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THE OGDEN MILLS 'ARMOIRES A SEPT MEDAILLES'
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À propos de l'objet

THE OGDEN MILLS 'ARMOIRES A SEPT MEDAILLES'\nONE ATTRIBUTED TO ANDRE-CHARLES BOULLE AND HIS WORKSHOP, LATE LOUIS XIV EARLY LOUIS XV, CIRCA 1720-30, THE OTHER ATTRIBUTED TO JEAN-FAIZELOT DELORME, LATE LOUIS XV, CIRCA 1760-70\nEach ormolu-mounted and decorated in brass and tortoiseshell contre partie Boulle marquetry and ebony, with a rectangular breakfront top panelled with brass banding above an egg-and-dart moulding and a pair of doors centred by a female mask, the doors mounted with the figures of Aspasia and Socrates respectively and with trails of seven ribbon-tied medals celebrating the life of Louis XIV, on a fond of scrolling foliage and a simulated plinth with flower-filled trelliswork, the corners with husk-filled pierced scrolling clasps, veneered to the inside with rosewood and enclosing an interior with two adjustable shelves, the sides similarly decorated with ormolu-edged Boulle marquetry panels centred by a cartouche formed of intertwined scrolls, the plinth base with central shield-shaped apron and raised on turned feet with foliate mounts, the late Louis XIV early Louis XV armoire stamped 'J.F.L.DELORME' and with remains of old paper label printed '.. Cabinet Boulework this cabinet is dec.. with ..al statuette..', the bronze of Aspasia signed 'FAIT par Jobatre (?)' and 'RICH'\n51 in. (130 cm.) high; 49 in. (130 cm.) wide; 18 in. (46 cm.) deep\n51 in. (130 cm.) high; 48 in. (122 cm.) wide; 17½ in. (45 cm.) deep [the Louis XV armoire] (2)
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notes

These splendid armoires à sept médailles are the final pair of this celebrated model to be sold by a direct descendant of the great collector and philanthropist Ogden Mills, whose Paris hôtel particulaire at 73, rue de Varenne boasted a total of three pairs of these armoires, with the other two pairs having been sold by the family in 2002 and 2012 respectively. Lavishly decorated with spectacular gilt-bronze mounts that fuse seamlessly with the scrolling foliate pattern of the sumptuous brass and tortoiseshell marquetry font, they are exquisite examples of André-Charles Boulle's genius and spectacular representatives of the group of medium-height armoires he conceived and that were continued to be produced by some of the foremost Parisian ébénistes throughout the 18th century.

LES ARMOIRES A MEDAILLES DE L'HISTOIRE DE LOUIS XIV

The attribution of the design of these armoires to André-Charles Boulle is based on a drawing by him on the reverse of an invoice for the Grand Dauphin, dated 1701 (preserved at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris), which takes the composition of the figures of Aspasia and Socrates, representing 'Wisdom and Religion', from Michel Corneille's ceiling painting in the salon des Nobles at Versailles. The series of armoires à medailles was comprehensively studied by Alexandre Pradère ('Les armoires à médailles de l'histoire de Louis XIV par Boulle et ses suiveurs', in Revue de l'Art, 1997, no. 116, pp. 42-53). Of the known armoires still in existence today the majority are in public collections, including ten in French museums and national chateaux. These comprise a pair in the palais de l'Elysée, three pairs at Versailles and a further pair in the palais du Quai d'Orsay. Their history has been traced to revolutionary confiscations in the years 1793-1794, with two pairs confiscated from the Noailles family, one pair from Lenoir du Breuil and another from Breteuil. A pair now in the Royal Collection at Windsor castle was purchased in 1813 by George IV, possibly through the dealer Robert Fogg, for Carlton House in London, where they were depicted in the Blue Velvet Closet, in a watercolour of Pyne's The History of Royal Residences (London 1819). A pair in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, featuring seven medals to each door, as on the present pair, comes from the Cheremetiev family; while a pair in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth was probably purchased by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the 1830s. The history of a further pair in the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein remains to be researched.

Only four other known pairs of this type are still recorded in private hands. Two of these pairs share the Ogden Mills provenance of the present armoires, with one pair in première-partie sold at Sotheby's, New York, 19 October 2002, lot 126 (US$2,429,500) and the other pair sold at Christie's, London, The Exceptional Sale, 5 July 2012, lot 20 (£1,049,250), leaving this the third and final pair to be offered by a direct descendant of Ogden Mills. The other two pairs recorded by Pradère to remain in private hands comprise one formerly in the collection of Prince Charles-Juste de Beauvau and listed there in an inventory of 1864, and another pair with its mounts marked with the C-couronné, which was sold from the collections of Victor Rothschild in London in 1937 and was subsequently in the collections of Misia Sert and Antenor Patino and most recently sold at Christie's, Paris, 16 December 2008, lot 6 (1,745,000 Euro).

18TH CENTURY RECORDS OF LES ARMOIRES A MEDAILLES

The earliest archival reference is in the 1739 inventory drawn up after the death of the Duchesse de Noailles, born Françoise-Charlotte d'Aubigné, and niece of Mme de Maintenon (Arch. nat., MCN., t. CXVI 305), where a pair of such armoires are described in the anteroom of the state apartment of the 3rd Duke: 'Deux armoires en médaillier de marqueterie écaille et cuivre ornées de bronze doré d'or moulu, prisées ensemble, 2 200 L'. The huge house of the Noailles on rue Saint-Honoré had been completed in 1718, therefore the furnishing must have followed, which allows us to date the Noailles pair to the early 1720s. The Noailles subsequently acquired a second pair, both of which were seized during the revolution and are now at Versailles.

As suggested by the trails of medals to the doors the prototype of the series was conceived as a medal cabinet, and the interior of an armoire now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford still shows the three vertical rows of trays for medals, while the interior of the contre-partie armoire sold at Christie's, London, 5 July 2012, clearly showed constructional traces of the tray-supports to both sides. The weight of the medals must explain the presence of the additional central foot, needed to take the weight of the supports of the shelves and not otherwise necessary on an armoire of this scale. That these armoires, generally described as bookcases, were indeed used as medal-cabinets, is confirmed by a description in the 1772 sale of M. Gaillard de Gagny, the earliest recorded sale reference, were a pair fetched the impressive price of 3 012 L:

'No 274. Deux corps de bibliothèque en marqueterie à ornaments de cuivre qui peuvent servir à faire des médailliers; chacun a quatre pieds de haut (1,30m) sur 3 pieds 9 pouces de large (1,22m); elle ferment à deux battants; des figures à demi-relief, des médailles en guirlandes et autres agreements dorés d'or moulu ornent ces deux bibliothèques qui sont de Boule le père'.

While no longer used as medal-cabinets and no longer fitted with trays these armoires remained in demand throughout the 18th century. Used as collector's cabinets or bookcases, they retained the central foot, which no longer served a structural purpose, as a purely stylistic element. The Boulle revival of the 1760s meant these armoires were more in demand than ever before and were restored for various Parisian marchant merciers by some of the best Parisian ébénistes, some of whom also made new versions, often as pairs to existing armoires. The two main ébénistes responsible for these restorations and replications were Philippe-Claude Montigny (1734-1800) and Jean-Louis Faizelot Delorme (maître in 1763). Montigny's stamp is found on six of these armoires, including one at the Elysée, one at the Quai d'Orsay and four at Versailles; while Delorme's stamp is found on one of the present armoires, as well as one at Versailles and one at Windsor. Since both ébénistes were received as masters in the 1760s, their intervention can be dated to the time following this. Given the close similarities between the two present armoires in design of marquetry and proportion as well as in treatment and gilding of the mounts as well as the medals, it is likely that Delorme acted as restorer of one armoire (which he duly stamped) while making the second armoire as a match in his workshop.

While both ébénistes, Delorme and Motigny, are known to have sold Boulle pieces themselves, it is more likely that the initiative for such productions stemmed from dealers such as Claude-François Julliot (d.1794) or his son Philippe-François Julliot (1755-1835), both of whom specialized in the resale of Boulle furniture and Boulle reproductions.

The early history of the series is difficult to establish as the mention of armoires 'with figures' is too vague to base an identification on - and a variety of similarly-described armoires can for example be found in the inventories of Boulle's clients such as Pierre Gruyn or Pierre Thomé. The aforementioned listing of a pair of such armoires in the 1739 inventory of the Duc and Duchesse de Noailles is the first such record. In the second half of the 18th century a number of such armoires are described in both sales and inventories, generally attributed to Boulle of followers of Boulle, including:

- A single one was described in 1760 with seven medals on each door, as part of the contents of the château d'Asnières belonging to the Marquis d'Argenson.

- In 1765 Horace Walpole describes in a letter four such pieces in the salon of M. de la Borde, rue de la Grange Batelière:

'Dined at M. la Bordein the 2nd ante-chamber are four large tawdry pictures by Le Moine, that cost 4000, bas reliefs in marble under them hung on red damask. Large armoires of bronze and tortoise-shell inlaid with medals of Louis XIV and festoons'.

They were purchased by Grimod de la Reynière (along with the house) and were sold in his sale in 1797, lots 107-108, as 'beaux ouvrages de Boule', one pair in première partie, the other in contre-partie, with garlands of medals.

-In 1776, the sale of Blondel de Gagny included a single armoire of that type (lot 955), in a section of catalogue with the heading 'Ouvrages du célèbre Boule. Described 'en marqueterie' with garlands of medals, it sold for 990 L.

-Two more were valued at 1,500 livres in 1777 in the inventory of the Comte du Luc, being bequeathed to the Bishop of Béziers, Aymard de Nicolaÿ, who then left them to the Nicolaÿ family in 1785 and they were sold in 1815. They were 'en marqueterie, sur les dessins de Boule', which implies that reproductions of this model had already been made for quite a period of time.

-In March 1780, another pair in première-partie, with garlands of six medals was included in the sale of M. Poullain (lot 88). Again, they were described as 'd'après les dessins et modèles de Boule' and fetched 2,150 livres, bought by the dealer Langlier.

- In 1782 two pairs with garlands of six medals, like the above cabinets, were sold as part of the collections of Maximilien Radix de Sainte Foix, nos 142-143, one in première-partie, the other in contre-partie. They were purchased by the dealer J.B.P. Le Brun for 2,000 livres per pair and reappeared in the sale of Leboeuf on 8 April 1783, lots 209-210, where they were purchased for 2,400 and 1,600 livres respectively by the dealer Laplanche. The pair in première-partie later featured in the sale of Harenc de Presle, 16th April 1792, lot 399, then in the Robit sale, 11th May 1801, lot 323 (sold 1,180 francs to a Mr Franklin).

-Another pair featured in 1787 in the sale of M. de Boullogne (lot 274 in the 8th May sale, postponed to 19th November, lot 259), without any precision as to the marquetry.

Archival documents drawn up during the revolution reveal the presence of further armoires in great Parisian collections. In addition to the ones that were seized from the Noailles, Breteuil and Lenoir du Breuil families, the following can be added:

-The Duc de Choiseul-Praslin had a pair in contre-partie, in the salon of his house, rue de Lille, which was described in his inventory of 1791 and sold in his sale of 18th February 1793, lot 241 for 1,500 livres to Verdun. He was probably acting as agent for the son and heir, the next duc de Choiseul-Praslin: at the latter's sale in 1808, there was a similar pair, along with two more pairs, all in contre-partie, lots 55-56-57, each sold for 1,400 francs to Demidoff.

-The Duc de Bouillon had a pair in première-partie that was valued 800 L in 1793 in the salon of his house, Quai Malaquais (now the Ecole des Beaux-Arts) in Paris.

-M. de Besenval had a pair in contre-partie, sold in 1795 (lots 282-283).

LES ARMOIRES A SEPT MEDAILLES

There are very few characteristics that might help link such archival sources with the present corpus of surviving armoires, making formal identification or establishing of provenances for the individual cabinets virtually impossible. One feature, the number of medals, has been confused by the fact that a number of armoires have lost one or indeed more medals and the surviving ones have in many cases been rearranged. This is the case for instance with the ten examples in the French national collections, which suffered during the revolution as well as the 1814 occupation of St Cloud by Prussian troops. They were subsequently restored and now each have the same number of medals - four. Next to the two armoires offered here the only known surviving armoires similarly decorated with seven medals on each door are the armoires at the Hermitage, St Petersburg, as well as that at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

The likely fact that these two armoires were obviously matched in the 1760s or 70s in the workshop of Delorme does not mean that they remained together, but if so, they could well respond to any of the pairs in contre-partie recorded in the 1782 sale of the collections of Maximilien Radix de Saint Foix, or the 1797 sale of Grimod de la Reynière, or the 1808 sale of the Duc de Choiseul-Praslin, which included three pairs, all in contre partie.

THE ORNAMENTATION OF THE ARMOIRES

The ornamentation of the armoires à medailles was inspired by the iconography of Louis XIV, the 'Sun King', and intended to glorify his life and achievements. The figures of Socrates and Aspasia are constant features of the decoration of these armoires and derive either from Michel Corneille's painting of 1673 on the ceiling of the Salon des Nobles at Versailles or perhaps from a drawing by Corneille of the same subject in Boulle's possession. The composition is recorded in a drawing by André-Charles Boulle on the reverse of an invoice for the Grand Dauphin, dated 1701, preserved at the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris. The theme of Corneille's ceiling paintings, which had been commissioned by Louis XIV in 1672, is feminine patronage in antiquity of art and learning, in the case of Aspasia, the lover of the Greek politician Pericles, her patronage of philosophy. The second re-curing ornament inspired by the propaganda's glorification of the Sun King is found in the medals on the doors, which record the principal events of Louis XIV's reign. In 1663, Colbert, ministre des finance et surintendant des bâtiments du roi, created the Petite Academie, changing its name in 1691 to 'Academie royale des Inscriptions et des Medailles'. The principal activity was the elaboration of the motto and the iconography of Louis XIV in tapestries, medals etc. Several of the medals adorning the doors of the present armoires are cast directly from late 17th and early 18th century medals, retaining not only the superb crispness and detail of the medals, but intriguingly also retain their original detailing to the reverse.

OGDEN MILLS AND 73, RUE VARENNE

A private residence since its construction, the hôtel at 73 rue de Varenne, like the Domaine in Alain-Fournier's Grand Meaulnes, conceals behind its high walls a rich history and fine 18th century interior décor. Purchased in 1752 by Victor-François de Broglie, Duc de Broglie and Maréchal de France, the hôtel Julliet de Taverny was, until 1777, the residence of Abbé Charles-Maurice de Broglie, Bishop of Noyon. The Duc then decided to occupy the hôtel himself, at which point the central part of the building was extended two-fold towards the garden and was given a new façade by the architect Le Boursier. The walls of the main salon were then covered with panelling carved with arabesques. Seized and stripped of its furnishings during the Revolution, the hôtel was in the 19th century home to the Duchesse de Montebello, widow of Maréchal Lanne and former Lady-in-Waiting to Empress Marie-Louise.

Purchased in 1910 by the American connoisseur, collector and philanthropist, Ogden Mills, the hôtel was initially occupied by the American Forces during the First World War, but then completely refurnished under Mills' direction in the early 1920s. Ogden L. Mills, US Secretary of the Treasury under President Hoover and son of the powerful American banker Darius Ogden Mills, re-awakened the hôtel's 18th century interior with the acquisition of some of the best furniture and decoration available at the time, including three pairs of this magnificent type of armoire.

A TECHNICAL ANALYSIS

Both armoires are constructed in the full tradition of Parisian ébénisterie, with the earlier armoire featuring a removable back panel constructed of bevel-edged oak panels in a pegged frame, while the back of the late Louis XV armoire shows the more refined and more labour and cost-effective construction with the back fully incorporated. The mounts of the earlier armoire show the free sculptural tooling expected on mounts of the Louis XIV period, and a fantastic degree of attention to the sculpted and matted areas. Both share the same type of traditional mercury gilding, with the same rich yellow-gold tone and showing a very similar amount of over-spillage to the reverse of mounts. There are also several mounts on the late Louis XV armoire that appear to have been cast from those of the earlier armoire. Both points underline the theory that Delorme restored one armoire, while making the other to match it.

Interestingly, the marking 'FAIT par Jobatre' (or Jobaire?) within the bronze of Aspasia (on the Louis XIV/XV armoire) is very similar to the marking found in the pair of armoires with Ogden Mills provenance sold in New York in 2002, as well as on the mount of the premiére-partie armoire sold at Christie's on 5 July 2012 and indeed on one armoire at Windsor. While the 'FAIT' and 'par' inscriptions within either arm of the figure are virtually identical, the name that appears signed within the folded leg varies and while it read 'Richard' on the armoires sold in 2012 it reads (in both cases in inverted script) either Jobatre or Jobaire (?) on the present mount; neither of which are recorded by Verlet (see P. Verlet, Les Bronzes Dorés du XVIII Siècle, 1987).

title

THE OGDEN MILLS 'ARMOIRES A SEPT MEDAILLES'

medium

Each ormolu-mounted and decorated in brass and tortoiseshell contre partie Boulle marquetry and ebony, with a rectangular breakfront top panelled with brass banding above an egg-and-dart moulding and a pair of doors centred by a female mask, the doors mounted with the figures of Aspasia and Socrates respectively and with trails of seven ribbon-tied medals celebrating the life of Louis XIV, on a fond of scrolling foliage and a simulated plinth with flower-filled trelliswork, the corners with husk-filled pierced scrolling clasps, veneered to the inside with rosewood and enclosing an interior with two adjustable shelves, the sides similarly decorated with ormolu-edged Boulle marquetry panels centred by a cartouche formed of intertwined scrolls, the plinth base with central shield-shaped apron and raised on turned feet with foliate mounts, the late Louis XIV early Louis XV armoire stamped 'J.F.L.DELORME' and with remains of old paper label printed '.. Cabinet Boulework this cabinet is dec.. with ..al statuette..', the bronze of Aspasia signed 'FAIT par Jobatre (?)' and 'RICH'

prelot

THE OGDEN MILLS 'ARMOIRES A SEPT MEDAILLES'

THE PROPERTY OF A LADY

signed

Each ormolu-mounted and decorated in brass and tortoiseshell contre partie Boulle marquetry and ebony, with a rectangular breakfront top panelled with brass banding above an egg-and-dart moulding and a pair of doors centred by a female mask, the doors mounted with the figures of Aspasia and Socrates respectively and with trails of seven ribbon-tied medals celebrating the life of Louis XIV, on a fond of scrolling foliage and a simulated plinth with flower-filled trelliswork, the corners with husk-filled pierced scrolling clasps, veneered to the inside with rosewood and enclosing an interior with two adjustable shelves, the sides similarly decorated with ormolu-edged Boulle marquetry panels centred by a cartouche formed of intertwined scrolls, the plinth base with central shield-shaped apron and raised on turned feet with foliate mounts, the late Louis XIV early Louis XV armoire stamped 'J.F.L.DELORME' and with remains of old paper label printed '.. Cabinet Boulework this cabinet is dec.. with ..al statuette..', the bronze of Aspasia signed 'FAIT par Jobatre (?)' and 'RICH'

creator

Andre-Charles Boulle

keywords

Andre-Charles Boulle, 18th Century, armoire, Furniture & Lighting, cabinets/cupboards, marquetry, France, Louis XIV

department

EUROPEAN FURNITURE & WORKS OF ART

dimensions

51 in. (130 cm.) high; 49 in. (130 cm.) wide; 18 in. (46 cm.) deep 51 in. (130 cm.) high; 48 in. (122 cm.) wide; 17½ in. (45 cm.) deep [the Louis XV armoire] (2)

literature

A. Pradère, 'Les armoires à médailles de l'histoire de Louis XIV par Boulle et ses suiveurs', Revue de l'Art, 1997, no. 116, pp. 42-53.

COMPARATIVE LITERATURE:

J.N. Ronfort, ed., André Charles Boulle 1642-1732: A New Style for Europe, Paris, 2009, cat. 27a and b, pp. 252-255. A. Pradère, Les Ébénistes Français de Louis XIV à la Revolution, Paris, 1989, p. 81, ill. 32.

provenance

Acquired circa 1910 by the philanthropist and collector Ogden Mills (1857-1929) for his Parisian residence 73, rue de Varenne, inherited by his daughter, Beatrice, the Countess of Granard, and by descent in the family.

special_notice

Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.


*Merci de noter que le prix n'est pas recalculé à la valeur actuelle, mais se rapporte au prix final réel au moment où l'objet a été vendu.

*Merci de noter que le prix n'est pas recalculé à la valeur actuelle, mais se rapporte au prix final réel au moment où l'objet a été vendu.


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