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Commode

Commode

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Vanrisamburgh, Bernard II (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Veneered with panels of Japanese lacquer, the borders japanned, on an oak carcase, with gilt-bronze mounts and a griotte d'Italie marble slab

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:

    1094-1882

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The fashion for integrating Asian lacquer panels (decorated with a resin varnish made from the sap of a tree) into European furniture was at its height in the mid-18th century when this commode (chest of drawers) was made. Lacquer from Japan or China was very costly, and the application of flat panels of lacquer on this type of swollen-fronted (or bombé) commode required a very high degree of skill. Bernard Vanrisamburg was one of the most eminent Paris craftsmen working in this style. The commode is likely to have been displayed in a grand reception room (or salon) or a bedroom.

Physical description

A bombé chest of two drawers, raised on high legs, veneered in Japanese hiramkie andtakemakie lacquer and with vernis Martin (japanned) hardwood veneers on oak; mounted with gilt bronze; with a griotte d'Italie shaped and moulded marble slab.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1750-1760 (made)

Artist/maker

Vanrisamburgh, Bernard II (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Veneered with panels of Japanese lacquer, the borders japanned, on an oak carcase, with gilt-bronze mounts and a griotte d'Italie marble slab

Marks and inscriptions

'BVRB JME'
1) Makers's mark; stamping (marking)

Dimensions

Height: 83.3 cm, Width: 115.2 cm, Depth: 53.3 cm

Object history note

At a time when much of French furniture showed relatively crude construction, this commode illustrates BVRB's concern for quality even in the carcase-work of his pieces. He used chamfered panels for the top, bottom, back, dust boards and sides, a technique which allowed for the inevitable movement of the wood. So typical of his practice was this that the similar bevelled panel construction found on one other of the other lacquer commodes in the V&A's collection (1105-1882) has served to support the argument that thats is by BVR too.

Some of the mounts of this commode are identical to those supplied on the commode for the French Queen Marie Leszczynska delivered to Fontainbleau by Hébert in 1737 which indicates that the same design for mounts might be used over a long period. (A. Pradère, p.187, see References).

Historical context note

In the 18th-century, connoisseurs and craftsmen sought to celebrate and enhance luxury materials and fine workmanship by presenting them in new forms with the best modern embellishments. Oriental Lacquer was much prized, particularly that from Japan.
Like oriental porcelain and textiles, it was imported into Europe by the East India Companies. In late 17th-century Paris, oriental lacquer made for the export market was imported and collected in its own right and in its original form as cabinets, screens or coffers. By the middle decades of the 18th-century it was likely to be stripped from its original carcase and veneered onto a modern, French form of furniture, and further embellished with lavish mounts of gilt bronze.
Such lacquer was supplied to the workshops of the French cabinet-makers by the marchands merciers (merchants of luxury goods) who are known to have bought lacquer in Amsterdam. The marchands merciers both supplied lacquer and, as specialist retailers, provided outlets for the furniture veneered with it.

The stamp 'BVRB' identifies the maker of this commode as Bernard II Vanrisamburgh, son of a Dutch/German immigrant and the second of an important three-generation dynasty of that name. He worked in Paris between 1730 and 1766 or 1767 and is known to have worked for the marchands merciers (A. Pradère, pp.159-165, see References). Furniture by him is amongst the most luxurious produced in Paris at that time.

Descriptive line

French, 1750-60, veneered with Japanese lacquer and japanned hardwood veneers; mounts of gilt-bronze; slab of marble

from commode; French, 1715-1774, black and gold lacquer

from commode; French, 1715-1774, black and gold lacquer

from commode; French, 1715-1774, black and gold lacquer

to commode; French, 1715-74, old

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilk, C. (ed.). Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Limited, 1996, pp 102-103, ill.

Labels and date

COMMODE
FRENCH (Paris); 1750
Stamped B.V.R.B. and J. M.E.

Veneered with three panels of Japanese lacquer dating from the late-17th century, on a carcase of oak, the borders japanned over veneers; gilt-bronze mounts; slab of griotte d'Italie marble.

There were two celebrated cabinet-makers named Bernard Vanrisamburgh in 18th-century Paris, a father and a son. Bernard Vanrisamburgh I died in 1738 and so this commode must be the work of his son, who became the greatest cabinet-maker to work in the reign of Louis XV. He produced many pieces for the royal household and specialised in the re-use of Japanese lacquer. Most of the trade in Japanese lacquer in Paris was controlled by the dealers in luxury goods (the marchands-merciers) and BVRB frequently worked on commissions for them. The mark JME was used by the Juré of the Guild of cabinet-makers (menuisiers-ébénistes) from 1751 until the French Revolution.

Jones Collection
1094-1882 [1994]
[Label text by Peter Thornton]
Commode
French (Paris); 1750
Stamped BVRB and J.M.E.
Veneered with panels of Japanese lacquer, the borders being japanned. Gilt bronze mounts. Griotte marble slab

The mark BVRB was used by two cabinet-makers, father and son, named Bernard van Risamburgh. The son, who presumably made this commode, died in 1765 or 1766. Since the rich mounts are not stamped with crowned "C" mark, the piece must have been made after 1749. An identical commode with red lacquer is in the museum at Dijon.

Jones Collection
Museum No. 1094-1882 [ca. 1980]

Production Note

Attribution note: This commode combines the best Parisian cabinet-work of the 18th-century with fine panels of oriental lacquer of an earlier date. The swelling bombé lines of the piece presented difficulties in veneering the 2mm thick panels of lacquer; their survival in good condition is largely due to the care with which the carcase was constructed.

The careful disposition of the mounts allows the landscape design of the largest Japanese panel to be appreciated fully. The drawers are arranged sans traverse, that is without the bronze framing to each drawer which had been common on earlier pieces. The bronzes act as a frame to the decorative lacquer. Handels are either disguised or dispensed with; the top drawer is opened by the use of the key, while the handles for the lower drawer are incorporated into the lower framing mount. The areas outside the main frame are finished with a type of varnish (vernis martin) developed in France in the 1730s to imitate lacquer. This is applied over thin, hardwood veneers, evidence of Vanrisamburgh's attention to detail.

Materials

Oak; Gilt bronze; Marble; Fruitwood; Lacquer

Techniques

Japanning; Cabinet-making

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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