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Commode

Commode

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1774 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Joubert, Gilles, born 1689 - died 1775 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Marquetry of tulipwood, kingwood and other woods, on an oak carcase, with gilt-bronze mounts and a red griotte marble slab

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs Lyne Stephens, Paris

  • Museum number:

    464:1 to 3-1895

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This commode, or chest of drawers, was made in 1774 for Marly, a palace outside Paris near Versailles, for use in the bedroom of Mme Adelaïde, one of the daughters of Louis XV (1723-1774), King of France. It was probably made by the workshop of the royal cabinet-maker Gilles Joubert (1689-1775), although the exact extent of Joubert's involvement is not clear (he was over 80 years old in 1774). It was sent to Marly by his successor as royal cabinet-maker, Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806). The commode's curved legs and outline, combined with the geometric pattering of the marquetry (shaped decorative pieces of wood applied as a veneer) and classically-inspired gilt-bronze mounts, reflect the transitional phase that divides the elegant and highly decorative Rococo manner from the anti-Rococo, more sober Neo-classical style that followed it.

Physical description

Carcase of oak, with marquetry of tulipwood, kingwood, and other woods. The serpentine front is decorated with three panels, filled in with a trellis pattern having ormolu rosettes at the points of intersection. The panels are outlined by ormolu borders with incurved corners filled in with rosettes. The curved sides are ornamented with similar panels. At the front corners are terminal figures in ormolu of Cupid and Psyche, the former holding a dove and the latter a bunch of flowers. Each of the two drawers has two ormolu handles, and below the centre panel is a group in the same metal consisting of a reclining female figure between two children, one offering her a wreath and the other holding a dove. The top is of variegated red griotte marble, and the whole is supported on four curved legs with ormolu mounts.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1774 (made)

Artist/maker

Joubert, Gilles, born 1689 - died 1775 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Marquetry of tulipwood, kingwood and other woods, on an oak carcase, with gilt-bronze mounts and a red griotte marble slab

Dimensions

Height: 83 cm, Width: 133 cm, Depth: 62.4 cm

Object history note

This commode has a fully documented royal provenance. Painted on the back are two inventory numbers allocated by the Garde-Meuble (the administrative body in charge of furnishing the royal residences) which represent two generations of numbering systems. The earlier number, 2767, can be traced in the Journal de la Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, a register recording the delivery of new furniture. It gives a detailed description of the commode and also states that the piece was delivered by the royal cabinet-maker, Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806), on June 1774 for the use in the bedroom of Madame Adeläide, one of the daughters of Louis XV, at Marly, near Versailles (P. Verlet, p. 120, see References). The record of the delivery is misleading, however, as it suggests that the commode came from Riesener's workshop. It is now believed that the commode was made by his predecessor Gilles Joubert, Riesener having replaced him in June 1774, the very month in which this commode was delivered. Riesener may have been delivering a piece for which Joubert had organised the production (P. Verlet, pp. 120-121, see References).

This kind of trellis marquetry, highlighted with gilt-metal studs, was favoured by Joubert. A commode with similar decoration, supplied in 1773 by Joubert, is in the collections of the Duke of Roxburgh at Floors Castle Roxburghshire, Scotland. It also appears on another piece in the V&A collections (W.17-1970), a secretaire supplied to the royal household in June 1774.

Historical context note

The trellis-pattern marquetry of this commode, studded with gilt-bronze rosettes, and the finely-sculpted and chased infant triton corner mounts, appear on a numberof other pieces delivered to the royal household by Joubert. The precise extent of Joubert's involvement in this piece, as the other pieces delivered for the royal household, is difficult to determine. They were delivered when mainly between 1769 and 1774, when Joubert was over 80 years old.

Descriptive line

Commode, French (Paris), ca. 1774. Marquetry on a carcase of oak; gilt-bronze mounts and marble slab

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

Verlet, P. French Royal Furniture. London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1963, pp. 120-121 and pls 11 and 11A.
Eriksen, Svend. Early Neo-Classicism in France. London: Faber & Faber, 1974, 432 pp, ill. ISBN 0 571 08717 5, pp. 330-1 pl. 146.
Wilk, C (ed.). Western Furniture 1350 to the Present. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Limited, 1996, pp. 126-127, ill.
'The Beauty of Her Age; a Tale of Sex, Scandal and Money in Victorian England', by Jennifer Roberts, Amberley Publishing, Stroud, 2016.

Emilia, Lady Dilke, French Furniture and Decoration in the XVIIIth Century. London: George Bell & Sons, 1901, illustrated on plate opp. p. 160. The commode is there attributed to I. Dubois.
Verlet, Pierre, in Burlington Magazine, LXX, April 1937, p. 188.
Verlet, Pierre, Le Style Louis XV, Paris: Larousse, 1942, pl. XI
Verlet, Pierre, Mobilier Royal,

Labels and date

Chest of drawers (commode)
About 1774

This commode matches the secretaire to the left. By the time it was delivered, Joubert had already been succeeded by Jean-Henri Riesener as cabinet-maker to the French royal family and had transferred his workshop to the younger man. A matching commode and secretaire was a fashionable pairing for private spaces such as bedrooms and boudoirs.

France (Paris)
Commissioned from Gilles Joubert, supplied by Jean-Henri Riesener
Oak; marquetry in European and tropical woods; gilded copper alloy mounts and studs; marble top
Bears a French royal inventory number
Bequeathed by Mrs Lyne Stephens [09/12/2015]
COMMODE
French (Paris); 1774
Bearing the French royal inventory number 2767.

Veneered with "bois des Indes à panneaux de bois de rose a mosaiques;
with bronze mounts of "bronze doré d'or moulu" and with a griotte marble slab.

This piece was provided by the then future royal cabinet-maker Jean-Henri Riesener on the 22nd June 1774 "pour servir dans la Chambre de Madame Adelaide", a daughter of Louis XV, at the Chateau de Marly. In the case containing a bed on the left of this display bay is a secretaire related to this commode, which bears the next royal serial-number and was commissioned, also in June 1774, from the royal cabinet-maker Gilles Joubert who was then about to retire. Riesener took over from Joubert and may therefore have assumed responsibility for delivering this commode. It is probable that both commissions were in fact farmed out to a third cabinet-maker; the name of Roger Vandercruse (called Lacroix) has been suggested.

Bequeathed by Mrs Lyne Stephens.
Museum No. 464-1895

Jones Collection [1984]
[Label text by Peter Thornton]
Commode
French (Paris); 1774
Bearing the French royal inventory number 2767

Veneered with ‘bois des Indes à panneaux de bois de roze à mosaiques’, with mounts of ‘bronze doré d’or moulu’ and with a griotte marble slab

This piece was provided by the then future royal cabinet-maker Jean-Henri Riseener on 22nd June 1774, 'pour servir dans la Chambre de Madame Adelaïde, a daughter of Louis XV, at the Château de Marly. In the case containing a bed on the left of this bay, is a secretaire related to this commode, which bears the next royal serial number and was commissioned, also in June 1774, from the royal cabinet-maker, Gilles Joubert who was then about to retire. Riesener took over from Joubert any may therefore have assumed responsibility for delivering this commode. It is probably that both commissions were in fact framed out to a third cabinet-maker, possibly Roger Vandercruse (called Lacroix). [1980]
COMMODE
FRENCH (Paris); 1774
Oak, veneered with marquetry of exotic woods, including tulipwood and kingwood, with gilt bronze mounts and with variegated red griotte marble slab
Bearing the French royal inventory number 2767

Bequeathed by Mrs Lyne Stephen

This piece was supplied by the cabinet-maker Jean-Henri Riesener on 22nd June 1774 'pour servir dans la Chambre de Madame Adelaide', a daughter of Louis XV, for the Château de Marly. The adjacent secretaire relates to the commode and bears the next royal serial-number and was commissioned, also in June 1774, from the royal Cabinet-maker Gilles Joubert who was then about to retire. Riesener took over as royal cabinet-maker from Joubert and may therefore have assumed responsibility for delivering this commode. It is probable that both commissions were in fact sub-contracted to a third cabinet-maker; the name of Roger Vandercruse (called Lacroix) has been suggested.

This commode was given to this Museum in 1895, several years after the major bequest by John Jones of most of the French furniture in the collection. The Museum was able to acquire the matching secretaire much more recently, in 1970, bringing together the set to be displayed here. [1994]

Production Note

Attribution note: Although the production of fully-fledged neoclassical furniture had become well established in Paris by the 1760s, it is not unusual to find commodes in the transitional style, like this one, dating from the first half of the 1770s. It has a curviliniar, Rococo plan and cabriole legs, but the front and side elevations, composed of essentially rectangular frames enclosing the geometric marquetry, belong to the rectiliniarity of neo-classicism (S. Eriksen, Early Neo-Classicism in France , p. 78, see References.)

Techniques

Marquetry; Cabinet-making

Categories

Furniture

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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