Bernard II van Risen Burgh, dit BVRB, maître circa 1730
The incised mark BP may be that of Baptiste Paris, a répareur at Sèvres recorded between 1754 and 1764. His mark is frequently found on plateaux courteille, as can be seen here.
THE MARQUISE DE NICOLAY
In 1750, Marie-Catherine Levesque de Gravelles married Alexandre Pierre Jacques Legendre de Collande, seigneur d'Elboeuf, who subsequently died 2 years later. With the inheritance from her grandfather, the banker Barthélémy Thoynard, the young widow purchased a house on the rue d'Anjou-Saint-Honoré in 1760. Four years later, on 7 April 1764, she married Aymard-Charles François, marquis de Nicolay and future president of the Paris Parliament and an inventory was undertaken at this time to constater la verité de son mobilier. In the bedroom was listed:
Une petite chiffonnière de bois violet et de palissandre à pieds de biche garnie de ses deux tablettes de porcelaine à fleurs et oiseaux bordés de cuivre doré avec filets, mans, chutes et sabots de pareil cuivre.
One must suppose that the writer made an error in describing two porcelain plaques and the undertier, newly executed with vibrant polychrome marquetry as it was, would always have been intended as a near perfect imitation of the porcelain plaque.
As the porcelain plaque is dated 1760, one can therefore safely presume that it was purchased between 1760 and April 1764.
The marquise let her house to the Dutch ambassador in 1769, and it is likely that the table was sold around 1785-89 when she retired to the Abbaye Saint-Antoine and, subsequently, to the Abbaye de Port-Royal. Interestingly, Isabelle Czartoryska (1736-1816) was in Paris in 1786 and could have acquired the table at this time.
The marquise's house on the rue d'Anjou was sold in 1795, and she died penniless in 1820. There is no mention of the table at this time.
THE COUNTS POTOCKI AND LANCUT
The huge castle of Lancut, in Galicia, South Poland, with its 308 rooms, was redecorated by Stanislas Lubormirski (d. 1783) and his wife Isabelle Czartoryska with the help of Vincenzo Brenna, co-architect of Pavlovsk. In 1786, they purchased marbles in Rome and furniture in Paris.
Lancut was inherited by his grandson count Alfred Potocki. They continued to enrich the collections throughout the 19th century, buying in London, Paris, and Vienna. The table à café on offer is seen in situ in the Mirrored Study (also called the boudoir) at Lancut in photographs of 1932-33 (illustrated in J. Piotrowski, Castel in Lancut, Lwów, 1933, p.72). The collection remained at the castle with Alfred Potocki up until 1944 when 600 cases of paintings, furniture and porcelain were shipped by train to Vienna and then to Paris and New York, where little by little the collection was sold off.
SIMILAR EXAMPLES BY B.V.R.B KNOWN TODAY
-Musée du Louvre Paris, OA 7626, gift of Baronne Salomon de Rothschild, now with a marble top but originally with a tray dated 1761. The original plaque, remounted in the 19th century on a later base is now in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California (70. DA. 85.)
-Example sold Sotheby's London, 7 July 1961, lot 120, from the collection of the Duke of Leeds, the top dated 1763, identified by Catherine Faraggi as the one having belonged to the duchesse de Mazarin (L'Estampille, l'Objet d'Art, January 1995, pp.74-78).
-Kress Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 58.175.146, with two green ground plaques decorated with birds dated 1763
-Musée du Louvre, Paris, OA 8170, gift of Francois Guérault, tray dated 1764
-Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, The Gould Bequest, 1933, Inv. 31899, tray dated 1768, reveneered.
-Kress Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 58.175.145., plaque not dated.
-Anonymous sale, Paris, 15 May 1931, lot 106, tray unexamined.
-Private Collection, Paris, tray with mosaic decoration close to the example in the Louvre.
SIMILAR EXAMPLES RECORDED IN THE 18TH CENTURY
A table of this form is mentioned after 1763 in the marriage contract drawn up between the Prince de Beauvau and his future wife. Belonging to the latter, it was estimated at 576 livres and was still in her possession in 1793.
The 1767 inventory of the collection of M. de Courteille records
no. 202 une chiffonnière de bois peint et vernie en bleu garnie d'un tiroir avec son dessus. La tablette du milieu de porcelaine de Sèvres peint à cartouche doré représentant un paysage orné de cuivre doré.
Déjeuners Courteille, named after one of the Sèvres manufactory's protectors, were produced from 1758. The first tray sold separately, that is to say without handles, is recorded in July 1760 among purchases by the dealer Simon-Philippe Poirier. Five were sold in the final semester of 1760, four of which had green ground decoration and one with mosaic decoration at a cost of 168 livres. Two trays were sold to Poirier in 1761, one of which had mosaic decoration and un plateau Courteille ou de chiffonnière for 300 livres. In 1762, three trays were sold, including one for 168 livres, one for 216 and another for 300 livres. In 1764, three more sold for 360 livres each and two for 432 livres each. Sales ended after 1764 when the last such tray was sold for 360 livres to Poirier.
Among these fourteen tray tops purchased by Poirier, the top of this table may be identified with that sold in the final semester of 1761.
These fourteen tops were used either singly or in pairs on each table. The Princesse de Beauvau's table had only one porcelain top, as did the duchesse de Mazarin's, whereas M. de Courteille's blue-painted table had two.
TABLES WITH COURTEILLE TRAY TOPS
Known as tables en chiffonnière in the 18th century because ladies used them pour le dépôt de leurs ouvrages, ce type de table dérive des tables en cabaret were invented at the end of the 17th century after the visit of the Siamese ambassador to France, who brought with him the new fashion for tea and coffee. The tops, most often painted in Paris, stood on stands which were unusually gilt, lacquered or decorated with marquetry. In 1748, the dealer Lazare Duvaux sold Boucher de Saint Martin:
Une table de vernis en vert et fleurs garnie en velours et cornets argenté avec un cabaret aussi verni, quatre tasses et soucoupe, pot à sucre et théière de Saxe fond vert à fleurs naturelles.
It would appear that the first table mounted with a Sèvres porcelain plaque was produced in 1752. In late October 1752, une table en cinq pièces is mentionned in the inventories. Five pieces for a top d'une table pour le turc were fired in February 1754. The top was delivered to M. Aulagnier for 1200 livres: une table en cinq morceaux bleu céleste fleurs 1,200 livres. This top is now in a Parisian private collection.
Tables with Courteille tops were used as trays for cups and teapots. Simon-Philippe Poirier was the first to come up with the idea of combining a porcelain Courteille tray minus the handles with a painted or lacquered table, the porcelain being less susceptible to damage from both heat and incidental damage from use.
Bernard II Van Risen Burgh, the son of a cabinet-maker best known for his production of longcase clocks, was born in Paris at the end of the 17th century. BVRB was already a maître by 1730 when he married the daughter of a Parisian wood merchant. Recorded in the rue Saint Nicolas in 1756 and in the rue de Charenton in 1764, this ébéniste, justifiably famous in his lifetime, died poor in 1766, a year and a half after his retirement.
THE PAINTER ARMAND L'AÎNÉ
Although bird painting accompanied by the painter's mark of a crescent was traditionally given to Ledoux, archival research by Bernard Dragesco has identified it to be the work of the painter Louis-Denis Armand L'Aîné. Armand, who joined the Vincennes manufactory after 1745, was primarily a bird painter and was ranked as exceptional by the manufactory. In 1761, he received the considerable sum of 2400 livres in salary and bonus. His mark was the crescent.
While this particular combination of bird and flower-painting within a parquetry border was first conceived at the Vincennes factory in 1756, it is most closely associated with that of the Palatine Service, which was given by Louis XV to the Elector Palatine in 1760 and delivered in April of that year ('Versailles et les Tables Royales en Europe, XVIIème-XIXème siècles', Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Exhibition Catalogue, 1993, p.336). It is interesting to note that most of the pieces from the service bear the date letter G for 1759 and were painted either by François Joseph Aloncle or Etienne Evans. The majority of this service is still preserved in Residenzmuseum, Munich, but a cup and saucer of this pattern was sold by anonymously at Christie's Monaco, 7 December 1987, lot 202.
A LOUIS XV ORMOLU-MOUNTED SEVRES PORCELAIN, TULIPWOOD, AMARANTH AND END-CUT MARQUETRY TABLE A CAFE
The top fitted with a soft-paste Sèvres porcelain tray of eared rectangular shape decorated with three exotic birds in a landscape, the borders with Wittelsbach trellis pattern reserves within gilt scrolled frames, the corners with floral bouquets, the porcelain with blue interlaced L's enclosing date letter H for 1760 and painter's mark of Armand L'aîné and incised mark BP, within a molded ormolu frame secured by scrolled foliate ormolu clasps, the waved sides with molded rim and acanthus-cast handles, with single drawer to the front lined in blue watered silk and inscribed in ink to the back Poirier Md Rue St. Honoré à Paris, the angle mounts cast with guilloche framed by acanthus sprays, on cabriole legs joined by a conforming rectangular top decorated with floral bois de bout marquetry reserve within Wittelsbach trellis parquetry border, on cabochon-encrusted acanthus-cast sabots, the drawer with printed label for 1955 New York Art Treasures Exhibition 1955, no 280, the undertier inscribed in paint 44 and with paper label inscribed Riera C./No. 5(?) (now crossed through), a further small label under the drawer indistinctly inscribed 11 or 14, with incised inscription 1877 Perrin, previously with castors, the plaque with small repair to one edge
New York, Art Treasures Exhibition, Parke Bernet Galleries, 1955, no.280.
Paris, hôtel de la Monnaie, 1974, Louis XV, Un moment de perfection de l'art Français, pp.330-1, no.432.
26½in. (67.5cm.) high, 14½in. (36.5cm.) wide, 11in. (28cm.) deep
C. Packer, Paris Furniture by the Master Ebénistes, Newport, 1956, fig 79A (illustrated from the Collection of Mr Sydney Lamon).
P. Verlet, "Les Marchands Merciers à Paris au XVIII siècle", Annales (January-March 1958), p.24, fig.6.
'Louis XV, Un moment de perfection de l'art Français', Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, 1974, p.330-1, no. 432 (illustrated from the collection of M. Riahi).
P. Verlet, Les Meubles Français au XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1962, fig. 21 (illustrated).
A. Pradère, Les Ebénistes Français de Louis XIV à la Révolution, Paris, 1989, p.192, fig.181 (illustrated).
P. Kjellberg, Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1989, p.133, fig.E.
P. Verlet, French Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, Virginia, 1991, fig.21 (illustrated).
F.M. Ricci, Quelques chefs-d'oeuvre de La Collection Djahanguir Riahi, Paris, 2000, pp.157-61 (illustrated).
Commissioned by the marchand-mercier Simon-Philippe Poirier in 1760 and purchased by the marquise de Nicolay by April 1764.
Probably acquired in Paris by Princess Isabella Lubomirska, neé Czartoryska (1736-1816), circa 1786 for Lancut, Poland.
Thence by descent to Count Alfred Potocki at Lancut until 1947.
Sydney J. Lamon, New York, sold Christie's London, 29 November 1973, lot 106 (110,000 gns; $288,750).