Secretaire (Secrétaire À Abattant) thumbnail 1
Secretaire (Secrétaire À Abattant) thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 3

This object consists of 11 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.

Secretaire (Secrétaire À Abattant)

1774 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Gilles Joubert supplied furniture to the French crown for over 25 years and his career culminated when he was appointed Ébéniste du Roi (cabinet-maker to the king) in 1763. Between 1748 and 1774 he delivered over 4000 pieces to the royal household and the volume of his commissions was such that he often had to sub-contract his pieces. Joubert's output has often been difficult to identify as his early pieces were created before guild regulations made it compulsory for makers to stamp their pieces, and his later work for the crown was exempt of such rules. Stylistically, Joubert's furniture reflects the transitional phase that divides the elegant and highly decorative Rococo manner from the anti-Rococo, more sober Neo-classical style that followed it.

This secretaire bears the inventory mark of the Garde Meuble and, along with the matching commode (464-1895), it was delivered to the appartments of Madame Adelaide, Louis XV's sister, in 1774. Joubert was over 80-years-old at the time, and it is likely that he sub-contracted the actual construction to another Parisian craftsman who worked to his designs.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 11 parts.

  • Key
  • Marble Slab
  • Secretaire (<I>Sécrétaire À Abattant</I>)
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
Materials and Techniques
Carcase of oak, veneered with tulipwood with marquetry of kingwood, purplewood, ebony and holly; mounts of gilt brass; the slab of Carrara Bianco Venato marble
Brief Description
A drop-front secretaire (secrétaire à abattant) veneered in kingwood an tulipwood on a ground of oak, with panels of trellis marquetry studded with gilt-brass paterae; gilt-brass mounts including figures of zephyrs; slab of veined white marble.
Physical Description
A drop-front secretaire (secrétaire à abattant) veneered in kingwood an tulipwood on a ground of oak, with panels of trellis marquetry studded with gilt-brass paterae. The secretaire is mounted with gilt-brass, including two term figures as child zephyrs on the top, front corners and a bouquet of flowers in the centre of the drop-front. Below the drop-front is a two-doored cupboard. The top of the secretaire is set with a slab of veined white marble, with a brass gallery above.



The upper section is set within with bank of five pigeonholes and eight small drawers, set with ring handles, the front of the framework and the inside of the cupboard veneered in tulipwood, the drawer fronts veneered in tulipwood with bandings of purplewood and stringings of holly and ebony.



The lower cupboard shows a single shelf, the area below it divided in half by an oak board, the whole interior showing surfaces of varnished oak. The insides of the doors are set with a central panel of tulipwood veneer, with outer banding of purplewood.



The drop-front is set with a writing panel now covered in blue velvet edged with gold braid.
Dimensions
  • Including marble and brass height: 1401mm
  • Not including marble and brass height: 1346mm
  • Width: 978mm
  • Depth: 464mm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
No. 2768 (Inventory mark of the Garde Meuble. Painted on the upper left panel of the four-panelled back. )
Gallery Label
  • Drop-front secretaire (secrétaire à abattant) Supplied 1774 Gilles Joubert was about to relinquish his role as royal cabinet-maker when he supplied this secretaire and matching commode (right) for the bedroom of Madame Adelaïde, sister of Louis XV. He was over 80 years old, and it is likely that he sub-contracted the actual construction to another Parisian craftsman who worked to his designs. France (Paris) By Gilles Joubert Oak; marquetry in European and tropical woods; gilded copper alloy mounts and studs; marble top Bears a French royal inventory number (09/12/2015)
  • [Label text by Peter Thornton] Upright Secretaire French (Paris); 1774 Bearing the French royal inventory number 2768 Veneered with 'bois violette et roze à mosaique' (quoted from the royal accounts) with mounts 'en bronze doréd'or moulu'. The slab of 'Brêche d’Alep' is probably a replacement because the original piece was of 'marbre blanc reine'. This desk was provided by the royal cabinet-maker Gilles Joubert on 30th June 1774 'pour servir au besoin dans les Maisons Royalles'. Joubert's workshops were not large and he was then on the point of retiring, so it is likely that this piece was sub-contracted to another leading cabinet-maker like Roger Lacroix, who stamped a very similar desk with his own mark. Whatever the case, Joubert was certainly responsible for its design and final appearance (see the related commode standing nearby). It is probable that the bronzes were made by Etienne Forestier and chased by Jouniaux. The original marble was probably provided by Godille. All three were among Joubert's creditors in 1771. Museum No. W.17-1970(1980)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support and the assistance of The Pilgrim Trust
Object history
Delivered on 30 June 1774 to the Garde Meuble (the office in charge of furnishings for the French court) and inventoried as no. 2768. The delivery was recorded in the Journal du Garde-Meuble as 'Livré par le Sr. Joubert pour servir au besoin dans les Maisons Royalles No. 2768. Un Secrétaire de bois de violet et roze à mosaïques et dessus de marbre blanc veiné. Le devant s'abat et forme une table couverte d'un dessus de velours noir bordé d'un passepoil d'or et renferme 6 cazes et 8 tiroirs à anneaux mobiles dont un à droite garny d'encrier et poudrier de cuivre blanchy. Sous l'abattant est un bas d'armoire à 2 guichets. Le secrétaire orné d'entrées de serrures, d'un bouquet de fleurs au milieu, de deux enfans thermes aux encoignures par en haut et par en bas une bordure à la grecque, les panneaux entourés d'une baguette, le tout en bronze doré d'or moulu. Led. secrétaire long de 2 pieds 10 pouces sur 16 pou. de profondeur et 4 pieds 4 pouces de haut.' [Delivered by Mr Joubert for use as needed in the royal households, no. 2768. A secretaire of purplewood and tulipwood with 'mosaic' marquetry and a slab of veined white marble. The front drops down and forms a table covered in black velvet edged in gold braid and encloses 6 pigeon-holes and 8 drawers with rign handles, of which the right-hand one is supplied with an ink pot and sand pot in silvered brass. Under the drop front is a cupboard base with two doors. The secretaire is embellished with keyhole escutcheons, with a bouquet of flowers in the centre, with two term figures of children on the upper corners and on the base with a Greek key border, the panels outlined with a beading, all in ormoulu. The said secretaire is 2 foot 10 inches long, 16 inches deep and 4 foot 4 inches high]. Ref: Archives Nationales, Paris, AN, 013319, fol. 136v.



In 1822 it was sold by the London dealer Edward Holmes Baldock to Paul Beilby Lawley-Thompson, 1st Baron Wenlock (1784-1852) for £40.



Bequeathed by his wife to her only daughter who, in 1848, married the Rt. Hon. James Stuart-Wortley QC. By descent in that family.



Purchased by the Museum from Cecil Smith for £20,000 in 1970, with the assistance of The Art Fund (then the National Art-Collections Fund) and the Pilgrim Trust (Registered papers 66/1928, 69/279, 69/2301)



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.
Historical context
A considerable number of pieces of furniture with trellis marquetry embellished with metal studs was delivered to the Garde Meuble between 1769 and 1774, including a commode that matched the secretaire and that came into the V&A collections in 1895 (see museum no. 464-1895). The commode was delivered by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) on 22 June 1774, eight days before Jourbert delivered the secretaire. The commode was delivered for the use of 'Madame' (Madame Marie-Adelaïde de France, 1732-1800, the sixth child and fourth daughter of Louis XV and Maria Leszczynska) at the Château de Marly. The destination of the secretaire was not recorded in 1774 and no later record of its placement in one of the royal houses has been discovered, although the pairing of a secrétaire with a commode was a fashionable one.



The design of both pieces is probably attributable to Joubert, as court cabinet-maker, although others may have been involved in the production of pieces in the same style.

A second secretaire, of closely similar form to W.17-1970, and with similar marquetry, was delivered to the Garde Meuble on 1 June 1774 from Joubert's workshop but carries the stamp of another cabinet-maker, Roger Vandercruse (1728-1799), who is known to have made furniture for Joubert to supply to the Garde Meuble. That secretaure was listed as no. 2753 in the Garde Meuble and was supplied for the Cabinet Intérieur of the Comte d'Artois at the château de Compiègne. It was sold by Christie's, King Street, London on 5 July 2012, lot 25.



Jean-Henri Riesener, who is said to have supplied the commode of similar design to this secretaire had from 1769 been supplying furniture for royal use and in 1775 became ébéniste du roi(cabinet-maker to the king), succeeding Joubert in that office. At the time that the commode was delivered, Joubert was in the last months of his life and it may be that Riesener was involved in finishing and delivering some of the pieces that he had designed.



Similar 'studded' marquetry is recorded on a pair of corner cupboards stamped by the maker Louis Peridiez (1731-1795) which was sold at Christie's, London, 25 June 1982, lot 139 and a secretaire with similar studding on a trellis marquetry of serpentine form is in the collections of the National Museum of Scotland, no. 1985.313. This is stamped by Guillaume Benneman (master cabinet-maker in 1785, died after 1811) and dates from about 1790.



Summary
Gilles Joubert supplied furniture to the French crown for over 25 years and his career culminated when he was appointed Ébéniste du Roi (cabinet-maker to the king) in 1763. Between 1748 and 1774 he delivered over 4000 pieces to the royal household and the volume of his commissions was such that he often had to sub-contract his pieces. Joubert's output has often been difficult to identify as his early pieces were created before guild regulations made it compulsory for makers to stamp their pieces, and his later work for the crown was exempt of such rules. Stylistically, Joubert's furniture reflects the transitional phase that divides the elegant and highly decorative Rococo manner from the anti-Rococo, more sober Neo-classical style that followed it.



This secretaire bears the inventory mark of the Garde Meuble and, along with the matching commode (464-1895), it was delivered to the appartments of Madame Adelaide, Louis XV's sister, in 1774. Joubert was over 80-years-old at the time, and it is likely that he sub-contracted the actual construction to another Parisian craftsman who worked to his designs.
Associated Object
Bibliographic References
  • Eriksen, Svend. Early Neo-Classicism in France. London: Faber & Faber, 1974, 432 pp, ill. ISBN 0 571 08717 5, pp. 329-330, pl. 145.
  • Watson, F.J.B., Louis XVI Furniture. London: Tiranti, 1960, p. 118 and fig. 74.
  • Cecil, R.A. 'A Secretaire made for the French Crown'. Burlington Magazine, 1960, p. 35.
  • Clouzot, Henri, L'Ameublement français sous Louis XV. Paris: Les Arts Graphiques, 1913, pl. III, p. 17
  • Verlet, Pierre, French Royal Furniture. London: Barrie and Rockliff, 1963, no. 12, p. 122 and pl. 12
Collection
Accession Number
W.17:1to3-1970

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record createdApril 15, 2009
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