November 18, 2009

Remarkable furniture by Two Cabinet Makers

by Jeanne Calmont

Blanchet et Associés, Paris

Signed Roger van der Cruse (RVLC) know as Lacroix (1727-1799), an imposing «entre deux » cabinet, estimated at 40- 50,000 euros, has been offered for sale on November 18 at Blanchet et Associés (Paris).

Comprised of two salient central doors which hide three levels of drawers without a crossbeam, it is flanked on either side by two square compartments that are slightly set back for a total length of 185,5 cm. Characteristic of the Louis XVI style, this piece is representative of it insofar as its rectilinear form. Straight leg supports of the Transition period (1750-1774) replaced the bulging forms of the rocaille style popular during the Regency period (1715-1723) and the first half of the Louis XV period (1723-1750). They continue down tapered sectioned legs, curved stone work that was is usage until the second half of Louis XV reign. The simplified association of the sectional body (the upper portion of the piece of furniture) and the base (the lower portion of the piece of furniture) placed in alignment with the upper portion is characteristic of the new stylistic order, which beginning with the reign of Louis XVI, brings about a rediscovery of Antiquity. It is evidenced throughout art generally, in furniture specifically through a more rational style of architecture, in the form of proportions that are more severe, more “male.”

That being said, the Louis XVI style is not rectilinear. Another characteristic is classified in the ornamental category which links old-style drapery acanthus plants and gadroons, garlands and ribbons which were preferred by Marie-Antoinette during the time she spent at the Hameau de la Reine. These motifs produced in ornamental bronzes, being evident in the furniture produced by Boule (time of Louis XIV), Cressent (Regency style) as well as Oeben (time of Louis XV), have a tendency to become more localized. They may be found, as an example, along the large belt of drawers that supports the white Sainte-Anne marble plate (which replaced the red Languedoc marble chosen by Louis XIV for Versailles as well as stone-colored marble) as well as in the semi-circular chutes of the two central openings.

Marquetry, the decorative technique produced through the assembly and pasting of thin leaves of wood of different types and colors, grabs our attention for two specific reasons. Technically, we should mention that the procedure is much like that of veneering which entails the application of more or less precious wooden leaves on the frame of the piece of furniture and, ebony, being one of the first types of wood to be applied in this fashion, gave its name to those who work in this field: the cabinetmakers, ébénistes in French (not to be confused with carpenters who work on furniture frames or wooden pieces within an apartment). As an example, veneering using sycamore is coupled with ornate panels (on the lateral facets and the central opening) of inlaid wood in the form of a trellis made of broken sticks from ebony and boxwood. In the center of the diamond shapes, a four-petal rose, the stylized floral motif characteristic of the work Martin Carlin (1730-1785). In fact, once the piece of furniture carried RVLC’s stamp, the presence of the four-petal rose motif indicates the work of a subsequent, separate cabinetmaker. From this point of view, marquetry demonstrates the successive stages in the transformation of high-end the furniture, far from being an isolated incidence, which allows us to revisit the tastes of the day and seasons.

This fact being very probable, if not already proven, it is still worth revisiting to the two cabinetmakers that worked on the piece: Roger van der Cruse whose mark is clearly stamped on the piece, and Martin Carlin who left his signature in the form of an emblematic decorative motif. Brother-in-law to Jean-François Oeben who greatly influenced him, RVLC furnished many royal abodes. The variety of his work is due to the fact that he worked for several different merchant-tailors as well as furniture and decoration merchants each of whom played a crucial role during the Ancien Regime with regards to the stylistic orientation of the time. Generally, if RVLC’s Transition style furniture retain certain accents of scribed rock gardens, they heavily influenced the evolution from formal furniture to the neo-classical. Another new style artisan who brought the Transition style between the Louis XV style and the Louis XVI style to the forefront was Martin Carlin who was the brother-in-law to Jean-François Oeben and as such the relative of RVLC. Though he took a more linear approach, his style memorializes the overwhelming zeal for rare materials such as lacquers from China, imported by the merchant-tailors. Famous also for his Sevres porcelain gilded furniture of which many was personally commissioned by Madame du Barry and Marie-Antoinette, less often he would produce decorations using inlaid wood, or marquetry. With respect to this work a piece of furniture, an “entre deux” cabinet, sold last November 18th show exactly how he had mastered the technique. In general terms, it shows just how much their work, though at times it would seem diachronic or not of the same time, the two well-known woodworkers gave birth to an elegant, original style.

N.B.: unsold.

Bibliographie : Le Mobilier français du XVIIIème siècle : dictionnaire des ébénistes et des menuisiers, Pierre Kjellberg, Paris, Editions de l'Amateur, 1989.

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