A very fine Louis XV style mahogany gilt bronze mounted bureau plat. Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener (1849-?), late 19th century. Photo Bonhams

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.-Bonhams announced its Fine European Furniture & Decorative Arts auction, March 19, achieved a successful $1.68 million sales total. The auction’s success was evidenced by a packed auction room, strong phone bidder participation and competitive internet bidding all around.

The star lot of the auction - a late 19th century Louis XV style mahogany gilt bronze mounted bureau plat by French furniture maker Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener (1849-?) – took in $92,500, soaring well past its pre-sale estimate of $30,000-$50,000. It was a tour de force of 19th century cabinetmaking with superlative bronzes and sensuous form.






A very fine Louis XV style mahogany gilt bronze mounted bureau plat. Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener (1849-?), late 19th century. Photo Bonhams

The gilt banded serpentine top centering an inset leather writing surface above three drawers and faux drawers at the reverse, each with foliate mounts executed with vigorous scrolls entwined about a central feathery acanthus escutcheon, divided by cornucopia raised on cabriole legs with espagnolettes cast with plumed headdress, ruffed collars and laced bodices, continuing to chutesending in foliate sabots, stamped on rail J. Zwienerheight 32in (81cm); width 82in (208cm); depth 39in (99cm) - Sold for US$92,500

Note: Born in Herdon, Germany in 1849, Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener opened his successful atelier at 12, rue de la Roquette in 1880. He is noted for an elegant interpretation of Rococo furniture from the Garde-Meuble National of France, most notably the celebrated bureau de Roi by Jean-Henri Riesener and Jean-François Oeben, which was a commission from Ludwig II and placed in his study in 1884. He employed as his sculptor Leon Message to create the stunning bronze mounts as those on the offered lot. Zwiener exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exhibition where he was awarded a gold medal, the jurists noted dès ses débuts d'une Exposition universelle, s'est mis au premier rang par la richesse, la hardiesse et le fini de ses meubles incrustis de bronzes et fort habilement marquetis.

In 1895 his workshop was taken over by the important émigré and ebeniste, François Linke, who Christopher Payne speculates may have worked under Zwiener when he first arrived in Paris in 1875. Linke is known to have also taken on Zwiener's sculptor Leon Messagé. There is a sketch by Message,dated 1871, of espagnolettes with plumed headdress and bound bodice very like to those on the offered bureau plat on page 79 of the referenced Christopher Payne book. 

Literature: Payne, Christopher (2003), 'François Linke, 1855-1946, The Belle Epoque of French Furniture', Antique Collectors' Club, Woodbridge.

Camille Mestdagh, Pierre Lécoules: 'L'Ameublement d'art français : 1850-1900'; Editions de l'Amateur, 2010; pp. 301-305

Additional top highlights included a mid-19th century Italian Rococo Revival giltwood 68-light chandelier that brought $68,500 (est. $50,000-$80,000), with former provenance, by repute, of the Palazzo de Larderel of Livorno, Italy. Also highly successful was the sale of a mid-18th century Louis XV gilt bronze and Chinese lacquer mounted ebonized commode by Jacques Dubois (1693-1763) that took in $52,500 (est. $20,000-$25,000). Dubois was one of the most important ébénistes in Paris during the Louis XV period, and his lacquer mounted furniture is the most desirable.



A very fine and impressive Italian Rococo Revival giltwood sixty-eight light chandelier, mid 19th century. Photo Bonhams

The reeded standard entwined with grapevines issuing four scrolling foliate candlearms each with twelve lights and supported by a crouching faun, above a second tier of four scrolling candlearms with five lights each, centered by a gadrooned and foliate carved pendant. height 77in (196cm); diameter approximately 69.5in (176.5cm) - Sold for US$68,500

Provenance:: By repute, formerly in the Palazzo de Larderel, Livorno, Italy

Francois Jacques de Larderel (1789-1858) was an engineer whose French parents emigrated to Tuscany during the turmoil of the Revolution. De Larderel developed a process to extract boric acid from the volcanic mudflats in the Montecerboli area of Pomerance. This innovation would make him very wealthy, and even earn him the title of Count of Montecerboli, bestowed upon him in 1837 by Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

The Larderel Palace in Livorno was begun by the architect Riccardo Calocchieri in 1832. As de Larderel's fortune and art collections grew, he made successive enlargements and improvements to it, notably by Ferdinando Magagnini, who designed the Troubadour style giltwood decorations of the Gothic Hall in 1836, and the Grande Galleria in 1846 to display de Larderel's collection of paintings. The Palazzo was filled with family portraits, marble busts and statues of illustrious Tuscans, enamels, bronzes and even mummies.

The de Larderel and Ginori Conti families were united through the marriage in 1898 of Prince Piero Ginori Conti (1865-1939) to Adriana de Larderel (1872-1925), the great-granddaughter of Francois de Larderel. Piero continued de Larderel's engineering firsts by conceiving the world's first dynamo powered by geothermal power, in 1904. The Palazzo and the Larderello borax works eventually passed by inheritance entirely into the hands of the Ginori Conti family. Today the Palazzo de Larderel is the seat of the Magistrate's Court of Livorno.


A fine Louis XV gilt bronze and Chinese lacquer mounted ebonized commode, Jacques Dubois, mid 18th century. Photo Bonhams 

The serpentine rouge royale marble top with molded edge above two bombé sans traversedrawers decorated with a landscape depicting a village with figures and fishermen, the corners with foliate and cartouche cast chutes, with a shaped apron raised on splayed legs with acanthus cast sabots, stamped twice I DUBOIS JMEheight 34 3/4in (88cm); width 50 1/2in (128cm); depth 21 1/2in (54.5cm) - Sold for US$52,500 

NoteJacques Dubois, maître in 1763.

Jacques Dubois (1693-1763) was one of the most important ébénistes in Paris during the Louis XV period. He is esteemed for his exceptional rendering of rococo design in the use of asymmetrical gilt bronze mounts, paint and lacquer decoration. His clients included nobility in France, Russia and England. The use of Chinese lacquer panels mounted to commodes, bureau plats and other pieces is one of his special achievements. The offered commode with its flowing, undulating and pierced rocaille mounts against a background of ebonized and gilt Chinese lacquer is a particularly fine example. A similarly mounted Dubois commode is illustrated in Le Mobilier Francais du XVIIIe Siecle, Pierre Kjellberg, 1989, page 268, Illustration A.

Jeffrey Smith, Vice President and Director of the Furniture and Decorative Arts Department at Bonhams, says of the auction, “2012 has begun on a high note reflecting renewed interest by collectors, designers and trade in acquiring fine antique furniture and decorative objects. The dormant period following the recent economic downturn seems to be reversing itself and bidding from 13 countries and throughout North America point to an international recovery in the antiques market.” 

Another leading lot of the auction was a rare pair of Meissen Limoges-style enamel decorated porcelain urns, of campana form, whose $43,750 total far exceeded its $10,000-$15,000 pre-sale estimate. The urns, painted in the manner of Ernst August Leuteritz, designer/director of the Meissen modeling department from 1836-1886, depict Proserpina abducted by Pluto, Medea fleeing in a chariot drawn by winged dragons, Apollo driving the sun chariot across the sky and Una and the lion, underglaze blue crossed swords. 





A pair of Meissen Limoges style enamel decorated porcelain urns.  Photo Bonhams 

Each of campana form painted in the manner of Leuteritz, depicting Proserpina abducted by Pluto, Medea fleeing in a chariot drawn by winged dragons, Apollo driving the sun chariot across the sky, and Una and the lion, underglaze blue crossed swords, incised A119height 14 1/4in (36cm) - Sold for US$43,750

Note: Ernst August Leuteritz was designer and later as Director of the modeling Department at Meissen from 1836-1886. He developed this type of en grisailleenameling in the mid 19th century in response to renewed interest in the Renaissance style of Limoges enamel decoration. 

Also of note was the sale of an Austrian 800 standard silver gilt, rock crystal and enamel dish by Hermann Ratzersdorfer, a master silversmith who was active in Vienna from 1843-1881, that brought $28,750 (est. $15,000-20,000). 


A fine Austrian 800 standard silver gilt, rock crystal and enamel dish, Hermann Ratzersdorfer, working Vienna 1843-1881. 

Composed of seventeen rock crystal panels carved with sinuous flowering vines, within a frame of figural arabesques incorporating beasts and female masks, fabulous phoenix birds and flower filled jardinières. diameter 14in (35.5cm) - Sold for US$28,750

Successes continued with the sales of a first-quarter 19th century pair of Regency inlaid figured mahogany sofa tables, with provenance from David Pettifer Antiques of London, that achieved $23,750 (est. $10,000-$15,000) and a fourth-quarter 19th century, Louis XVI style gilt bronze and glass 44-light chandelier that brought $21,250 (est. $3,000-$4,000). 


A fine pair of Regency inlaid figured mahogany sofa tables, first quarter 19th century. Photo Bonhams

Each with a rectangular hinged top over drop leaves over egg-and-dart banding and a frieze drawer raised on scrolled supports with rosette bosses joined by an incurved shelf tapering splayed legs ending in brass paw feet on casters. height 29in (74cm); width 32in (81cm); depth 24in (61cm) - Sold for US$23,750 

ProvenanceDavid Pettifer Antiques, London


An impressive Louis XVI style gilt bronze and glass forty-four light chandelier, fourth quarter 19th century. Photo Bonhams

The over arched corona above a gilt urn form baluster decorated with floral swags above a leaf carved plateau issuing forty-four scrolling candlearms, overall hung with faceted chains and tear drops. approximate height 50in (127cm); diameter 42in (107cm) - Sold for US$21,250