A Regence Giltwood Console, circa 1725 . Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012
The shaped sarrancolin marble top above a pierced serpentine frieze centered with a lion's mask cartouche issuing scrolling foliage on scrolled legs headed with C-scrolls and recessed tiered rosettes, the legs carved with husks, the sides with fluting and ending in upturned foliate scrolls joined by a curved stretcher centered with a shell within pierced foliage, on fish-carved feet; 33 in. (84 cm.) high, 63½ in. (161 cm.) wide, 24 in. (61 cm.) deep. Lot 22. Estimate $60,000 - $90,000
Provenance: By repute, the collection of Madame Uleri, Paris
Acquired from Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, 17 May 1976.
Notes: The prototype for this sophisticated console may very well be the one designed and carved circa 1713 by Jules Degoullons (1671-1737) and supplied to Charles-Henri II de Malon de Bercy. That console was for the grand cabinet in the Château de Bercy and is now in the collections of the Louvre (B. Pallot, Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Dijon, 1993, vol. 2, no. 7, pp. 40-41). Degoullons was one of the partners of the Société des Batiments du Roi and he and his associates, André and Mathieu Legoupil, Marin Bellan and Pierre Taupin, were commissioned to supply much of the carved paneling and related furniture during the renovations of Château de Bercy from 1712-1714. In the inventory drawn up de Bercy's death in 1742, the console was located in the Grand Cabinet under a pier glass between two windows. It was still in place when the architect Froelicher made illustrated records of the decoration of the main salons at Bercy prior to the demolition of the Château in 1861 (B. Pons, De Paris a Versailles 1699-1736, Strasbourg, 1985, fig. 182). Intriguingly, not all of the furniture supplied from 1712-1714 was so avant garde, as the overwhelmingly rectilinear form of another console, also in the collections of the Louvre reflects the typical style of the time.
One of the most truly remarkable aspects of the de Bercy console is that its form and decoration presage the more curving, naturalistic style that would become associated with the Règence period of the 1720s and 1730's. Although both consoles share the same distinctive profile as well as some idiosyncratic decorative motifs such as a mask atop a shell or a cartouche, this console also employs specific design elements that reflects the impact of two enormously influential designers, Nicolas Pineau (1684-1754) and François Roumier (1701-1748) whose work appears at least fifteen years later. Pineau worked on a series of important commissions in Paris in the 1730's including the decoration of the hôtel de Roquelaure and the hôtel de Mazarin. His 1734 book, Nouveau Desseins de Pieds de Tables et de Vases et Consoles de sculpture en bois, propagated his style and includes a related console with the same distinctive concave C-scroll corners and arched, pierced stretcher. However, other elements adhere closely to the designs of François Roumier. He was appointed sculpteur ordinaire du roi in 1721 and worked at a number of royal palaces including Versailles. Roumier also published a series of influential books of designs and his Livre de Plusieurs Desseins de Pieds de Tables en Consoles(published posthumously in 1750), depicts consoles that illustrate several elements reflected in this console, including one design which has the same prominent cartouche on the frieze that is engraved with interlaced L's; this cipher certainly suggests that the cartouche on the offered console had a similar device denoting its commissioner which has since been obliterated. (B. Pons, De Paris ©a Versailles, 1699-1736, Paris, 1983, figs. 506-512). Other elements, such as the perched Chimera appear more subtly in the frieze and were a popular design subject during this era.
The work of Degoullons, Pineau and Roumier provided a well of inspiration for their contemporaries. Related consoles include one from the Collection of Hubert de Givenchy, sold at Christie's, Monaco, 4 December 1993, lot 83. A pair of consoles formerly in the Collection of Winston Guest, which have the same unique fish form feet were sold in French & Company, Christie's, New York, 24 November 1998, lot 28. Another pair was sold from the collection of Joan Toor Cummings at Christie's, New York, 21 May 1996, lot 223.