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Est: $18 USD - $1,875 USDSold:
Sotheby'sApril 14, 2008New York, NY, US

Item Overview


surmounted by a molded white marble top above three frieze drawers and cupboard doors each opening to eight oak drawers, the sides fitted with a lacquer panels centered by a continental coat of arms, the front with Japanese lacquered outdoor scenes of lakesides fitted within Nashigi -ground lacquer banding, the carcass with the branded stamp A. BEURDELEY/A PARIS to the reverse. Formerly with adjustable shelves.


measurements height 37 1/2 in.; width 60 1/4 in.; depth 21 1/2 in. alternate measurements 95.5 cm; 153 cm; 54.5 cm


Eighteenth Century Examples
Alcouffe, Daniel, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Editions faton, Dijon, 1993, vol. 1, pp. 254-7.Pradere, A. French Furniture Makers, Sotheby"s Publications, Tours, 1989, pp. 354-355.Sargentson, Dr. C. Merchants and Luxury Markets, Victoria & Albert Museum in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Somerset, 1996, pp. 66, 187.The Second Empire 1852-1870 Art in France under Napoleon III, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1978, p. 79.Nineteenth Century Copies
Ledoux-Lebard, Le Mobilier Français du XIXe siècle, Editions de l'amateur, Paris, 1984, pp. 75-83.Payne, C. Nineteenth Century European Furniture, Antique Collectors Club, Woodbridge, 1981, pl. 190 & p.33 for an illustration of the A. Beurdeley marque au feu.


The original version by Martin Carlin (c. 1730-1785, master in 1766) , transferred to the Louvre Museum (Louvre, inv. OA 5498). The present lot follows in exactly the eighteenth century tradition, both in copying the minute detail of the original commode and in the re-use of mid-eighteenth century Edo period lacquer for the principle panels. The concept for this neo-classical form of furniture, sumptuously mounted with gilt-bronze and adorned with high quality lacquer, was as decoration for the Mesdames Adélaide and Victoire, daughters of Louis XV. Their nephew Louis XVI had sold them the Château de Bellevue at Meudon in 1775. The first type was a pair of corner cupboards made by Carlin in circa 1780 for Madame Adélaide, a year later he supplied her with a step top commode and a further pair of corner cupboards in 1782. Finally in April 1785, the original version of the present lot was supplied to Madame Victoire. Carlin made the commode with panels supplied by the Darnault Brothers who adapted them from a Japanese lacquer cabinet they had bought from the sale of the property of the Duc d'Aumont in 1782. The commode remained unfinished on Carlin's death in 1785 and is recorded in detail as being in his workshop in his posthumous inventory. Valued at 1,500 livres, all that remained to be done was the gilding. It was delivered to the Château de Bellevue, invoiced at for 6,500 livres but reduced to 5,500. The fashion for the exotic taste of the Orient was such that in the inventory the gilt-bronze columns were described as 'Chinese'. This group of furniture mostly now in the Louvre, was rescued from Bellevue during the French Revolution by the Commission Temporaire des Arts. The original commode was used by Napoleon I at the Tuileries, in his bedchamber, until 1808 and subsequently in his petits appartements at Fontainebleau, from where it was removed by 1853. It can be seen in a watercolor by F* de Fournier who painted the study of the Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III, at Saint-Cloud in 1860. The Empresses' love of the Louis XVI style and championship of the neo-classical was an inspiration to Parisian makers and their international clientele. The commode was almost certainly copied for the first time as a result of being removed from the Tuileries to be transferred to the Louvre from the Mobilier national in 1870, thus escaping the disastrous fire there in May 1871. Interestingly Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley is recorded as having exhibited meubles du boudoir de l'impératrice Eugénie at the 1855 Paris Exposition universelle. Peter Hughes in The Wallace Collection vol. II, notes that the Curator of the Louvre, Barbet de Jouy, had allowed Henry Dasson to make drawings of the celebrated bureau du Roi at the Louvre, although not to make moulds (p. 1042). It is possible that several sets of maitre models were in the Paris trade by the third quarter of the 19th century, although they were very expensive to produce and were highly prised at auctions of fonds de commerce as family firms ceased trading. However the timing and exact methodology of such copies, and the immense complications in carrying out such precise work remains unsolved but is the subject of vigorous discussion and research. The founder of the Beurdeley dynasty of cabinet makers was Jean Beurdeley (1772-1853). He was a Burgundian craftsman, conscripted into the Napoleonic army. After hostilities in 1815, he settled in Paris opening a shop for Curiosités working as a latter day marchand-mercier. Initially on the rue Saint-Honoré, he purchased a premise in the 2e district in the prestigious pavillion de Hanovre in 1840, which was run by his only surviving son, Louis-Auguste-Alfred (1808-1882). This successful business, which had numerous official commissions, including the marriage coffer for the Empress Eugénie in 1853, was continued by his son, Alfred-Emmanuel-Louis (1847-1919). Thus three generations of Beurdeleys succeeded the founder, with workshops making their own furniture, both copies, mainly in the Louis XVI style and inventive pieces of the very highest quality, ranking them pre-eminent amongst the makers of meubles de luxe. It is thought that the earliest pieces were not stamped by the maker, leading to much speculation as to the maker of some of the finest mid-19th century copies although the present lot is the typical stamp of Alfred Beurdeley as reproduced in Payne (ibid). The workshops were closed in 1895 and a series of five public auctions took place between 19th October 1897 and 24th May 1898, amounting to some 2000 lots from the Pavillion du Hanovre and the workshops on the rue d'Autencourt in the 17υeme district. The founder of the firm had a wide-ranging eye and the family amassed an important collection of paintings and works of art, some of which were given to the Louvre and other museums. In the present lot we celebrate the craftsmanship of the Beurdeley workshops but their extensive and important collections of paintings and works of art are comparatively unknown although presently Camille Mestdagh in Paris at the Sorbonne is researching their combined collections for a doctoral thesis. The last auction of Beurdeley furniture and works of art was conducted by Me Oger, Paris. 16th May 1979. Exhibitions: Paris 1855 (bronze medal), Paris 1867 (gold medal), PRIS 1878, Amsterdam 1883 (gold medal), Paris 1889 (member of the Jury). During these exhibitions their work was given the highest praise. To date, extensive research has not been able to establish the ownership of the armorial device on the side panels of the present lot. It might be assumed that they were part of the original commission from Beurdeley and, if ever identified will thus be an important insight into the family origins and of the original owner. It could be that the arms are a pure fantasy of the commissioning family who had no armorial device to call their own. Identification would be an interesting insight into the social background of families wealthy enough to order furniture made to the very highest quality from arguably Paris's best maker of meubles de luxe at a time when France was at its apogee of cabinet making, pre-eminent in the world. It is interesting to note that Beurdeley, a noted collector, was willing and indeed able to sacrifice an 18th century Japanese lacquer piece to veneer his own work. By contrast, a generation later in 1908, François Linke sent a commode of Louis XV style, a copy of the celebrated model by Joseph Baumhauer, to Japan on the Trans Siberian railway, to be lacquered by Akatsuka Jitoku (1871-1936). (Sold Sotheby's London, 28 February 1997, lot 227). The Beurdeley family were familiar with the use and presentation of oriental lacquer to enrich their furniture. Some pieces as with the present lot were exact copies of the original 18th century example, often a Royal piece, others were in an innovative style that Beurdeley and later Linke used. Two fine examples of Alfred-Emmanuel Beurdeley using Japanese lacquer were sold by Sotheby's New York, 'A Private Collection', Part I, October 26, 2006, lot 188 and in Part II of the same collection, April 19 2007, lot 129. Carolyn Sargentson in Merchants and Luxury Markets discusses the use, re-use and scarcity of Japanese lacquer in the 18th century. Lachinage was sold in some seven shops in Paris in 1692 but original Japanese lacquer was already rare and by the end of the 18th century dealers were adapting existing pieces, such as the original version of the present lot. French cabinetmakers became extremely adept in removing the highly durable lacquer from existing oriental screens and cabinets and in veneering them onto a carcass of their own design. Lacquer is extracted from the sumach tree and is applied in numerous coats, often more than fifty, which can take up to five days for each layer to dry. European imitation is known as 'japanning' - as early as 1672 the Manufactures royale des meubles de la couronne set up a workshop in Paris called 'Ouvrage de la Chine'.

Other 19th century examples now in private collections have been noted by Henry Dasson (1825-1896) and Paul Sormani (1817-1877). The model and plans for this commode were sold in the sale of the fonds de commerce of Dasson et Cie. Grand meuble Louis XVI, a guirlandes. Musée du Louvre. A pair of commodes formerly in the collection of the Earls of Rosebery intrinsically identical in form and quality to the present lot, sold Sotheby's at Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, 18 May 1977, lot 57. It proved impossible at the time to attribute the commodes to a particular 19th century maker although today the work of Louis-Auguste-Alfred Beurdeley (1808-1882) would certainly be cited as one of the few possible makers. The collection at Mentmore had been formed by Baron Meyer Amschel de Rothschild who left it to his only daughter Hannah with a fortune of some £2,000,000 and added to by her husband, the 5th Earl of Rosebery. Footnote courtesy of Christopher Payne.

Auction Details