Louis XVI et Marie-Antointette à Compiègne, Musée national du château de Compiègne 25 octobre 2006-29 janvier 2007, Paris, 2006, pp. 182-183, plates 32 A, B & C, p. 178, fig. 70.
Charissa Bremer-David, Decorative Arts, an illustrated summary Catalogue of the Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, 1993, p. 69, no. 101.
Daniel Meyer, Versailles Furniture of the Royal Palace 17th and 18th centuries, Vol. I, Dijon, 2002, pps. 46-47, no. 7.
Pierre Verlet, Le Mobilier Royal Français, Paris,1990, Vol. I, p. 84 and No. 32, pl. XLVI.
Pierre Verlet, French Royal Furniture, London, 1963, p.175-176, no. 35, illustrated p.181, 35a-c.
Pierre Verlet, Le Mobilier Royal Français, Vol. III, Picard, 1994, pp. 229-230, no. 35.
F.J. B. Watson, The Wrightsman Collection, Vol. I, Furniture, New York, 1966, pp. 76-77, no. 51A, B.
Le château de Fontainebleau, Paris, 1986, pp. 66-67.
These elegant Royal folding stools, although not stamped by a maker, have been discussed at length by Verlet, op. cit. p. 84 and No. 32, pl. XLVI, and their authorship is in no doubt. They are part of the celebrated set of sixty-four folding stools (pliants) from a commission for the Queen's Salon des Jeux at the Royal Château of Compiègne, which were delivered by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (maître 1769) in two groups to Marie-Antoinette. The frames were made by Sené, carved by Nicholas-François Vallois (1744-1788), (maître 1768) and gilded by Chatard, the principal court gilder, or Chaudron, possibly after designs by Gilles-Pierre Cauvet (1731-1788).
Twenty-four of these stools were immediately sent to and are still today in the Throne Room at Fontainebleau (see fig. 3.), one of which is illustrated by Verlet, Le Mobilier Royal Français, Paris, 1990,Vol. I, p. 84 and No. 32, pl. XLVI, (see fig. 6.).
Verlet states op. cit., p. 175, that the labels found on the folding stools which adorned the Salle du Trône at Fontainebleau since the First Empire enable him to trace the manufacture of those seats:
1st May 1786, forty pliants, twelve tabourets and a folding-screen and a firescreen ordered from Hauré the principal entrepreneur des Meubles de la Couronne, for the Queen's Salon des Jeux at Compiègne.
Twenty-four of these pliants, the tabourets, folding-screen and firescreen were dispatched to Fontainebleau for the Queen's Salon des Jeux.
3rd September 1786, order for twenty-four new pliants, twelve tabourets, a folding screen and firescreen to complete the suite in the Queen's Salon des Jeux at Compiègne.
Frame for the pliants by Sené (14 livres )–carving by Vallois under Haurés supervision (56 livres)`dorure et rechampi en blanc por donner plus de légereté'' by Chatard (118 livres)–leaf gilding of the bosses on the stretcher by Chaudon (3 livres )-upholstery `en coutil et plumes' and fixing of the fabric and the fringes by Capin (12 livres )-making a total of 203 livres per folding stool excluding silks and braid.
The pliants at Fontainebleau were upholstered in `satin peint fond blanc', and those at Compiègne with taffeta shot with a `dessin à arbres, berceaux et rose tremière', made by Pernon.
The furniture remained at Compiègne until after the Revolution and was brought to Paris by the Directoire on 2nd May 1797. After a short period at the Luxembourg and the Tuileries, the pliants were sent to join the rest of the series at Fontainebleau. In April 1806, twelve were then placed in the Emperor's bedchamber where they were regilded by Chatard and reupholstered in Beauvais tapestry. All through the 19th century twenty-four of these pliants remained at Fontainebleau.
These two sets of furniture have been dispersed widely and in addition to the twenty-four pliants which are displayed at Fontainebleau, there is recorded:
-a pair unstamped and unmarked, in the Wrightsman collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, illustrated by Watson, op. cit., p. 77, no. 51 A & B (W.27 (68.6)).
-a pair in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, branded with three fleur-de-lys beneath a crown with TH, the mark of the Palais de Tuileries (Accession number 71.D.A.94.1-.2), (see fig. 5.).
-three pliants brought back for the château de Compiègne in 1945-46
-two pliants which are part of a Private collection in New York
-two pliants belonging to an English collection. One of the latter was bought from an anonymous sale at the Galerie Charpentier, Paris, on 14th December 1937, they were re-upholstered in Beauvais tapestry at the time of Napoleon I and still have their original white and gold paint.
-Four more were for sale in Paris in 1959 and were acquired by Compiègne.
-Two more once belonging to Mrs Meyer Sassoon, with Napoleonic tapestries, were sold in these Rooms, 30th April, 1965, lot 135(illustrated in the catalogue) for £3,800, see Verlet op. cit., p. 181, plate 35A.
-one in the Cleveland Museum of Art, purchased in 1956, illustrated by Verlet, op. cit., p. 229, no. 35 (see fig. 4.).
-a pair in a private collection in Philadelphia U.S.A.
Verlet concluded at the time of his book publication in 1990, that a total of thirty-two stools out of a total of sixty-four had already been accounted for. He also states that by examining the remains of Chatard's labels it may help to establish which originated from Fontainebleau and which from Compiègne, although there are no Chatard labels on the present set. The one stamped with the Compiègne château mark is obviously one of the set made for that château, however, the two other stools may either have been made for Compiègne or Fontainebleau, one cannot say for certain.
Verlet, op. cit., also illustrates various examples of these stools, in the Compiègne exhibition catalogue as follows:
-32A which is one of four, now at the musée national du Château de Fontainebleau, has a label with No. 54/CP (couronné). Together with a printed label from the gilder and painter Chatard : Année 1787. Suivant l'ordre du 3 7bre 1786/ordre n. 228/Service de la/Reine Salon de jeu/Compiègne. There is also a number in black ink with the numbers 2 and 32.
-32B which is also one of four, now at the musée national du Compiègne and none of the stools have marks apart from one which has a marque au fer from the Tuileries under the Restauration and a number which is difficult to read 13 or 19 (see fig. 9).
-32C, a single stool, now at Compiègne and deposited with the musée national du Château de Versailles in 1948, was originally at Compiègne then château d'Eu and then Versailles.
See a pair of giltwood pliants from the same set, one with the Tuileries palace mark, the other with three fleur de lys beneath a crown, sold to French & Co, from the highly important collection of French furniture and Works of Art formed by the late Mrs. Anna Thomson Dodge, lot 69, Christie's, London, 24th June 1971.
The CP with a Crown is for the Royal Châteaux of Compiègne
The Inventory numbers preceded by the letters MI is the mark used during the Empire period.
The marque au fer 'TH' accompanied by three fleur-de-lys within an oval was employed at the Palais des Tuileries following the Restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy.
The Château de Compiègne and Marie-Antoinette:
The Palais de Compiègne (see fig. 7), had been an important seat of government since the reign of Louis XIV, who used it as a royal residence alongside Versailles and Fontainebleau. The modernisation of the château began with Louis XV and continued under Louis XVI, whose costly additions to the château caused violent protests at times.
Louis XVI informed his Directeur des Bâtiments, the Count of Angiviller that Compiègne was, of all the palaces, his favourite. It is therefore not surprising that he undertook important architectural changes under the supervision of the architect Louis Le Dreux de La Châtre. The very influential Garde-Meubles de la Couronne under Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was headed by Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville-d'Avray. The decorations of Queen Marie Antoinette's apartments were completed in 1786. Although the works were briefly interrupted in 1787, due to a warning of the "l'Assemblée des notables" that the works at Compiègne were costing far too much, however, Le Dreux completed the alterations in 1788.
The King and the Queen took a great personal interest in the works at Compiègne; the King annotated the plans and in 1782, the Queen asked for the plans to be shown to her and decided that a corridor between the King's apartment and her own was to be constructed. Their interest was not only limited to the architecture, they also had some very set ideas in terms of the interior decoration: the coexistence of works of art from Louis XV period with those commissioned by Louis XVI, a desire for modernity and simplicity, a passion for Nature, and finally the aspiration to achieve harmony between the different categories of the decorative arts.
In a note dated 16th August 1783, regarding the Queen's apartments, Le Dreux emphasised this striving for harmony: "I tried to avoid too rich decorations and too much simplicity." The Queen had a particular affinity with Nature and fresh simplicity. The mottled taffetas in the Salon de Jeux de la Reine gave the illusion of a vivid and luxuriant Nature. Nature is reflected in the originality of the design, technique and colours which combined to achieve an effect of stunning beauty. Although there is scant information about the original interior of the Queen's apartments in Compiègne, the Salon de Jeux de la Reine must have appeared to be the pinnacle of the decorative arts at the end of the 18th century. Marie Antoinette had a particular interest in bronze sculptures and of textiles. The furnishing of the Salon de Jeux that are known to date, included two large tapestries, eight pairs of curtains, thirty-six stools, a paravant, a firescreen, two commodes, a Bohemian rock-crystal chandelier, a pair of chenets and finally fifteen games tables of various woods and design.
In correspondence, Thierry de Ville-d'Avray mentions that the Queen had approved "the use of Persian carpets in all her rooms in Compiègne". The Queen also ordered a boudoir à la turque. In another letter from D'Avray to d'Angiville, he recommends that in the rooms where the walls have been left white to "preferably use silver coloured textiles in order to re-unify the freshness with the magnificence in this Royal House". Furthermore, in 1785, five commodes by Jean-Henri Riesener and several fireplaces by Hauré were ordered. In order to harmonise with the décor of the rooms by Le Dreux, d' Avray asked for the furniture to be mounted with gilt-bronze ornaments that mirrored the decoration of the walls. The rooms were decorated with fruit and flower garlands, masks, acanthus and vine leafs.
The selling of the furniture from Compiègne took place from May to September 1795 and after the Revolution, Napoleon carried out further renovations and during the 19th century it became Napoleon III's principal country seat.
The Château de Fontainebleau:
During the second quarter of the 16th century, the Château de Fontainebleau, (see fig. 7.), approximately thirty-seven miles outside Paris, was transformed from a small royal hunting lodge into a vast modern palace. Its architecture and interior decoration played an important role in the history of French art.
Le Breton, a Frenchman, was originally in charge of its construction, the great stylistic innovations were the work of Italians introduced by François I, such as Primaticcio, Rosso, Nicolo dell'Abbate, Vignola and Serlio. They produced not only a new and more classical style but decorated the palaces with paintings and elaborate stuccowork. As it was situated at the heart of a forest, it became, like Compiègne, one of the royal palaces that the entre court and government was transferred to for a period during each hunting season.
François I's attempts to modernise the palace, were continued by both Henri IV and Louis XIII, however, it was the later additions made by Louis XIV and Louis XV that greatly altered the interior. From the mid-18th century onwards, modifications of the old buildings were undertaken by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel, a favourite of Louis XV. These included apartments in the most advanced neoclassical style built in 1772-1773 for Madame du Barry, almost certainly rivalling her Pavillon de Louveciennes, although these apartments have disappeared today. Fontainebleau suffered during the Revolution, but its furnishings were mostly preserved. After the Revolution, the Château de Fontainebleau underwent an extensive redecoration scheme and became one of the main focal points of the Imperial court under Napoleon and later Napoleon III during the Second Empire.
The Palais des Tuileries:
It was built in 1563 by Philibert Delorme for Catherine de Medici who died before it was completed. It was occupied by Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette when they came to Paris in 1789 and they remained there until 1792. The Convention and Comité de Salut Public were installed there in 1793 and the palace was subsequently occupied by Napoleon I at which time these impressive pliants were probably supplied. The Tuileries was destroyed by the Commune in 1871.
Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1748-1803), sometimes known as J.-B.Sené l'aîné:
He was the son of Claude Sené and was the most celebrated member of this family of menuisiers. He became a maître when he was still quite young on 10th May 1769 and six months later he opened his own establishment in the rue de Cléry. His skill meant instant recognition and success and in 1785, he was appointed fournisseur de la Couronne and then was employed by the Menus-Plaisirs to make furniture for Louis XVI and Marie-Antointette and for other members of the French Royal family and aristocracy at the French Court.
He worked generally under the direction of Hauré and collaborated with a variety of sculptors such as Vallois, Laurent, Alexandre, Regnier and Guérin. Most of his work is distinguished by rich carving and his work is found today in many of the world's leading museums-the Louvre, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée Nissim Camondo in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York amongst others.
Each 50cm. high, 65cm. wide, 50cm. deep; one 60cm. wide;1ft. 7 ¾in., 2ft. 1 ½in.,
Queen Marie Antoinette's (1755-1793) Salon des Jeux at either the Châteaux of Compiègne or Fontainebleau (see fig.1.)
The Palais de Tuileries, 1797-circa 1806.
Private European Collection