall front itself becomes a writing surface. The entire body of interior fittings, made of solid mahogany, can be pulled out from the front, revealing secret lidded compartments below. Such shallow pieces of furniture that open or extend into larger objects were invented for the smaller, more intimate rooms of the later half of the 1700s.

This secrétaire is not stamped with the maker's name, but it is securely attributed to Jean-Henri Riesener (royal cabinetmaker 1774-84), the most able (and perhaps the wealthiest) cabinetmaker in the second half of the 18th century. Riesener was apprenticed to Jean-Francis Oeben (an earlier royal cabinetmaker) and upon his death, married Oeben's widow, securing for himself a prosperous workshop, a good clientele, and eventually the highest position of ébeniste du roi (and hopefully a happy marriage). After ten years of producing a prodigious amount of extremely elaborate and expensive furniture for the King and his Court, his dismissal from his position in 1784 was due partly to a decision by the King that such conspicuous consumption was not looked upon favorably by the people of France (which eventually proved true in 1789 when the French Revolution began).

Although researchers cannot find the Getty Museum's secrétaire listed in the royal inventories, it is of the same caliber as other pieces made for Marie-Antoinette and the French court. The mounts are finely chased in their smallest details, and the construction of the piece is of high quality.


Secretaire Weisweiler Mantel Clock Folin-Merlet 3832

Secrétaire, attrib. to Adam Weisweiler, plaques gilded by Henry-François Vincent, French, Paris and Sèvres, c. 1780-1783
Oak veneered with yew and mahogany, five soft-paste Sèvres porcelain plaques, gilt bronze mounts, white marble.

From the 1750s onwards, the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory supplied various marchands-merciers with porcelain plaques that were then incorporated into various forms of furniture and other items. Dealers ordered the plaques directly from Sèvres and then passed them over to ébénistes like Adam Weisweiler with specific orders about the object they should ornament. The marchands could therefore offer their clients considerable choice over the final design. In 1785 Weisweiler became the main supplier of furniture mounted with Sèvres plaques to the dealer Dominique Daguerre.

On this work, the porcelain plaques were probably produced before the final position and form of the secrétaire had been determined. The two oval plaques on each side are painted to be viewed horizontally, but they are mounted vertically, with their groups of musical instruments tilted awkwardly on their sides. This orientation suggests that they were not originally intended to be mounted on the same piece of furniture as the three rectangular plaques set on the front.

Mantel Clock, movement: Nicolas-Alexandre Folin, enamel plaques by Georges-Adrien Merlet.
French, Paris, c. 1790-1800, gilt bronze, enameled metal, white marble, glass.

Known as a pendule squelette (skeleton clock) because of its exposed movement, this type of timepiece became popular at the end of the 1700s. Collectors appreciated the movement as an object of beauty, to be enjoyed as much as the case, which would formerly have hidden the elegant enameled dials. Besides telling the time with the large dial, the lower dials indicate the days of the week and the days of the month. Above, a fourth dial records the phases of the moon.

The modern pendulum bob is a copy of one which was on the clock when purchased, but was lost while the clock was on loan. It is possible that the earlier bob was not the original as the majority of skeleton clocks of comparable design have a bob formed by a sunburst with an Apollo mask in the center. The glass cover is possibly original.

Side Chairs, designer: Jacques Gondoin, frames: François-Toussaint Foliot, probably carved by Toussaint Foliot.
French, Paris, 1780-1781, gilded beechwood; modern silk upholstery.

These chairs were part of a suite of eight side chairs and eight armchairs made for the French queen Marie-Antoinette (reigned 1774-1792). Designed in the Neoclassical style with carved bands of ivy, laurel wreaths, and fluting, they stood in the salon du rocher of the Belvedere Pavilion located in the gardens of the palace of Versailles.

Music Stand, attributed to Martin Carlin, French, Paris, c. 1770-1775.
Oak veneered with tulipwood, amaranth, holly, and pear; engraved and filled with blue-and-white mastic, gilt-bronze mounts.

Designed to hold sheets of music at an angle, the rectangular music rest can be raised or lowered for a standing or seated musician. The extending arms hold candles to illuminate the sheet music for evening concerts or dances. Around the third decade of the 1700s, French designers and cabinetmakers developed new, highly specific forms of furniture to meet the needs of their patrons. Stands such as this one furnished salons, music rooms, or smaller cabinets where guests gathered for conversation or entertainment.


Writing Table Carlin 3831

Writing Table (bureau plat), Martin Carlin, plaques: Jean-Baptiste-Emmanuel Vandé, French, Paris and Sèvres, c. 1778
Oak veneered with tulipwood, fourteen Sèvres soft-paste porcelain plaques, gilt bronze mounts, modern leather top.

The marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre purchased the porcelain plaques that decorate the sides of this table from the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory specifically to be mounted on furniture. Once ordered from Sèvres, the porcelain plaques, including the unusually-shaped ones at either end of the table, would have been given by the dealer to the ébéniste Martin Carlin with orders to mount them onto a newly designed piece. In the background is a Secrétaire by Carlin with Sèvres plaques.

This table was among the pieces of furniture that Daguerre sold in 1782 to Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duke Paul Petrovich of Russia, who later became the Czar and Czarina. They made an unofficial trip through Europe traveling as the comte and comtesse du Nord. The Duchess installed the table in her bedroom at the Palace of Pavlosk, near Saint Petersburg.

Inkstand, French, possibly Paris and Sèvres, late 1800s.
Oak veneered with rosewood, 12 hard-paste porcelain plaques, polychrome enamel decoration, gilding, gilt bronze mounts

The marchand-mercier Simon Poirier probably invented this form of inkstand set with Sèvres porcelain plaques in about 1760. While he was not the first to use porcelain plaques to decorate furniture and objects, Poirier became the biggest buyer from Sèvres in the 1760s. This example, made in the late 1800s, reproduces the form of Poirier's earlier inkstand. A printed label attached to the bottom indicates that this piece was once in the Russian imperial collections at the Palace of Pavlosk, near Saint Petersburg.

Pair of Candlesticks, Étienne Martincourt, French, Paris, c. 1780, gilt bronze

Candles and firelight were the only sources of illumination after dark in the 1700s. Candlesticks made from bronze, silver, pewter, or wood, with one or two branches, were the most popular mobile light source. These candlesticks, with their crisp fluting and chasing, are engraved underneath with the name Étienne Martincourt, one of the main suppliers of bronzes to the duchesse de Mazarin.


Writing Table Carlin 3833

The Carlin Writing Table (bureau plat) in the context of the room. Note the unusually shaped Sèvres plaque at the end of the bureau plat. In the background left, between Marie-Antoinette's chairs (described above), is a rather precarious marble-topped French oak console table displaying the Bust of a Man by Jean-Jacques Caffieri (c. 1760). The gilt bronze winged Wall Clock above the bust has a movement by Nicolas Thomas (French, c. 1785). In the corner (partially blocked by the table) is the Secrétaire by Carlin with Sèvres plaques. Standing atop the Secrétaire are two Sèvres porcelain vases with polychrome enamel and gilding by Jacques-François-Louis de Laroche and Antoine-Toussaint Cornaille (1775-1780). The chair behind the Carlin table is one of a pair from a 15-piece set by Jean Boucault (1765-1770) used in the Palace of Versailles by Louis XVI to sit by the fire. The furniture with porcelain plaques from the Sèvres factory shown in this group of three images were nearly as expensive in their day (relative to the contemporary economy and existing prices) as they are now.


Cabinet Japanese Laquer Baumhauer 3904

Cabinet, stamped by Joseph Baumhauer, French, Paris, c. 1765, Oak veneered with ebony,
tulipwood, amaranth and Japanese cedar, kijimaki-e lacquer panels, gilt bronze, yellow jasper top

The combination of rare and costly materials used on this cabinet indicates that it was a particularly expensive commission. The four Japanese lacquer panels date from the mid to late 1600s and were created with a technique known as kijimaki-e. For this type of lacquer, artisans sanded plain wood to heighten its strong grain and used it as the background of each panel. They then added the scenic elements of landscape, plants, and animals in raised lacquer. Although this technique was common in Japan, such large panels were rarely incorporated into French eighteenth-century furniture.

The cabinet is designed in the massive form usually associated with the first emergence of the Neoclassical style c. 1765. Heavy Ionic pilasters, whose copper-filled flutes give an added rich color and contrast to the gilt-bronze mounts, flank the panels. The top is made of yellow jasper, a semiprecious stone, rather than the usual marble.

Detail of the porphyry and granite mounted vases on the yellow jasper top is below.


Porphyry and Granite Mounted Vases 1684

Pair of Mounted Vases, French, Paris, c. 1770, porphyry and gilt bronze mounts.

Although techniques for working porphyry had existed in Italy in the 1500s, French craftsmen in the 1700s had difficulty carving this very hard stone. Partly because Louis XV established a quarry to supply such stones, hardstones--particularly antique ones such as alabaster and porphyry--became very popular in France towards the end of the 1700s. Patrons particularly sought out rare and precious porphyry, which they preferred set in fashionable gilt bronze mounts such as these.

In addition to the new quarry, technical advances in working the material contributed to its newfound popularity in France. The Duc d'Aumont, one of Louis XVI's most important ministers, oversaw a stone-working studio in the royal workshop of the Hotel des Menus-Plaisirs. He employed a bronzier to mount the hardstone vases, pedestals, and tabletops, and collected significant hardstone pieces. These solid porphyry columns were purely decorative elements in room decoration.

Granite Vase, French, Paris, c. 1770, granite, gilt bronze mounts.

Although primarily a decorative object, this bowl may once have held potpourri. Containers for potpourri first appeared in the 1700s in France, made from precious metals, porcelain, lacquer, or hardstones; recipes for their sweet-smelling contents were soon prevalent. Fashionable women experimented with flowers and perfumes to achieve the finest fragrances, which were sometimes left to mature for up to nine years.

In the late 1700s, the taste of collectors stimulated a renewed interest in hardstones mounted with gilt bronze. These mounts show the boldness and angularity of the early Neoclassical style known as goût grec (Greek taste). Both Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI owned many such objects, which they and others purchased for large sums of money.


Cabinet Pietre Dure Porphyry 3864

One of a Pair of Cabinets, attributed to Adam Weisweiler, French, Paris, c. 1810.

Oak veneered with ebony and pewter; set with pietre dure plaques and
micromosaic roundels, gilt bronze mounts; portor d'Italie marble tops.

The pietre dure (hardstone) plaques on this cabinet date from the late 1700s; they were probably made by Italian craftsmen and brought home as souvenirs by Northern European tourists. Connoisseurs appreciated the variety and rarity of the stones and artisans' skillful arrangement of them into mosaic and relief designs. Because of their value and popularity with collectors, such plaques were sometimes mounted into specially made and suitably grand cabinets.

The catalogs of two sales held during the French Revolution describe the pair of this cabinet, made about twenty years earlier. William Beckford, a wealthy English connoisseur of hardstones, probably purchased the other cabinet late in the 1700s. He may have ordered this cabinet to be made with identical gilt bronze mounts and dimensions to match the earlier one.

Pietre Dure (or pietre dura) is a technique for creating images from cut stone.
Unlike mosaic, the pieces are larger, highly polished, and cut in shapes that are
assembled so the seams are nearly invisible. The underside of the pieces are
cut with joinery so they interlock, and they are then either glued to a substrate,
or inlaid as you see here. Marble, Opal, Mother of Pearl, Carnelian, and many
other stones are used to create the images. First appearing in Rome in the
1500s, it reached its highest level in Florence, where the Medici created a
training institute to assemble a group of craftsmen and promote the art.
Galleria di’Lavori, founded by Ferdinando I de’ Medici in 1588, is now
called the Opificio delle pietre dure. The products of the Opificio, by
the early 17th century, had been widely distributed throughout Europe
and had made it to India, where they were bought up by the Mughal court
and imitated using an Indian style. They were widely used in the Taj Mahal.

Pair of Urns, French, Paris, c. 1780, porphyry, gilt bronze mounts.
— I can find no information on the mounted porphyry lidded bowl on a gilded stand between the urns —

Hardstone vases mounted with gilt bronze were extremely popular during the later decades of the 1700s in France. One aristocrat, the duc d'Aumont, was a major collector of this type of object. He supervised a workshop, directed by the architect François-Joseph Bélanger, that produced hardstone vases, pedestals, and tabletops, which were then often mounted with gilt bronze ornaments.

When the duke's collection was auctioned after his death in 1782, the competition for his objects was fierce. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette acquired many of the pieces for large sums of money. At the sale, the king purchased a pair of urns identical to these porphyry ones; those urns are now in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.


Cabinet Pietre Dure Apt of Elements 5532c

A detail crop of a Medici Stipo (cabinet) in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
This image is added here to provide context on original Medici pietre dure inlay.

In the Room of the Sabines (Sala delle Sabine) of the Apartment of the Elements (the Medici residence) in the Palazzo Vecchio is this spectacular cabinet inlaid with precious and semiprecious stones and marbles in Pietre Dure. Surrounded by flowers, fruits, birds and shells is a central scene depicting Villa Medici di Cafaggiolo, which was one of the oldest of the Medici family estates. Cafaggiolo was a 14th century castle that was transformed into the first of the Humanist country villas by Cosimo de’ Medici. Cosimo the Elder set his favorite architect Michelozzo to redesign the fortress into a country retreat (although it retained a lot of its defensive character). It had passed into the possession of a younger branch of the Medici family until Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici bought back all of the original Medici holdings, including the Villa at Cafaggiolo.


Tabletop Pietre Dure HS9429

Pietre Dure Tabletop, Italian, Florence or Rome, c. 1580-1600

Pietre dure and marble commesso (mosaic) top including breccia di Tivoli (or Quintilina), giallo antico,
 nero antico, breccia rossa, breccia cenerina, breccia verde, broccatello, bianco e nero antico, serpentine,
alabaster fiorito and alabaster tartaruga, lapis lazuli, coral, rock crystal, and yellow and black jasper.

The technique of hard and softstone inlay flourished in ancient Greece and Rome and was revived in Renaissance Italy, particularly in Rome and Florence. In early Renaissance examples geometric patterns prevailed, but by the end of the 1500s, as the demanding technique was mastered, artists began to include more pictorial elements, such as the scrolling foliage on this tabletop. Each decorative component is outlined in white marble, which sets off every richly colored and patterned element from the other and emphasizes the table's jewel-like quality.

This tabletop must have been produced after 1559, as the stone of the large central oval, breccia di Tivoli, was only discovered in the ruins of the ancient Villa di Quintiliolo at Tivoli when Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte was transferred there during the papacy of Pius V in 1559. The stone was highly prized for its rarity and its variegated colors, which resemble gems set in dark stone.


Leda Night Clock Andromeda 4052

Baroque Side Table, Italian, Rome, c. 1720-1730, carved and gilt linden wood with marble top.

The form and decoration of this massive table, animated by masks and female heads turning in all directions, display the dynamic style of the Baroque in Rome. Certain aspects, however, point to the transition toward the Rococo, including bits of draped garlands, the broken architectural elements, and the freely handled scrolls. Beneath the top, stretchers boldly curve out from the center to connect the four legs, which turn and twist outwards.

Companion pieces are located in an English castle and in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The three tables must have been part of a larger set of tables that decorated the grand hall of an important Roman palazzo in the 1700s.

The Night Clock is detailed below. Visit the Bronze Sculptures page for detail on the sculptures.


Medici Night Clock Pietre Dure Foggini 3227

Night Clock, Giovanni Battista Foggini, woodwork: Leonard van der Vinne.
Italian, Florence, 1704-1705, ebony, gilt bronze, and semiprecious stones.

Giovanni Battista Foggini was artistic director for the Grand Duke of Tuscany in Florence from 1694-1725. During this time, table clocks became more fashionable, Most had ebony cases with pietre dure reliefs or mosaics and gilded bronze appliqués. On this night clock, a multicolored parrot draws the attention to the clock face, along with stylized flowers. A seahorse spirals across the center of the clock base, flanked by two small dragons on the column plinths. There is a third dragon on the cornice just below the clock face. Leonardo van der Vinne, the Flemish ebony specialist, made the case. Atop the case are two dynamic putti resting on volutes and on the crowning pillar, a miniature of Pietro Tacca's bronze of c. 1630 called "Il Porcellino" (the piglet), one of the most famous symbols of Florence, which was copied from a Hellenistic marble in the Uffizi.

This timepiece was a collaborative effort of several of the most skilled artists who worked for the Medici family in Florence, including Leonard van der Vinne and Giovanni Battista Foggini. In addition, the statue of the boar mounted on the top may have been modeled by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi, based on a classical marble statue in the Uffizi. The clock's architectural shape copies the form of church altarpieces, while its elaborate stone decoration includes both flat scrolls in mosaics and innovative three-dimensional fruit garlands at the sides. The mechanism was created by Francesco Papillion.

Night clocks were designed to indicate the hours with a dial illuminated from behind with an oil lamp. In this way, the numbers would have been visible in a dark or dimly lighted room. They never became very popular, however, as keeping the lamp alight through the night required constant care, either by refueling or trimming the wick.


Baroque Table Leda Andromeda HS9495

The spectacular Baroque Roman Side Table (1720-30) taken in different light, without the Night Clock.


Commode Boulle Pluto Boreas HS9529

Commode, attributed to the workshop of André-Charles Boulle, French, Paris, c. 1710-1715.
Oak and pine veneered with tulipwood and bois satiné (bloodwood), gilt bronze mounts.

This small, solidly constructed chest of drawers is known as a commode, literally meaning "convenient" in French. Commodes first appeared at the end of the 1600s, replacing large chests for storage. With interiors divided by drawers, the commode provided a better distribution of interior space in a more elegant and accessible form than the earlier large chests. The commode became a very fashionable form of furniture during the 1700s.

In addition to its three drawers (a long one on top and two smaller ones below), this commode contains several other, less obvious storage places. The large, central gilt bronze mount is attached to the front of a narrow drawer, and the two lower drawers each have a deep base that was once hidden by a false bottom. The swelled concave and convex form is fairly typical for the early 1700s (it is possible that the mounts were installed much later, as many of the mounts show the crowned C tax stamp which was only used between 1745 and 1749). The heavy form and the massive sculptural mounts on this piece are typical of the workmanship of André-Charles Boulle, one of the most famous Parisian ébénistes in the early 1700s.

Visit the Bronze Sculptures page for detail on the sculptures.


Louis XV Commode Joubert 3881

Commode, royal cabinetmaker Gilles Joubert, French, Paris, 1769

Oak veneered with kingwood, tulipwood, holly, satiné (bloodwood),
and ebony, gilt bronze mounts, sarrancolin des Pyrenées marble top.

Gilles Joubert was eighty years old when he delivered this chest of drawers to the French royal family. It is one of a pair that was made for the Versailles bedroom of Madame Louise, youngest daughter of Louis XV. The Journal of the royal household's furnishings records its delivery on August 28th, 1769, along with the name of its maker, its dimensions, a detailed description of the piece, and its assigned inventory number which is boldly inscribed on the back. The whereabouts of the pair is unknown.

The trellis marquetry mounted with gilt-bronze rosettes at the cross-sections is a decorative motif frequently found on Joubert's furniture. The thick gilding, large size, carefully detailed mounts, and heavy marble top all contribute to an overall impression of luxury suitable for a royal owner. Gilles Joubert became royal cabinetmaker after the death of Jean-François Oeben and was succeeded by Jean-Henri Riesener in 1774. Most of Joubert's works are in the Rococo style, and while a bit ungainly, this venture into the Neoclassical style is beautifully made, with heavily gilded mounts and a thick, highly brecchiated Sarrancolin marble top (from the Royal quarry, used in the Versailles Palace). This piece is gray and cream with red veins and white calcite.


Commode van Risenburgh and Lidded Bowl 3214

One of a Pair of Commodes, Bernard II van Risenburgh, French, Paris, c. 1750.
Oak and walnut veneered with bois satiné, amaranth, and kingwood, gilt-bronze mounts, campan rouge marble tops.

This commode is one of a pair which are both stamped BVRB and were made by Bernard van Risenburgh. They are not typical of his work, perhaps because they were made for a German client, Frederick Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and father-in-law of Louis, the Grand Dauphin, who ordered the cabinets. The bold and massive design of these mounts is not found on other works by van Risenburgh, and they may have been made by a German bronze caster. Van Risenburgh was an extremely versatile cabinetmaker, able to adapt the subtle French style to suit the taste of different cultures and patrons.

The end-grain kingwood veneers used to create the tree were stack-cut and assembled in such an artful manner that their concentric growth rings created the relief of the tree trunk and the texture on the leaves, in an exceptionally masterful application of marquetry technique by Bernard van Risenburg.

The pair of commodes is part of a set with three larger commodes and a pair of corner cupboards that were probably made for the German hunting castle Schloss Moritzburg. Gilt bronze mounts of a stag attacked by dogs decorate the fronts of this pair, and guns, quivers for arrows, and hunting horns overlay the corner mounts. These elements symbolize the hunt, one of the most important pastimes of the nobility in the 1700s, when stag hunting was considered the highest art of the sport.

The Lidded Bowl (or vase or jar, depending on source) is from a pair made of Chinese “Imari” hard-paste porcelain, enameled with gilding (Kangxi period, 1662-1722) and gilt bronze French mounts (1745). They were decorated by the Chinese potters to imitate Japanese Imari porcelain, using their distinctive palette of blue, gold and iron red. By the early 1700s, the Chinese had begun producing these for export to capitalize on the success of Imariware in Europe. French craftsmen cut off the curved shoulders and fitted them with gilt bronze mounts to form lids, which take the form of seaweed, coral, fish, eggs and shells.


Corner Cupboard Dubois 1693


Corner Cupboard Dubois 1726

Corner Cupboard with Clock, Jacques Dubois; clock movement: Étienne Le Noir; enamel: Antoine-Nicolas Martinière,
French, Paris, c. 1744-1752 (clock 1744), Oak veneered with bois satiné, kingwood and rosewood; gilt bronze mounts.

This monumental corner cupboard follows a drawing by the French architect and ornament designer Nicolas Pineau, who was an early exponent of the Rococo style. The cupboard's large scale and exuberant gilt-bronze mounts reflect Eastern European rather than French taste. The cabinet was actually made for a Polish general, Count Jan Klemens Branicki, Grand Hetman of the Crown of Poland. Branicki's wife was related to the King of Poland, whose daughter was Louis XV's Queen (explaining the French connection). An inventory of Count Branicki's possessions made at his death describes both the corner cupboard and the objects on its shelves: a collection of mounted Chinese porcelain and clocks, some embellished with porcelain flowers.

The clock mounted in this cabinet is from a design by Nicholas Pineau. The maker of the gilt bronze case is unknown, but the movement is by Étienne Le Noir (who made the Clock for a Cartonnier on the Decorative Art page). A female figure (probably representing Astronomy, and allegedly also representing Poland) is seated on a cloud above the dial, holding a globe in her left hand and carrying a torch (with missing flame) in her right. Her head is encircled with stars and a sunburst is on her chest. In front of her stands an eagle whose head is turned toward her. The dial is surrounded by flames, contained by large S-shaped scrolls continuing down the sides of the clock to join the legs, which splay out to the corners of the cabinet. The case is a facade, with no back and only two legs. There is a supporting rod from the back below the dial to the rear corner of the cabinet.

The drawing of the corner cupboard, or more probably an engraving of it, must have caught Branicki's attention. Dubois was commissioned through a Warsaw dealer to construct the cabinet for the Polish aristocrat. Drawings and engravings were sources frequently used by foreign patrons and craftsmen to order and copy the latest fashions in French interior design.

This elaborate and sumptuous cabinet, standing almost ten feet tall and replete with nature motifs rendered in gilt bronze mounts along with spiraling candelabra and playful cherubs atop lions (espousing the allegorical theme of Love Conquering Strength), veneered with precious wood marquetry, and finally crowned with a monumental clock weighing 65 pounds, on top of which sits an allegorical female figure, was the most expensive piece of decorative art which had ever been purchased at the time of its acquisition at a Sotheby’s auction in 1979 (for a price of 8,360,000 French francs, or $1.95 million).


Display Cabinet Flemish 1748


Display Cabinet Flemish detail 1746

Display Cabinet, Flemish, probably Antwerp, early 1600s
Walnut and oak veneered with ebony, tortoiseshell, possibly coconut, and ebonized wood

This cabinet, used to store and proudly display precious possessions, inventively combines architectural forms with elegantly carved figures and ornamental motifs. The two main doors are decorated with allegorical figures of two of the three Christian theological Virtues: Faith and Hope, holding their respective attributes of a cross and an anchor. The third Virtue, Charity, appears on the central drawer, suckling two children.

Four female caryatid figures representing the seasons of the year support the upper register of the cabinet. Behind them, five small busts with male and female heads decorate the tops of pillars, perhaps symbolizing the five senses. They are shown in the acts of drinking, playing music, and other forms of sensual enjoyment. The receding cupboard at the top opens to reveal a central octagonal mirror surrounded by intricately inlaid geometric patterns. Depicting the Virtues along with these allegorical figures probably served as a reminder that pleasure must not take precedence over Christian principles.

The detail shot shows one of the caryatids with a cornucopia symbolizing abundance (an allegory of the Fall Harvest).


Italian Armchair Rosewood 3724

Armchair, Italian, Naples, c. 1780, rosewood and kingwood.

This chair probably once formed part of a suite of furniture designed in the late 1700s for a Neapolitan palace under the reign of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. It is a masterfully executed object of a refined yet ingenious form, remarkable for its slender arms, which resemble billowing ribbons, dividing to form the armrest and then curving out before joining the seat of the chair. The chair combines French and English Neoclassical elements with novel Italian ones, such as the outwardly sweeping, undulating arms and the stunning marquetry patterns.

The ingenious parquetry is made of colorful wood veneers that follow the edges of arms, back, and legs, giving them the appearance of being stitched. Examination revealed that the chair rail above the legs is a later addition, and that the original would have included a serpentine border embellished with the same lively, stitch-like marquetry found on the other edges, further increasing the astonishing effect.


Polonaise Bed 3874


Polonaise Bed 3878

Bed (Lit à la Polonaise), French, Paris, c. 1775-1780.      9 ft. 11 in. x 5 ft. 10 1/2 in. x 7 ft. 5 in.
Painted and gilded walnut, gilded iron, modern silk upholstery and passementerie, and ostrich feathers.

A grand bed like this one was meant to stand in a deep niche in the bedroom of the main apartment of a palace or mansion. In the 1700s, visitors were frequently received in the bedroom, while the host or hostess was still in bed or at his or her dressing table. The lit à la Polonaise, named after Louis XV's Polish Queen, Marie Leszczyńska, had a baldachin which was roofed by a dome held in place by curved iron bars hidden by curtain rods. The canopy is of smaller dimensions than the surface of the bed. The upholstery was usually elaborately detailed, and was often made from silk, the most often used fabric in grand interiors.

Wealthy Europeans of this era spent vast sums of money on lavish textiles to decorate their rooms. Although the extravagant upholstery, passementerie, and hangings on this bed are modern, they replicate its original grandeur. To match the effect of other contemporary beds, curators and conservators studied photographs of this bed taken in the early 1900s, when much of the original fabric remained. The bed was originally upholstered with a silk designed with ducks, pheasants and peacocks by Philippe Lasalle (1723-1805), fragments of which still exist. This fabric was ordered by Empress Catherine II in 1773 and was used to cover walls and chairs in the Ekaterina (Catherine) Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar's Village) near St. Petersburg. The bed may have been made for a member of the Imperial Household, as this silk does not seem to have been used elsewhere.


Turkish Bed Tillard 1722


Turkish Bed Tillard 3908

Turkish Bed (Lit à la Turque), attributed to Jean-Baptiste Tilliard, French, Paris, c. 1750-1760.
Two-toned gilded beechwood, modern silk upholstery.    5 ft. 8 1/2 in. x 8 ft. 8 1/4 in. x 6 ft. 2 in.

Wall Clock (pendule d'alcove), movement by Jean-Jacques Fiéffé, clockmaker
clock case possibly after Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier, French, Paris, 1735-1740

In 18th century France, a bed of this shape was called a lit à la turque (Turkish bed) because of its two scrolling ends. This title does not refer to any specific Turkish design source but reflects the eighteenth-century preoccupation with anything exotic and unusual from foreign countries. Turkey, China, and Egypt were among the places that inspired craftsmen in their creation of romantic and luxurious interiors. The intention was not to accurately recreate foreign objects but to impart a feeling of exotic opulence, even if only through the name attached to an object. The fashion for things "Turkish" peaked in the mid 1700s, when Madame de Pompadour had a bedroom which was known as the chambre à la turque (Turkish bedroom) because paintings displayed in the room showed a slave girl presenting a cup of tea to a sultaness. Note the exceptional size of this bed.

The gilt bronze Wall Lights were made by François-Thomas Germain in 1756 for the Duc d’Orleans and were a single pair of eight which were made in opposed pairs (each pair different from the others) for the Palais-Royal in Paris of King Louis XV’s cousin, Louis-Phillipe, Duc d'Orleans. Two more pairs are seen further below: Commode Latz Writing Table Cressent 3190.

The Rococo Wall Clock, with its swirling form and asymmetry, is composed of eight separate pieces of gilt bronze bolted to a white oak board. Atop the clock is a winged figure of Cupid on an S-shaped scroll carrying away Time's hourglass. At left, a second Cupid carries away Time's scythe in his left hand. Below the dial, a winged figure of Time reclines on a cloud, his hands supporting a flame which partially covers him. Below is a trophy of Time's globe, protractor and dividers, held by a ribbon. The whole is surrounded by branches of laurel with leaves and berries. The figures represent Love Conquering Time, a theme often repeated in mid-18th century French clocks. Clocks like this one, known as pendules d'alcove, were usually of a small size suitable for a bed alcove. This may be the largest known example, indicating that it was made for an extremely ornate interior.


Turkish Bed Tillard 3825

A low angle shot revealing the wheels below the Lit à la Turque, used to move the body of the massive bed.

Jean-Baptiste Tilliard made this monumentally large bed for a bedroom in a grand private residence. The bed would have been placed sideways against a wall, with a draped baldachin above, which is now missing. The large wheels allowed servants to pull out the body of the bed easily, leaving the tall back attached to the wall while they made it up. It was probably set into an alcove or niche in the bedroom wall.


Cabinet and Coffers Boulle 1780

Cabinet on Stand, André-Charles Boulle, French, Paris, c. 1675-1680.

The elaborate cabinet was probably made at the Gobelins Manufactory, established in 1662 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert to make furnishings for the royal châteaux and palaces, although it was possibly made by the royal cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle in his workshop at the Louvre. The cabinet is veneered with ebony, pewter, tortoiseshell, brass, ivory, horn, and various woods, with drawers of snake wood, painted and gilded wood figures and bronze mounts.

The decorative scheme on the cabinet refers to the French king Louis XIV's military victories. The central door is decorated with a panel of marquetry showing the cockerel of France standing triumphant over both the eagle of the Holy Roman Empire and the lion of Spain and the Spanish Netherlands. On the drawer above the door, gilt-bronze military trophies flank a medallion portrait of Louis XIV. In the Dutch Wars of 1672 to 1678, France fought simultaneously against the Dutch, Spanish, and Imperial armies, defeating them all. This cabinet celebrates the Treaty of Nijmegen, which concluded the war in 1678. Two carved and gilded wooden figures figures from Greek mythology, Hercules and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, representatives of strength and bravery in war, appear to support the cabinet.

The fleurs-de-lis on the top two drawers indicate that the cabinet was made for Louis XIV. As it does not appear in inventories of his possessions, it may have served as a royal gift. The Sun King's portrait appears twice on this work. The bronze medallion above the central door was cast from a medal struck in 1661 which shows the king at the age of 21. Another medallion inside shows the King at the age of 25. Both medallions were cast from medals by Jean Varin. The pair to this cabinet still exists in Scotland. Both cabinets probably entered England in the early nineteenth century after the French Revolution caused the dispersal of so many French collections.

Two Coffers on Stands, André-Charles Boulle, French, Paris, c. 1684-1689.

Made of walnut veneered with brass, pewter, tortoiseshell, and ebony, with gilt bronze mounts, these coffers were intended to hold jewels or small precious items. The interiors of the coffers are lined with tortoiseshell and brass or pewter, with secret compartments in the base. The coffers are each decorated using techniques known as première partie marquetry, a pattern of brass and pewter on a tortoiseshell ground, and its reverse, contre partie, a tortoiseshell pattern on a background of pewter and brass. When lowered on their hinges, the wide gilt bronze straps on the coffer fronts and sides reveal three small drawers for rings. Each coffer also has a lid that opens in two sections. The upper lid reveals a shallow compartment, while the main lid lifts to reveal the interior of the coffer.

The 1689 inventory of the Grand Dauphin, the oldest son of Louis XIV, lists a jewel coffer of similar form and decoration; according to this inventory, André-Charles Boulle made the coffer. The two stands are of the same date as the coffers, but were originally designed to hold rectangular cabinets. One stand was adapted in the late 1700s or early 1800s to make it the same height as the other. These coffers have long been associated with the marriage of the Grand Dauphin in 1680, and were illustrated on these stands in engravings for the sale of Prince Demidoff in 1880, their first appearance in recent history.


Cabinet and Coffers Boulle 3946


Cabinet Boulle 3955

The polychrome and gilded oak panels above the coffers (1660) were once installed in the Antichambre du Roi at the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte. Between 1764 and 1789 at least two thirds of the painted paneling was removed from the antichambre to make room for large bookcases. One of the ten panels in the Getty is identical to a panel still installed in this room at Vaux.

Atop the Cabinet on a Stand is an assortment of Chinese Porcelain from the Kangxi period (c. 1662-1722):

A Garniture of Three Lidded Vases and Two Open Vases, a Large Lidded Vase and a Pair of Lidded Vases, all of hard-paste porcelain with an underglaze blue decoration. Chinese factories sent their porcelain pieces made for export down the Yangtze River, first to Nanjing and then to Canton, where Chinese merchants sold them to European traders. Parisian dealers bought most of their imported porcelain from the Dutch East Indies Company in Amsterdam, the main European importer of Far Eastern goods for many years. The volume of this trade in porcelain was enormous: in 1752 a ship headed for Europe sank with 223,303 pieces of porcelain on board.

In the 1600s and 1700s, Europeans considered porcelain an exotic and rare material that only the upper classes could afford. Many princes and nobles amassed large collections of Chinese and Japanese ceramics, installing them in rooms known as "China cabinets". In rooms like this, porcelain arrangements known as garnitures decorated entire walls, with vases, plates, and cups set on brackets or overmantels, in and on top of cabinets, and along shelves or even the floor. After eagerly purchasing Chinese and Japanese wares for hundreds of years, the Germans finally discovered the formula for hard-paste porcelain in the first decade of the 1700s. Chinese and Japanese porcelain was still imported, but at a lessened rate.


Cabinet and Coffer Boulle 3961

A detail shot of one of the coffers decorated with première partie marquetry by André-Charles Boulle.


Tripod Table Golle 1696

Tripod Table, attributed to Pierre Golle, French, Paris, c. 1680.

This small table made at the Gobelins Manufactory is mounted on a pedestal atop a tripod and veneered with contre partie marquetry. The oak is veneered with tortoiseshell, pewter, satinwood, mahogany, ebony, and brass, and has carved and gilded wood and gilt-bronze mounts. The top of the table folds open, revealing an oval scene of three Chinese women dressed in exotic costumes and taking tea under the pulled-back curtains of a tent. A monkey and a parrot perch in the branches of trees blossoming in the background. The marquetry tea scene (after a design by Daniel Marot) and the table's sturdy tripod form suggest this table was used to support a tea or coffee tray.

The table was probably made for the Grand Dauphin, the oldest son of Louis XIV, King of France. It prominently displays five fleurs-de-lis, the heraldic lily from the royal arms of France, and four dolphins, symbol of the Dauphin. At this date royal emblems appeared only on royal gifts or on objects made for members of the royal family. The reversed pair to this table (première partie) was illustrated in Pyne's Royal Residences in 1819 when it stood in the Queen's Presence Chamber at Windsor Castle.


Tripod Table Golle HS9575

A detail shot of the tripod table in different light, showing the tea scene and contre partie marquetry.


Desk Maximilian II Emanuel 1694

"Mazarin" Desk, French, Paris, after 1692 to c. 1700, Fir, veneered with brass, copper, silver, ebony, bone,
horn, mother-of-pearl, and tortoiseshell; drawers of beech, oak, walnut; silvered-bronze mount; silk velvet.

The "Bureau Mazarin" is a 17th century desk form named in the memory of Cardinal Mazarin (Regent of France). Usually a shallow kneehole desk with a lockable storage space behind the shallow hole (allowing the nobleman to sit sideways while wearing a sword). They were the earliest predecessors of the pedestal desk and had either two tiers of drawers, or three shallow tiers like this one, with eight legs supporting the desk, the legs with crossbraces forming two Xs or two Hs on each side.


Desk Maximilian II Emanuel 3922

Designed as a showpiece rather than for actual use, nearly the entire surface of this delicate little table is covered with a colorful veneer of various exotic materials, including brass, tortoiseshell, copper, pewter, ebony, ivory, mother-of-pearl, and horn painted red, blue, and green. An elaborate array of objects decorates the surface, including reclining figures, birds, animals, cupids, and vases of fruit and flowers. The feet are made from brass covered with silver, and silvered tassels hang from the drawers.

The desk was made for Maximilian II Emanuel, the Elector of Bavaria, who developed a taste for French furniture when he was exiled in Paris around 1700. The central coat of arms on the top of the desk, beneath an electoral crown, flanked by the standing lions of Bavaria, and surrounded by the order of the Golden Fleece, replaced the earlier arms of the Elector. However, the original steel key of this desk survives, decorated with Maximilian Emanuel's monogram and the electoral crown.

The Getty has recently acquired the original desk organizer which was made to stand atop this ornate desk. By the way, note the marquetry on the floor below the desk, a reproduction of a traditional French design from a Parisian townhouse.


Map Cabinet van Risenburgh 1749

Cabinet, attributed to Bernard van Risenburgh II, French, Paris, about 1735-1740.
Oak veneered with cherry, amaranth, bois satiné, gilt bronze mounts, brèche d'Alep stone top.

This long cabinet is actually made up of three separate cabinets placed end to end and fixed together with bolts. The original purpose of this unique object is not clear. Since the interior contains shelves that can be adjusted to varying heights, the joined cabinets may have been used to store boxes of prints, drawings, or maps. Three long drawers with separate locks, possibly used for storing larger sheets, run along the base.


Map Cabinet van Risenburgh 3944

Bernard II van Risenburgh was a Parisian ébéniste of Dutch and French extraction, and one of the outstanding cabinetmakers working in the Rococo style. His initials, stamped BVRB into the carcasses of his furniture, masked his identity until the 1950s. He was grouped in the company of Boulle, Cressent, Oeben and Riesener, considered the finest ébénistes of their day. He introduced the marquetry of branches, leaves and flowers made from end-cut quarter-sawn veneers, as can be seen in detail on the 1750 Commode shown further above (Commode van Risenburgh and Lidded Bowl 3214).


Double Desk van Risenburgh 3821

Double Desk, stamped by Bernard van Risenburgh II, French, Paris, c. 1750.
Oak veneered with tulipwood, bois satiné, and kingwood, gilt-bronze mounts.

The double form of this unusually large desk is unique. When lowered, both sides form writing surfaces and reveal drawers and pigeonholes veneered with marquetry. The finely cast and chased gilt-bronze mounts delineate the edges of the drawers, front, and legs. Even the interior hinges are held by large engraved gilt bronze plates. On the fall fronts of the desk, bunches of marquetry flowers seem to sprout from the sculptural mounts. Acquired in 1953 by J. Paul Getty after he said that his furniture collection was complete, it is considered to be one of his finest a most well-known furniture pieces).


Double Desk van Risenburgh 3937

The marquetry of this desk is characteristic of the cabinetmaker Bernard II van Risenburgh, known as BVRB from the initials of his stamp. He often veneered furniture with patterns of leafy silhouettes and vines that seemed to sprout from the sculptural gilt bronze mounts. This double slant-lid Louis XV desk is entirely veneered with tulipwood, with the grain book-matched at a 45 degree angle. The kingwood floral decoration includes various end-grain veneers cut from different logs, with the same design on both lids, displaying similar patterns. The growth rings of the veneers were cut to follow the shape of the leaves, and the large flowers were crafted with two end-grain veneers whose growth rings were matched. The stems were cut from quarter-sawn kingwood veneer, with the grain perpendicular to the curves of the branches. The marquetry elements were cut with a saw blade, but the recesses for the flowers, leaves and stems were probably chiseled as per van Risenburgh's normal technique. This double desk exhibits a truly exceptional attention to detail, and may rightly be considered a masterpiece of marquetry.


Salon Table French 1703

Side Table, French, Paris, c. 1730, gessoed and gilded oak, brèche violette top.

This side table is a highly elaborate example of early Rococo carving. The continuous flow of decoration (including carved lion heads, dragons, serpents and chimeras) is typical of the decorative motifs that would soon dominate the Rococo style. The table was originally part of a set which included two smaller side tables. They would have stood in a large salon fitted with paneled walls carved with similar elements. Breche Violette marble comes from Serravezza, near Carrara, Italy. The large grained marble is made up of hues ranging from white through lilac and pink to dark violet, all laid in a violet cement. It was often used in the French court for monumental architecture as well as for fireplaces and furniture.

Atop the table is a rare Chinese figure of an elephant in hard-paste porcelain from the Qianlong period (1736-1795), with polychrome enamel decoration and gilding. This caricature of an elephant is seated upright like a dog, with its head turned to the left and flowers painted on its ears. Whimsical and novel objects of this type appealed to European collectors, who would probably never have seen a real elephant. The elephant is flanked by a pair of Meissen hard-paste porcelain vases made in the 1730s, with painted flowers and insects (including painted shadows for realism). The vases had gilt bronze mounts made when they arrived in Paris in about 1745, and delicate flowers were added of soft-paste Vincennes porcelain painted with polychrome enamel and gilded leaves and stems. These porcelain flowers were all the rage in Paris of the 1740s, and noble patrons ordered thousands to decorate their homes. They were sometimes sprayed with perfume to enhance realism.


Salon Table French 3814

The highly sculptural side table combines pierced cartouches, crouching dragons with outstretched wings, lion heads at the corners and in the center of the stretcher, chimerae at the feet, and winged serpents on the stretcher. Serpents shaped from carved and gilded oak wrap around the four recurved legs. The carving is deep and pierced in many places, making the table appear insubstantial, but it is quite strong and well able to support the heavy marble top. The wood was gessoed before it was gilded (a textured priming preparation made traditionally from rabbit-skin glue binder, chalk, gypsum and pigment, generally coated with a shellac before gilding). This and a similar table in the museum mark the highest point of the Rococo carved art.

In the corner at left is a large French Savonnerie paravent (against the wind) screen, c. 1735. The large rooms of Parisian hotels were notoriously drafty as the rooms led into one another without the protective feature of a corridor. Screens of many types were used to break the wind. The panels of this screen are made of knotted wool, just like a carpet, and were produced at the same Savonnerie Manufactory as the carpet shown further below, with the Baumhauer and Cressent writing tables. The cartoons for the panels were painted by Alexandre-François Desportes (1661-1743), a renowned animal painter.


Commode Latz 1702

Commode, attributed to Jean-Pierre Latz, French, Paris, c. 1745-1749.
Oak and walnut veneered with bois satiné; gilt-bronze mounts; fleur de pêcher marble top.

The wave pattern of the book-matched satinwood veneer echoes the curving lines of the gilt-bronze mounts on this commode. In this extremely difficult process, veneers were cut at an angle through a piece of wood to produce ovals and then carefully placed so that the wood grain formed waving lines. The commode can be dated from the tax stamp on one of the mounts.

Although the commode is not stamped with a cabinetmaker's name, scholars are certain that it was made by Jean-Pierre Latz because his stamp was found on a commode of the same design in the Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome. That commode was part of a group of furniture that the French princess Louise-Elisabeth, elder daughter of Louis XV, brought with her when she and her husband, Don Philippe de Bourbon, came to Italy to rule Parma and Piacenza.

On the marble top is a Chinese celadon vase of hard-paste porcelain from the Qianlong period (c. 1740), with French gilt bronze mounts from about 1750-1755. The surface of the glaze is covered with minute cracks produced by varying the cooling rates of the porcelain and the glaze, causing them to shrink at a different rate and creating what came to be known as craquelure. First created by accident, craquelure was soon deliberately created for decorative effect, and often a stain was used to accentuate the cracks. European collectors highly prized these vases and mounted them in gilt bronze to emphasize their rarity. The vase is flanked by two small porcelain candle stands in the shape of elephants with tiny flowers on their backs.


Commode Latz 1762

Latz was primarily a marquetry craftsman, and the technical quality of his marquetry was consistently high. This complex wave pattern book-matched veneer is an unusual form only found on a few pieces of French furniture of the mid-eighteenth century. This commode was most likely made not long after the Quirinale commode, but before Latz died in 1754.

Flanking the Chinese celadon vase described above are a pair of porcelain ewers with gilt bronze mounts. Beyond the commode is a Writing Table by Bernard II van Risenburgh (c. 1755), made of oak and fir veneered with tulipwood, kingwood, and amaranth, with drawers of mahogany and gilt-bronze mounts.


Commode Latz 2281

Atop the Latz Commode, between the porcelain ewers, is a porcelain vase with soft-paste porcelain flowers, which were quite the rage in Paris during the 1740s. Beyond the Latz Commode is an unusual Mechanical Reading, Writing, and Toilet Table with gilt bronze mounts by Jean-François Oeben (c. 1750). With the turn of a key in the small hole in the table's side, the top automatically slides back and the drawer below opens, revealing lidded compartments and a book rest. The mechanism is activated by interior springs, which are tightened by winding another key.

Jean-François Oeben, the ébéniste who made this table, was a particularly talented maker of mechanical furniture and was given the special privilege to forge his own metal fittings. He specialized in elaborate, multi-purpose pieces of furniture that he decorated with floral marquetry of stained woods. On this table a naturalistic bouquet of tulips, daffodils, roses, and other flowers spreads across the top surface, loosely tied with a ribbon. Originally the marquetry was vibrantly dyed, but the colors have faded and only the green shades remain.


Commode Latz Writing Table Baumhauer 3190

The Latz Commode in the context of the room, along with a gilded beech Parisian Armchair from (c. 1735-1740) with à chassis upholstery (easily removable for replacement) and a Baumhauer Bureau Plat (writing table) which scholars believe was given by Louis XV to the empress of Russia in 1745. In the 1800s it stood in the Oranienbaum Palace near Saint Petersburg.

Atop the Baumhauer bureau plat are a pair of Chantilly Porcelain Magot Figures made of soft-paste porcelain with polychrome enamel and gilt bronze mounts (c. 1740). Dressed in monk's robes, the smiling figures represent the Buddhist god of Good Fortune and Contentment called Budai (China) and Hotei (Japan). They were called Magot figures in Europe (bizzare or grotesque figures in a Japanese or Chinese style) and were very popular in the 1700s. The Magot figures hold potpourri vases. The Inkstand between the figures is made of Kangxi Chinese porcelain (early 1700s), made by adding a laquered base with French gilt bronze mounts (1750) and an integral candle stand to mounted Chinese porcelain wine cups and figures. The two outer cups contain an inkwell and sand shaker. The central cup once held a sponge for wiping the pen nib.

Note the intricate gilt bronze Wall Lights, modeled in the form of three branches of laurel with berries tied with ribbon. Created by François-Thomas Germain, a Parisian silversmith to King Louis XV in 1756, these were four of the eight which were made in opposed pairs (each pair different from the others) for the Palais-Royal in Paris of King Louis XV’s cousin, Louis-Phillipe, Duc d'Orleans. Germain’s signed works in bronze are rare. Apart from these wall lights, only two others are known today.


Writing Table Boulle 2296

Writing Table (bureau plat), André-Charles Boulle, French, c. 1700-1715.
Oak veneered with tortoiseshell, brass and ebony, set with gilt bronze mounts.

This early Régence bureau plat (writing table) by André-Charles Boulle was created at the beginning of the Regency period in France when Louis XV was a minor (between 1715 and 1723, but Régence furniture is typically considered to span the years from 1700 to 1730, beginning late in the reign of Louis XIV). Furniture became less bulky and lines grew more fluid and curved. Wood veneer and marquetry was widespread, and gilded bronze fittings were used, but ornamentation was more subdued.

The têtes de satyre (satyr head) desks were made by Boulle as early as 1690 in several variations, veneered with both première partie and contre partie marquetry, for which reason it is his largest category. Except for one which was recently found in a Swiss castle and auctioned, all existing ones are in museums: The Getty; The British Royal Collection at Windsor Castle; The Musée du Louvre, Paris; The Wallace Collection, London; The Collection of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House; The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts; and The Frick Collection, New  York.


Writing Table Boulle 2290

Another shot of the elaborately inlaid and mounted early Régence bureau plat by André-Charles Boulle.

André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) was one of the most important figures in the history of art under the Sun King Louis XIV and during the Regency era. Boulle, as designer of exclusive furniture made from innovative materials, had his designs implemented by the greatest craftsmen and artists in his workshop. Boulle controlled the production and guaranteed their uniformity. Already at the age of 29, on instruction of Louis XIV and by decree of Maria Theresa, he received one of the coveted logements under the gallery of the Louvre in 1672, where he worked until old age.

Due to the high degree of organisation which he introduced in his workshop after bottlenecks in production and conflicts with dealers, he could still coordinate 17 bureaux plats at the same time at the age of 78. He was able to counter the time-consuming production of luxury furniture by relying on prefabrication. The furniture, especially the desks, were stored in a kind of raw state, only completed in their basic structure with partial marquetry, without bronze fittings. This made it possible for Boulle’s studio to adjust and complete the furniture according to the customer requirements, despite the time pressure.

Atop the desk are an ornate casket, inkstand and paperweight set and mounted Imari bowl described further below.

The exquisite French wool and linen carpet was made in the Chaillot Workshop of Philippe Lourdet (founded by Simon Lourdet) at the Savonnerie Manufactory in Paris in about 1665 to 1666. It is 21 feet long by 14 feet wide. This carpet predates the elaborate productions made for the Château de Versailles and the Palais du Louvre, made after the Savonnerie Manufactory was directed by court painter Charles Le Brun and worked only for the Crown. It is similar in general design to the oriental carpets which predominate in the inventories of Louis XVI. In the center of this carpet is a sunflower, symbol of the Sun King Louis XIV (1643-1715). Around the border are images of flower-filled Chinese porcelain of the Ming period, an early representation of oriental subjects in French work. The carpet was originally two feet longer (cut off of one end on the short side, the border was carefully reconstructed in the late 19th century).


Writing Table Boulle 2302c

Satyr’s heads and other mounts and marquetry of the early Régence bureau plat by André-Charles Boulle.

This table is nearly identical to a recently found Boulle bureau plat from c. 1720 which was sold by the Zurich auctioneers Koller for $3.1 million to a private collector. The elaborately inlaid table with gilt bronze satyr-head mounts was very similar to this bureau plat, and had been kept in a Swiss castle for many generations.


Commode Doirat 1704

Bombé Commode, Stamped by Etienne Doirat, French, Paris, c. 1730
Oak and walnut veneered with amaranth and kingwood; gilt bronze mounts; brèche d'Alep stone top.

The swollen, curved form of this large commode is called bombé. A small wheel at the center front of the lower drawer supports its weight, allowing it to be opened with greater ease. The gilt bronze mounts in the form of male and female heads on the corners and festooned lambrequins in the center are part of the repertory consistently used by the cabinetmaker Étienne Doirat. On the interior, the sides of the drawers curve to correspond with the curving sides of the commode; this feature serves no practical purpose other than to display the cabinetmaker's virtuosity.

Doirat, whose name is stamped on the top of the commode, was one of the few cabinetmakers to regularly place his name on his works before a guild rule in the late 1740s made stamping mandatory.


Commode Doirat 1721

The Commode by Etienne Doirat standing beside a French Armchair (1735) of gilded beechwood with modern silk upholstery. The intricately carved chair has pierced cartouches and ribbing decorating the seat and top rails. Atop the brèche d'Alep stone top of the commode are a Pair of Candelabra attributed to André-Charles Boulle (Paris, c. 1700). The motifs decorating these unmarked candelabra include sphinxes, ram's heads, and human heads in classical profiles. Guild regulations commanded that cabinetmakers could only make furniture from wood, but Boulle escaped these strictures when he was awarded the title of cabinet-maker and sculptor to Louis XIV in 1672. He was then allowed the rare privilege of producing both furniture and sculpted works in gilt bronze, such as these candelabra. On the right is an elaborately carved, gessoed and gilded French Torchère (Paris, c. 1725) which supports a Girandole candelabra (see image below).


Commode Doirat 3196

At left, the Doirat Commode stands below a Gobelins Tapestry: The Month of December from The Royal Residences Series (c. 1712), which shows the Château of Monceaux (demolished in 1799, during the French Revolution), which is only partially shown. Atop the commode are the Boulle Candelabra described above. Next to the commode is the French beechwood armchair described above, and in the corner is the carved, gessoed and gilded French Torchère (1725) supporting a gilt bronze and rock crystal French Girandole candelabra from about 1730.

On the right is a rosewood-veneered French Commode (1710) made of oak and walnut by an unknown ébéniste, supporting one of the earliest known examples of French mounted Chinese porcelain (owned by the Grand Dauphin Louis, 1661-1711), a lidded ewer of Kangxi Chinese hard-paste porcelain (1662-1700) divided in three stages, with polychrome enamel decoration of aubergine, green, white and yellow with mythical dragons, horned chimerae and the eight horses of Mu Wang (queen mother of the West) flying over the ocean. The lip is enameled with a horned Chilong dragon. It is flanked by two mounted Lidded Vases (Kangxi Chinese hard-paste porcelain, 1662-1720) with French gilt bronze mounts (c. 1715-1720), enamelled with lotus, prunus buds and Buddhist "precious things". The mounts are struck with the 1745-49 tax stamp, whose edict levied the tax on older copper-based metalwork as well as bronze for new mountings. In the foreground is the appliquéd leather top of the French Régence Stool (tabouret) with its cream and red silk ribbon (described below).


Writing Table Cressent 3204

Writing Table (Bureau plat), attributed to Charles Cressent, Paris, France, c. 1720-1725
Oak and pine veneered with satiné rouge and amaranth, gilt bronze mounts, modern leather top.

Large tables like this were known as bureaux plats. The surface would have been originally covered with a short-piled velour or velvet. The fashion for recovering with leather began in the 19th century to replace the easily damaged fabric. The gilt bronze mounts are of exceptionally fine quality and are heavily gilded. The Régence table has been attributed to Charles Cressent, but no tables of this description can be found in the extensive documentation describing the contents of his workshop, and the design of the table does not correspond to any of his known works. Many of the mounts on this table, particularly the female corner mounts and the paw feet, are found on pieces of furniture which are attributed to André-Charles Boulle and his sons, thus this table was previously attributed to the Workshop of Boulle fils. This table was bought by J. Paul Getty in 1949.

Chairs, the corners of tables, and inkstands can often be seen in French portraits of this period. This table, or an identical twin, can be seen almost in its entirety in a portrait of Said Pasha, Ambassador of Constantinople, which was painted in 1742 and is now hanging at Versailles.

The exquisite French wool and linen carpet was made in the Chaillot Workshops of Philippe Lourdet at the Savonnerie Manufactory in Paris in about 1665-66. This is the same carpet as is shown below the Baumhauer table (described above). At the far left is an elaborately carved gessoed and walnut French Régence Stool (tabouret, c. 1710-1720, with modern leather upholstery) which was made for the extremely rich financier Pierre Crozat, Treasurer of France. When acquired by the museum, it had been stripped of its gilding and had lost its leather upholstery. The gesso and gilding was replaced, with the matching chairs in the Louvre used as an example, and the appliquéd leather with its cream and red silk ribbon was also copied.


Writing Table Cressent 1709c

Detail of the top of the Régence Writing Table by Cressent. At the far right is a Rosewood casket veneered with brass, pewter, copper, mother-of-pearl, and stained and painted horn with gilt bronze mounts. The casket is German, from about 1680 to 1690. The marquetry scene decorating the top of this casket shows the goddess Venus attended by four putti. One brushes her hair, another holds up a mirror, a third ties her sandal, and a fourth offers her a jewel or an earring from a small chest. Around the sides, sleeping putti recline on rocks surrounded by birds and flowering trees.

In the center is an Inkstand and Paperweights of gilt bronze with three vessels on their tray which originally contained ink, sand for blotting, and a sponge for cleaning the pen nib in the center. Very rarely are the original paperweights found still together with their inkstand. This set is French, made in Paris about 1715. In 1689 and again in 1709, Louis XIV ordered his subjects to turn in their possessions made of precious metals so that they could be melted down to finance his numerous war debts. Searching for a suitable replacement, craftsmen copied items once made of gold or silver in gilt bronze. The form and decoration of this set are similar to works in silver of the same period.

Lidded Bowl, Porcelain: Japanese, Imari, c. 1680; Mounts: French, c. 1717.
Hard-paste porcelain, colored enamel decoration, gilding, silver mounts.

On the left is a Lidded Bowl of Japanese Imari hard-paste porcelain with enamel decoration from about 1680. A French silversmith in about 1717 added the silver mounts and handles hinged to the rim and foot with floral motifs that reflect the enameled design on the porcelain.

The deep straight-sided bowl and shallow lid are enameled with iron red and gilt over underglaze blue, with chrysanthemum branches in a white ground. Some of the flowers are molded in low relief, created by slip. The body is covered with the traditional Imari translucent blue glaze. The bowl is mounted with silver around the rim (encircled by a simple molding) and foot (encircled with a larger, gadrooned molding), and fitted at each side with a silver handle attached to pierced, foliate, scrolled and interlaced strapwork which joins the rim to the foot, attached by pinned hinges. The lid is similarly mounted at the apex and surmounted by a finial in the form of a leaf cup which contains a grape cluster, set on a low cylindrical base of silver embellished with gadrooning and acanthus.

The decoration is not typically Japanese. It may have been part of a commission in which a contemporary European textile design was specified.

Pair of Girandoles, French, Paris, c. 1680-1690
Gilt bronze with beads and drops of rock crystal, coral,
jasper, amethyst, carnelian, agate, and other hardstones

At the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, candelabra were often placed on tall stands to throw the light farther around the room. A Parisian newspaper, the Mercure Galant, reported in 1677 about people's astonishment at the amount of light created as the candle flames reflected off the crystal. The small size and opulent decoration of these candelabra suggest that they were intended to be displayed in an intimate, elegant interior.

They are extremely rare — other known girandoles that are similar are set with drops of rock crystal only.


Writing Table Cressent 1719c

A low angle detail shot of the gilt bronze fittings on the Cressent Régence Table and the Casket, Inkstand and Lidded Bowl.


Writing Table Cressent 3816c

A low angle detail shot of the gilded fittings on the Cressent Régence Table and the Girandoles, Inkstand and Lidded Bowl.


Writing Table Cressent 3199

The Cressent Writing Table and accessories and the Chaillot Carpet in the context of the Régence room.


Commode Cressent 3815

Commode, attributed to Charles Cressent, French, Paris, c. 1745-1749.
Pine and walnut veneered with bois satiné and amaranth; gilt-bronze mounts; brèche d'Alep stone top.

Charles Cressent made both the wooden carcass and gilt-bronze mounts for this commode. His practice of casting bronze in his workshop contravened strict guild rules (through the eighteenth century, the craft of casting and gilding bronze was restricted to a separate guild). Cressent was fined several times for these infringements, and in order to pay the penalties he was forced to hold sales of his stock. In a catalog he wrote in 1756 for one such sale, he describes this commode's unique central gilt bronze mount: "the bronzes [represent] two children who are grating snuff; in the middle is a monkey powdering itself with snuff."

By the time it was built, this commode already looked old-fashioned, as it is purely in the Régence style and by then the Rococo style was already in full swing. By the 1740s most commodes were constructed without a central divider that separated the two drawers. Although the curving gilt-bronze branches on the front try to mask this division, Cressent had to split the mount into three pieces — an awkward solution. He seems to have had difficulty selling the commode as it was still in his possession nearly twenty years after its construction, and he never built another (although many of his commodes were duplicated).

Pair of Mounted Lidded Vases, Chinese porcelain c. 1700-1710, French mounts 1710.
Hard-paste Chinese (Kangxi) porcelain, polychrome enamel decoration, gilt bronze mounts.

Atop the commode are a pair of Mounted Lidded Vases of hard-paste porcelain with polychrome enamel decoration and gilt bronze mounts. Early examples of the French fashion for mounting Chinese porcelain, this pair of lidded vases arrived in Europe around 1710. Each vase was created from a complete lidded jar. A French craftsman created a larger lid by cutting the jar at its shoulder and joining it to the small original lid. He then added a gadrooned molding and elaborate gilt bronze handles to the vessel. European collectors thought that the gilt bronze mounts enhanced and emphasized the exotic character of the brightly colored porcelain. The mounts were a tribute not only to the beauty of the porcelain material but also to its extreme rarity.


Commode Cressent 1720

This commode can be dated to the years between 1745 and 1749 because of the presence of a tax stamp struck on the corner mounts. The stamp showed that a tax was paid on the copper in the mounts, and the tax was only levied in those four years. This was one of the first pieces of French furniture that J. Paul Getty acquired when he bought it in 1938 for only $5000.


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