ChicagoHalbert, Philippe, Arlen Heginbotham, Yannick Chastang, et al. “Two pairs of corner cupboards (*encoignures*).” In French Rococo Ébénisterie in the J. Paul Getty Museum, by
and Arlen Heginbotham, edited and with an introduction by Anne-Lise Desmas.
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum,, 2021. http://www.getty.edu/publications/rococo/catalogue/17/.
MLAHalbert, Philippe, et al. “Two pairs of corner cupboards (*encoignures*).” French Rococo Ébénisterie in the J. Paul Getty Museum, by
Gillian Wilson and
J. Paul Getty Museum, 2021. http://www.getty.edu/publications/rococo/catalogue/17/. Accessed DD Mon. YYYY.
Carcass and mounts attributed to Jean-Pierre Latz (French, ca. 1691–1754, ébéniste privilégié du Roi before May 1741), marquetry panels attributed to Jean-François Oeben (French, born Germany, 1721–1763, ébéniste mécanicien du Roi from 1760 and master 1761), and 72.DA.69.1–.2 altered by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734–1806, master 1768 and ébéniste ordinaire du Roi from 1774)
White oak* veneered with amaranth*, sycamore maple*, holly, fruitwood, barberry, boxwood, maple*, walnut*, and other unidentified woods; gilt bronze mounts; brass hinges; brass and iron locks and keys; brèche d’Alep tops
H: 3 ft. 2 1/4 in., W: 2 ft. 9 3/4 in., D: 1 ft. 11 1/8 in. (97.2 × 85.7 × 58.7 cm)
H: 3 ft. 1/4 in., W: 2 ft. 8 1/4 in., D: 2 ft. (92.1 × 81.9 × 61 cm)
Although they differ slightly in dimension, these two pairs of double-door corner cupboards share a number of characteristics. The carcass of each of the four cupboards is fashioned from white oak, supplied with a brèche d’Alep marble top, and embellished with a profusion of gilt bronze mounts and floral marquetry. The doors are set with brass hinges, with the right door containing a single brass keyhole and iron lock. The front legs on the left and right sides of each cupboard take the form of short cabrioles, whereas a deep rounded apron forms the third, center leg. The interior of each cupboard reveals a single fitted shelf. Only the cupboards from pair 72.DA.39 contain posts that run vertically along the back of the interior. The white oak side panels of the cupboards come together at the back to form a 90° angle. The door panels are bowed in form, with those of 72.DA.69 presenting a slightly more bombé shape.
Both pairs of cupboards exhibit naturalistic marquetry on the exterior door panels. The marquetry consists of now-faded bouquets of carnations, daffodils, honeysuckle, narcissi, poppies, roses, tulips, jasmine, and other flowers. Each floral spray is unique and not bound by a ribbon or tie. They appear as if floating on the surface of the doors, although the overall composition and arrangement of flowers is looser on 72.DA.39 than on 72.DA.69. On the first pair (72.DA.39), the door panels feature a stained sycamore maple ground, bordered by amaranth along the edges and down the front two legs. Adopting the shape of a rounded rectangle, the stained sycamore maple section is further delineated by a foliate scroll frame of gilt bronze and contains the floral marquetry of amaranth, sycamore maple, holly, fruitwood, barberry, boxwood, maple, walnut, and other unidentified woods. The white oak interior of each cupboard is varnished. The second pair of cupboards (72.DA.69) is similarly veneered and set with gilt bronze mounts. The stained sycamore maple ground is framed by amaranth and contains the floral marquetry made from a similarly diverse assemblage of woods.
The gilt bronze mounts seen on both pairs of cupboards are remarkably similar. Each cupboard has a foliate scroll frame on each door, two sabots, two corner mounts, and a central apron mount. A flat gilt bronze frame follows along each cupboard’s lower front edge. The sabots consist of a mass of foliate scrolls that twist around a ridged middle section that is bisected by an undulating scroll. Each sabot is crowned with an outstretched wing. The corner mounts are similar in design, with foliate scrolls and a segmented, branchlike motif extending a third of the way down each cupboard’s sides and terminating in a leafy bud. The central apron mount features a pierced, shell-like rococo ornament set upon a series of matching asymmetrical foliate C-scrolls. The marquetry on each door front is surrounded by gilt bronze frames composed of foliate scrolls set with buds and leaves.
72.DA.39.1 features a printed paper label on the back, reading “Zollstück.” A paper label on the back of 72.DA.39.2 reads, “DEPT. OF WOODWORK ON LOAN FROM L Currie, Esq. No. 5/ 15.V.1917,” with the lender’s name handwritten in ink.
72.DA.69.2 features the stamp “J.H. Riesener,” for Jean-Henri Riesener, on the top right corner (see fig. 17-7, below). A handwritten inscription, presumably in pencil, on the cupboard’s underside reads, “Réparée le 13 Juillet 1843 / par [illegible] de Fère Champenoise / rue de Vitry No 29” (see fig. 17-8, below).
These two pairs of corner cupboards and their gilt bronze mounts were attributed by Henry Hawley to Jean-Pierre Latz, born near Cologne around 1691 and naturalized in Paris in 1736.1 Referred to as encoignures, or coins, in the eighteenth century, such case pieces would have ordinarily been placed at the corners of a room, generally in single pairs.2 Latz, who did not always stamp his work and was named ébéniste privilégié du Roi in 1741, produced a number of such pieces. Among these is a pair of corner cupboards with stylized floral marquetry in the collection of the Palazzo del Quirinale that exhibit pierced rococo apron mounts very similar to those seen on the Museum’s cupboards (fig. 17-1).3 Made around 1750 and before Latz’s death in 1754, these unsigned cupboards are attributed to Latz on the basis of the similarity between their marquetry and that of a commode, also in the Quirinale (see fig. 16-3), that is in turn similar to another in the same collection but stamped by the maker and distinguished by its wave-cut bloodwood veneer.4 Both the Quirinale commode and the corner cupboards belonged to Louise-Elisabeth, Duchess of Parma, and were among the pieces that she brought to furnish the Palace of Colorno upon her arrival from Versailles in 1753.5 A pair of corner cupboards in the collection of the musée Carnavalet stamped by both Latz and Léonard Boudin offers a comparable overview of the former’s style as expressed in gilt bronze.6 Flanking the escutcheon of these cupboards’ upper drawers and seen along the corner mounts, the outstretched wing motif that alights from an exuberant scroll likewise graces the top of the Museum’s cupboards’ sabots.7
Furniture made by and attributed to Latz embodies the stylistic repertoire of the Rococo. Although he is credited with the cupboards’ carcasses and mounts, the attenuated floral marquetry on their doors is believed to have been undertaken by Jean-François Oeben, another Parisian cabinetmaker of Germanic extraction, at a slightly later date.8 Any collaboration between these two cabinetmakers is based on circumstantial evidence, although there are several theories related to the possibility. Yannick Chastang made a connection between the Museum’s cupboards and an after-death 1756 inventory.9 Indeed, Oeben might have purchased furniture frames from Latz’s widow, Marie-Madeleine Seignat, who continued her husband’s business for two years before her death in 1756.10 The Museum’s cupboards are not the only pieces of furniture conjectured to have been begun by Latz and finished by Oeben. Commissioned by the Garde-meuble de la Couronne, a commode probably intended to furnish the bedchamber of the dauphine, Marie-Josèphe of Saxony, at the château of Choisy and now in a private collection, likely owes its carcass and mounts to Latz. Delivered in 1756 or 1757, the finished piece bears delicate floral marquetry on the sides and drawer fronts attributed to Oeben.11 In similar fashion, a small cabriole table in the collection of the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, exhibits Latz’s stamp under the rail and Oeben’s under the drawer. This table’s overall form appears characteristic of an older craftsman at midcentury, whereas the marquetry is certainly in keeping with Oeben’s more natural aesthetics.12
Oeben helped usher in a new transitional style that combined rococo and neoclassical elements, a development notably seen in his commodes à la grecque made for clients that included the marquise de Pompadour and her brother, the marquis de Marigny, beginning around 1760.13 He is perhaps most famous for his involvement in the creation of the celebrated bureau du roi, a piece that he began in 1761 and was ultimately completed by his apprentice Jean-Henri Riesener and delivered to Versailles in 1769.14 For all his innovation, Oeben continued to produce more conventional rococo models and forms, among them two stamped multipurpose cabriole tables (cat. nos. 18, 19) also in the Museum’s collection.
A hallmark of Oeben’s style is the use of elegant, realistic floral marquetry. For his design, it appears that he found his inspiration in Louis Tessier’s Livre de principes de fleurs, dédié aux dames, with engravings by Juste Chevillet.15 A securely dated example demonstrating Oeben’s Tessier-inspired marquetry is the above-mentioned bureau du roi with elements directly derived from plates 43 and 44 (Jasmin d’Espagne) of the book. Conceived as a ladies’ guide to drafting and shading techniques, this book actually proved to be an indispensable resource for cabinetmakers. It showcases models for various floral specimens by Louis Tessier (1719–1781), an artist who spent his entire career, if not his life, working at the Gobelins Manufactory.16 While a manuscript copy of the book contains a frontispiece dated 1755, the printed versions of the Livre are undated but generally thought to date from the same year or soon after.17
The publication of the Livre after Latz’s death effectively precluded him from ever having produced such marquetry for the Museum’s corner cupboards. Chastang has identified several plates from Tessier’s book and other publications by him as the basis for marquetry designs by cabinetmakers like Oeben.18 For example, at least four of Chevillet’s engravings in the Livre were reproduced to create the now-faded marquetry flowers seen on 72.DA.69. These include plates 29 and 30 (Semi-double simple [géroflé]), 31 and 32 (Rose double), 33 and 34 (Lys) (see fig. 17-2), and 43 and 44 (Jasmin d’Espagne). The other flowers are from an as yet unidentified source, and it is worth noting that in instances where the same species is repeated in the marquetry, they are not all conclusively sourced from Tessier. Oeben kept a ready and apparently large supply of precut flower motifs at hand, as seen in the following entry from the 1763 inventory of his workshop.
Un petit coffre-fort remply de fleurs en bois découpé et nué, propres à être employés en différens ouvrages, dont la plus large est d’environ 3 ou 4 pouces et la plus petite de la largeur de 3 lignes, lesquels il a été impossible de compter et décrire, attendu la quantité considérable qui s’en trouve et la différence des espèces, prisé le tout ensemble (non compris led. petit coffre fort qui a été prisé cy devant dans les effets du magasin d’où il a été tiré pour servir à renfermer lesd. fleurs) la somme de 400 livr.19
Other Oeben pieces feature similar marquetry flowers. For example, a pair of corner cupboards by Oeben in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum repeat the tulip and carnations seen on the right door of 72.DA.39.1.20 The frieze of a circa 1760 writing table at the Rijksmuseum features the same cut rosebud seen on the left door of 72.DA.69.1.21 The question of who was actually responsible for producing the flowers themselves remains, however. Oeben’s status as ébénistemécanicien du Roi from 1760 on freed him from guild restrictions, and he took advantage of this privilege to create everything from metal frames and mounts to more functional hardware, including locks.22 Although the creation of elaborate marquetry figures was also part of his business, it is entirely possible that some of this was contracted out by a marqueteur working for Oeben or even Latz’s widow. She might have sought such assistance, and her own operation of Latz’s business coincided with the earliest possible publication date of the Livre de principes de fleurs.
Of further interest with respect to the trajectory of furniture from one maker to another, the right-hand top corner of cupboard 72.DA.69.2 reveals the now-faint stamp of Jean-Henri Riesener (see fig. 17-7, below). Technical analysis indicates that this pair of cupboards was shortened at both the top and the bottom sometime after production. The presence of Riesener’s stamp on the one cupboard suggests that these changes took place sometime after he took over Oeben’s workshop in the mid-1760s. Indeed, Riesener was only entitled to begin stamping his own work as a master in 1768.23 However, the handwritten cursive inscription on the bottom of 72.DA.69.1 references a repair made in July 1843 by someone working at 29, rue de Vitry in the commune of Fère-Champenoise, in the Marne Department. Although the Museum’s pair might have been shortened at this date, the presence of Riesener’s stamp on top of the one cupboard suggests that the alterations, perhaps part of a restoration or refurbishment, were made in Riesener’s workshop in the Arsenal, which remained in operation until 1798.
By 1917–after 1920: Lawrence Currie, English, 1867–1934 (London, England);24 –1936: private collection (Berlin, Germany) [sold, Kunstbesitz eines Berliner Sammlers, Hugo Helbing Gallery, Frankfurt am Main, June 23, 1936, lots 260–61]; –1938: private collection (Germany) [sold, Eine Bekannte Süddeutsche Privatsammlung und Anderer Privatbesitz, Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, March 12, 1938, lot 217]; –1955: private collection (New York, NY) [sold, Fine French XVIII-Century Furniture & Decorations, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, October 21–22, 1955, lot 358, to Dalva Brothers, Inc.]; 1955– : Dalva Brothers, Inc. (New York, NY), sold to Philip Robert Consolo;25 Philip Robert Consolo, American, 1915–2011 (Miami, FL);26 possibly private collection (California);27 –1972: Frank Partridge & Sons, Ltd. (London, England), sold through French and Company to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.28
Sidney J. Block (London, England);29 –1972: French and Company, Inc. (New York, NY), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.
Exhibition History 72.DA.39.1–.2
Loan to Victoria and Albert Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum (London), May 9, 1917–May 26, 1920.
Exhibition History 72.DA.69.1–.2
Loan to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA), May 20, 1998–February 27, 2009.
Exhibition History 72.DA.39.1–.2 and 72.DA.69.1–.2
The J. Paul Getty Collection of French Decorative Arts, Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit), October 3, 1972–August 31, 1973; Paris: Life & Luxury, J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 26, 2011–August 7, 2011; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston), September 18, 2011–January 2, 2012.
Hawley 1970Citation: Hawley, Henry. “Jean-Pierre Latz, Cabinetmaker.” Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 57, no. 7 (September–October 1970): 203–59., 254, no. 49, ill.; Bremer-David et al. 1993Citation: Bremer-David, Charissa, et al. Decorative Arts: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993., 32, no. 36; Ramond 2000aCitation: Ramond, Pierre. Masterpieces of Marquetry. Vol. 2, From the Régence to the Present Day. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000. Originally published as Chefs-d’oeuvre des marqueteurs. Vol. 2, De la Régence à nos jours. Dourdan: Éditions H. Vial, 1996., 133, 135, ill.; Wilson and Hess 2001Citation: Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001., 21, no. 36; Stratmann-Döhler 2002Citation: Stratmann-Döhler, Rosemarie. Jean-François Oeben, 1721–1763. Paris: Éditions de l’Amateur and Perrin & Fils, 2002., 50, ill.; Chastang 2007Citation: Chastang, Yannick. “Louis Tessier’s Livre de principes de fleurs and the Eighteenth-Century Marqueteur.” Furniture History 43 (2007): 115–26., 120–22; Bremer-David 2011Citation: Bremer-David, Charissa, ed. Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011., 104–5, fig. 62; 166, no. 4.
Hawley 1970Citation: Hawley, Henry. “Jean-Pierre Latz, Cabinetmaker.” Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 57, no. 7 (September–October 1970): 203–59., 255, no. 50, ill.; Bremer-David et al. 1993Citation: Bremer-David, Charissa, et al. Decorative Arts: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993., 32–33, no. 37; Ramond 2000aCitation: Ramond, Pierre. Masterpieces of Marquetry. Vol. 2, From the Régence to the Present Day. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2000. Originally published as Chefs-d’oeuvre des marqueteurs. Vol. 2, De la Régence à nos jours. Dourdan: Éditions H. Vial, 1996., 133–34, ill.; Wilson and Hess 2001Citation: Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001., 21, no. 37; Chastang 2007Citation: Chastang, Yannick. “Louis Tessier’s Livre de principes de fleurs and the Eighteenth-Century Marqueteur.” Furniture History 43 (2007): 115–26., 120–22; Bremer-David 2011Citation: Bremer-David, Charissa, ed. Paris: Life & Luxury in the Eighteenth Century. Exh. cat. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011., 116, no. 5.
The structure of the two pairs of cabinets is currently rather different, however the physical evidence suggests that their original construction was quite similar. It appears that both pairs have been modified in different ways since the time of their fabrication. In this essay, the original construction of both pairs is described, followed by a discussion of the ways in which each has been modified.
The original fabrication of both pairs of cabinets was based on a plank construction using variants of tongue-and-groove joints. The two back planks of each cabinet were made of five or six boards of white oak about 1.8 cm thick, butt joined and glued together on edge (fig. 17-3). The panels were joined together at the rear corner using a rabbet-and-groove joint along their entire length. At the front corners, pseudo-posts were formed by laminating long pieces of wood, approximately 5 x 9 cm in section, to the interior surfaces of the planks along their front edges. These composite posts were then sawn and shaped to their final form. Sections along the lower edges of the rear planks were cut away to form the front and rear feet; a small, chamfered glue block about 3.2 mm square was glued into the back corner, below the case bottom, to reinforce the rear foot and support the case bottom.
The triangular bottoms of the cabinets were also made from single large planks. Each bottom was formed of six boards butt joined and glued together on their edges, with the grain of the wood running parallel to a line drawn between the corner posts. The bottom planks, about 20 mm thick, were slightly rabbeted on the lower side of their back edges and were fitted into long horizontal dadoes running the width of the back planks. Along their front edges, the bottom planks ran all the way to the front of the cabinets, flush with the door fronts above. Below the front edge of the case bottoms, curved blocks of wood approximately 4.5 cm high and 4 cm deep were glued in place, forming an auxiliary rail running from corner to corner on each cabinet. Each of these rails was made of two pieces of wood, joined at the center with a slip joint. At either end, the rails were attached to the corner posts with a variant of a slip joint using a loose tenon. Three additional blocks of wood were stacked and glued to the bottom of each rail at the center to form the apron.
Due to subsequent modifications made to both pairs of cabinets, the original construction of the case tops is not understood in complete detail. However, in keeping with the rest of the original construction, the tops were almost certainly constructed of solid planks, and both pairs of cabinets are currently fitted with such tops. How the tops were originally joined to the case backs is a matter of speculation since both pairs have been modified in this area. Along the front edges, it appears that cabinets 72.DA.39.1–.2 retain their original joinery. These case tops were extended to the very front edge of the cabinets and joined at their ends to the front posts with small dovetails (fig. 17-4). Below the front edges, curved strips of oak were glued to their undersides to form an auxiliary rail in a manner analogous to the blocks added below the case bottom; that is, they are joined at the middle with a slip joint and attached to the corner posts with loose tenons.
The doors of the cabinets were made in a laminated construction with cross battens at top and bottom. On pair 72.DA.69.1–.2, the laminated vertical sticks of oak are approximately 2.5 cm in width; on pair 72.DA.39.1–.2 they are approximately 4.5 cm wide. The cross battens, attached at top and bottom with tongue-and-groove joints, were also laminated using sticks of corresponding dimension. In addition to the difference in stick size, there are significant differences between the two pairs of doors, both in size and in shape. The doors of 72.DA.69.1–.2 are approximately 2.5 cm taller than those of 72.DA.39.1–.2, and they have a more pronounced bombé form than their counterparts. Although the cases of 72.DA.69.1–.2 have been shortened (see below), it appears that the cabinets overall were originally taller than those of 72.DA.39.1–.2 by a corresponding amount. While virtually every other detail of construction was identical between the pairs, these differences suggest that they were not made as a set of four at the same time.
As mentioned above, both pairs of cabinets have been altered since their construction. In particular, the pair 72.DA.69.1–.2 has been shortened by approximately 7.5 cm, removing approximately equal amounts of material from both the top and bottom. This is evident when the corner mounts and apron mounts are removed. Old screw holes are readily apparent (either by eye or by X-radiography in areas where veneer replacements cover the old holes). These holes clearly indicate the exact position of the mounts before the shortening occurred (figs. 17-5, 17-6). The amount of shortening can be determined by measuring the offset of the new and old holes. At the bottom, the shortening appears to have been accomplished by cutting about 3.7 cm off the ends of the three legs. The apron was also cut down, roughly following the contours of the newly positioned apron mount.