André-Charles Boulle, appointed Ebéniste, Ciseleur, Doreur et Sculpteur du Roi in 1672.
The composition of this armoire derives from that of the two famous armoires à régulateurs by André-Charles Boulle, which feature as the first number in the inventory after the death of Boulle in 1732 (Jean-Pierre Samoyault, André-Charles Boulle et sa famille, Genève, 1979), one of which is at the Wallace collection (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, vol.II, pp. 831-840 (F 221). The most striking elements - including the satyr-mask scrolled volutes, the musical trophies, the spandrel clasps and the design of the gadrooned plinth - appear on both armoires. Other bronze elements such as the central mask or the flying putti are also all found on other works attributed to Boulle with certainty.
In comparing the design of the Wildenstein and Wallace armoires, it would appear that the Wildenstein example is a reduced variant, its narrow central door playing the visual role of a pilaster or pedestal, which visually could supports a clock. The Randon de Boisset sale in 1777 may perhaps corroborate the hypothesis of a clock sitting atop the cornice of the Wildenstein armoire; this sale included two armoires of analogous descriptions but different sizes (94 cm. high; 189.5 cm. wide), each of which supported a pendule aux Parques on the cornice over the central door.
A further bibliothèque in the Wallace Collection, (F390) (Hughes, op. cit., pp.546-553) is well worth comparing in this context, as it shares numerous identical characteristics in design - including the laurel-draped Neo-Classical urn mount, the rinceaux arabesque tablet to the cornice and the template for the marquetry of the central breakfront section on the Wildenstein armoire. Whilst Hughes has argued that the Wallace armoire was probably executed in its entirety circa 1775 by Etienne Levasseur, it closely recalls an armoire supplied by Lazare Duvaux to Lavlive de Jully in 1756 and in design it corresponds closely with a drawing, now destroyed, that was formerly in the collection of the Staatlichen Schlösserr und Gárten, Berlin. This latter drawing, dated to circa 1715 on the basis of the inscriptions, is however even more relevant to the Wildenstein armoire, as it depicts the principal tenets of the design of the armoire's breakfronted centre - including the concept of a mask centred by scrolled volutes and surmounted by an rinceaux tablet and the ram's-headed lyre-form cartouche that supports its neo-classical urn and voluted bracket.
BARON VAN HOORN VAN VLOOSWYCK
This magnificent armoire is first recorded in the 1809 sale of the Collection of Baron van Hoorn van Vlooswyck. A Dutchman known as le Baron de Hoorn, van Vlooswyck spent a large part of his youth in Italy. He assembled one of the most important collections of engraved stones, which was sold to Louis Bonaparte after his death - and indeed the Wildenstein armoire would be perfectly suited to this exact purpose! The Wildenstein armoire was descrived as lot 579 of the de Hoorn sale in Paris on 22 November 1809:
'579. Un meuble ouvrant à trois battans, à dessin de rinceaux d'ornement, tant en marqueterie première partie qu'en bronze, enrichi de quatre équerres, d'enroulemens d'ornement & mascarons, avec moulure et corniche à rinceaux, iquerres & filets en bronze; morceau vraiment pur et capital. Haut. 56 po. [151.2 cm. high]; Larg. 43 [116 cm. wide]; prof. 16 [43.2 cm.].
The Baron von Hoorn had a vast collection of Boulle furniture which included no less than eleven bas d'armoires with three doors. Most of these pieces were creations of the second half of the 18th century. As the 1809 catalogue is spared of the usual florid epithets of 18th century sale cataloguing, it is important to pay attention to the phrase morceau vraiment pur et capital, which points, in the cataloguer's view, to a work by Boulle himself.
Baron von Hoorn lived in a hôtel particulier, the hôtel Vendome in the rue d'Enfer. He died at the age of 65 and in his will he stipulated that his 'cabinet universal soit vendu à Paris dans ma maison sans y ajouter ou retrancher d'autres choses qui ne m'ont appartenu!' Amongst the numerous masterpieces by Boulle in the 1809 sale were two pairs of Boulle armoires, lots 577 and 578, each decorated with the Seasons, which display several identical mounts and marquetry to the Wildenstein armoire. Of the same overall tripartite composition, they differ in size (both are wider) and have a different central mask and a figure of the Seasons in the centre. Of these, one pair (176 cm. wide) is now in the Royal Collection and illustrated in H. Roberts, For The King's Pleasure The Furnishing and Decoration of George IV's Apartments at Windsor Castle, London, 2001, p.264; the other pair was 160 cm. wide. Both pairs have a marble top and a neoclassical cornice of egg-and-dart, which may point to an intervention (if not a creation?) of a marchand such as Julliot or Lebrun.
The subsequent fate of the armoire was almost certainly a short-lived stint at Wanstead House, Essex. This monumental Palladian house was built by the Scottish architect Colen Campbell (illustrated in the first edition of his Vitruvius Britannicus of 1715) and decorated by William Kent for the enormously wealthy Richard Child, Baron Newton and Viscount Castlemaine, later created Earl Tylney of Castlemaine. According to the diarist, John Evelyn, Sir Richard's father Josiah, 'arrived to an estate ('tis said) of L200,000' through the 'management of the East India Company's stock' (F. Kimball, 'Wanstead House, Essex-I', Country Life, 2 December 1933, p.605).
Described in A New History of Essex (1769) as 'one of the noblest houses in England. The magnificence of having four state-chambers, with complete apartments to them, and the ball-room, are superior to anything of the kind in Houghton, Holkham, Blenheim, or Wilton', some sense of its grandeur can be seen in the famous portrait of Lord Castlemaine by William Hogarth now in the the Philadelphia Museum of Art (C. Saumarez Smith, Eighteenth Century Decoration, New York, 1993, p.94, pl.74).
This armoire was almost certainly acquired by the immensely rich and prolifically extravagant 4th Earl of Mornington, who had married the heiress Catherine Child-Tylney-Long in 1812. Lot 31 in the Wanstead Sale, 3 July 1822 was described as:-
'A SPLENDID TORTOISE-SHELL AND BUHL ANTIQUE PARISIAN ARMOIRE With black Marble Slab on the Top, THE INSIDE MADE OF RED SANDERS WOOD, ENCLOSED BY FOLDING DOORS, On Square plinth, and French Feet, SUPERBLY MOUNTED IN MASSIVE AND CHASED GILT OR-MOULU MOULDINGS, WREATHS, AND OTHER ORNAMENTS, LOCK AND KEY, 4-Feet-1 wide by 1 Foot-7 deep, and 5-Feet high.'
The house was tragically demolished in 1824.
The Wellesley-Child-Tylney-Long's had a particular predilection for Boulle furniture and, amongst the pieces so far traced back to the 1822 sale, are:- The Wildenstein/Ojjeh centre table sold from the Riahi Collection at Christie's New York, 2 November 2000, lot 40; the Byng Boulle table de milieu, also sold from the Riahi sale, lot 35; the pair of Boulle cabinet stands sold in Boulle to Jansen, Christie's London, 11-12 June 2003, lots 25-26 and now with Galerie Kugel, Paris; and a pair of Boulle tables of the same model as lot 10 in this sale.
THE WALLACE CONNECTION?
The Wildenstein armoire is of identical model to three formerly in the collection of the Marquis of Hertford and, subsequently, Sir Richard Wallace. Probably those first recorded in the Marquis of Hertford's 1871 inventory of 2, rue Lafitte, they were described as:
314. deux meubles a trois portes pleines en marqueterie d'ecaile et cuivre garnis de bronze doré 1500f
315. meuble analogue aux deux qui precèdent 1500f.
Whilst a categoric identification is difficult to pprove as many pieces from the Wallace collection in London were also then in Paris, it is a strong possibility; particularly as the single armoire was valued at the same price as the preceding pair, suggesting that it may have been period rather than a later copy. Perhaps Hertford had acquired the Wanstead armoire and subsequently commissioned a pair of 19th century copies - Boulle preferring to use central feet to support the weight of either medals or clocks.
Pierre Robineau, Henri Baudouin and Jules Mannheim's Inventory of 2, rue Lafitte, Paris, drawn up between 16 February 1912 and 11 November 1913, recorded three armoires of the same model, of which one is listed in the 'grande galerie, Meuble d'entre deux de style Louis XIV ouvrant à deux portes en bois noir, marqueterie de cuivre et orné de bronzes, prisé douze cents francs'. Thought at the time to be style Louis XIV it is however published in situ in The Sphere, 9 March 1912, p.278; the only differences are that the winged putti are slightly raised in the corners of the door, it does not display the same angle clasps to the breakfronted section of the cornice and it is lacking the further mount in the centre of the lyre panel. The present location of the Wallace armoire is unkown (P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, pp.1552-3 and 155, figs. 12 and 18). It is intriguing that Wallace owned three such armoires rather than a pair - and it seems highly probable that one was old and two were later copies. As no other Louis XIV models of this armoire are recorded, it is a tantalising possibility that the Wildenstein and Wallace armoire may be one and the same.
A LOUIS XIV ORMOLU-MOUNTED BRASS-INLAID BROWN TORTOISESHELL, EBONY AND BOULLE MARQUETRY PETIT ARMOIRE
Inlaid overall en première partie, the breakfront rectangular top with central scallop-shell and mask enriched arabesque plaque, the egg-and-dart above a Bacchic mask with tied hair, flanked by winged putti holding aloft laurel wreaths, the breakfronted central door inlaid with arabesques and ribbon-tied trophies of music and the attributes of hunting and further contre-partie panel with ram's masks, a lambrequin at the base, flanked by two further doors inlaid with a C-scroll plinth of parquetry flanked by satyr masks, the sides similarly decorated, each door veneered to the reverse in amaranth and brass-inlaid palisander and enclosing adjustable shelves, above a breakfronted plinth with floral rosettes and a central Heraclitus mask, on replaced toupie feet with ormolu gadrooned caps, some of the mounts including the frieze and plinth mounts regilt and possibly added in the Louis XVI period, one key, with printed label to reverse 'Sotheby's Exposition 7-15 March 1998, Trésors des Collections Privées Les chefs d'oeuvres du Mobilier Français Galérie Charpentier, 76 faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris,' with constructional hook and eye sides, originally with a marble top.
This lot will require a CITES licence if it is to be shipped outside the EU. For more information please contact Leah Heneghan ++44 (0)20 7389 2828 in Christie's Art Transport Department.
Paris, '7-15 March 1998, Trésors du Collection Privées Les chefs d'oeuvres du Mobilier Français Galérie Charpentier, 76 faubourg Saint-Honóre, Paris.'
59¼ in. (150.5 cm.) high; 47½ in. (121 cm.) wide; 18¾ in. (48 cm.) deep
Possibly The Sphere, 9 March 1912, p.278 (illustrated in situ in the grande galerie at 2, rue Lafitte, Paris.
P.Hughes, The Wallace Collection, Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, pp.1552-3 and 155, figs. 12 and 18.
Almost certainly Pierre Nicholas Hoorn van Vlooswyck, Baron de Hoorn, Lot offeraris, 22 November 1809.
Probably acquired by Catherine Tylney-Child (d.1825), who in 1812 married the Hon. William Pole Tylney-Long-Wellesley, later 4th Earl of Mornington (d.1857) for Wanstead House, Essex and sold by Mr. Robins, Wanstead house sale, 10 June 1822 and 31 following days, 19th day's sale, 3 July 1822, lot 31.
Acquired from [the Collection] Bensimon, July 1930.