A royal Louis XVI giltwood fauteuil en bergère which was made for Marie Antoinette by François II Foliot

A royal Louis XVI giltwood fauteuil en bergère which was made for Marie Antoinette by François II Foliot. Estimate: £300,000-500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

LONDON.- For centuries Christie’s has been the auction house of choice for landmark sales of French decorative arts, including the Givenchy, Lagerfeld, Ojjeh, Rothschild, Wildenstein, Riahi and Champalimaud collections. This tradition continues with Taste of the Royal Court: Important French Furniture and Works of Art from a Private Collection, in London on 9 July. 

Comprising 22 superb examples of 18th century French decorative arts, this sale exemplifies the outstanding quality and prestigious provenance that has driven the most refined and exacting collectors throughout the centuries in their passionate pursuit for exquisite objects. The furniture and works of art in the collection, many of which are at auction for the first time, were created for some of the most celebrated patrons of the 18th century: Queen Marie Antoinette, Duke Albert de Saxe-Teschen, Jean Baptiste de Machault d’Arnouville, Chancelier de France and the Prince de Conti, and subsequently entered such legendary collections as those of the Dukes of Hamilton, the Marquesses of Bath at Longleat and the Comtes de Vogüé at Vaux-le-Vicomte. This magnificent group provides a celebration of the timeless beauty and international appeal of French 18th century design, with works by master craftsmen such as André-Charles Boulle, Charles Cressent and Adam Weisweiler. Highlights include an exquisite giltwood fauteuil en bergère supplied to Queen Marie Antoinette for her salon in the Pavillon Belvédère at the Petit Trianon, part of the most expensive suite of seat furniture ever made for the Queen and the only armchair from the set known to have survived (estimate: £300,000-500,000), and an extremely rare bureau plat by Cressent, unseen on the market since the early 20th century, of which the only other known example is in the Louvre (estimate £1-1.5 million). With estimates ranging from £30,000 to £1.5 million, each carefully selected work has been vetted by leading experts and scholars in the field such as Patrick Leperlier and Alexandre Pradère. The collection is expected to realise in excess of £6 million. 

MARIE ANTOINETTE’S ARMCHAIR 
A royal Louis XVI giltwood fauteuil en bergère which was made for Marie Antoinette by François II Foliot, after a design by Jacques Gondoin in 1780, with sculpture by PierreEdme Babel or Toussaint Foliot, is one of the many very rare highlights exemplifying exceptional provenance within the collection (estimate: £300,000-500,000). This exquisitely carved fauteuil en bergère is the only known surviving armchair from a suite comprising eight side chairs and eight armchairs which were ordered in 1780 for one of Marie Antoinette’s most personal retreats, the Pavillon Belvédère in the ‘Jardin Anglais’ of the Petit Trianon. The French Queen requested seat furniture ‘in the very latest taste’ and the court designer Jacques Gondoin provided her with a wax model for the armchair, complete with upholstery samples; miraculously the model still exists and is now in the Louvre. The suite is known to have cost 20,000 livres, which was the most expensive seat furniture ever ordered by the Queen and was later sold in the Revolutionary sales. 

marie-antoinette-bergere-detail

Detail and profile of Marie Antoinette's giltwood fauteuil en bergère by François II FoliotEstimate: £300,000-500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

A MASTERPIECE BY CHARLES CRESSENT 
Unseen on the market since the early 20th century, the top lot of the collection is a bureau plat which is a masterpiece by Charles Cressent, who ranks with Boulle, Riesener and Gouthière as among the most famous craftsmen of the 18th century; he is one of the select few to be mentioned by name in sale catalogues and inventories of the period (estimate: £1-1.5 million). In contravention of guild regulations, Cressent cast bronzes in his own workshop, which enabled him to exercise an unrivalled artistic synthesis of bronzes and cabinet-making. Cressent’s fame today rests largely on the extraordinarily sculptural quality of his gilt-bronze mounts and the appearance of a grand-scale bureau plat by Cressent on the market is a rare event. The precise form of the female angle mounts, known as ‘espagnolettes a têtes bouclées’, only occurs on one other known bureau plat by Cressent, in the Louvre. Works by Cressent have always been sought by elite collectors such as the Rothschilds and his furniture features in all the greatest collections of French furniture such as the Louvre, the Getty, the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Wallace Collection. 

bureau-plat

A masterpiece by Charles Cressent. Unseen on the market since the early 20th century, the top lot of the collection is a bureau plat which is a masterpiece by Charles Cressent, who ranks with Boulle, Riesener and Gouthière as among the most famous craftsmen of the 18th century. The precise form only occurs on one other known bureau plat by Cressent, in the Louvre. Estimate: £1-1.5 million. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

THE PRINCE DE CONTI’S PLANETARY CLOCK 
A remarkable Louis XVI Ormolu Planetary Clock (‘Sphère Mouvante’), the movement by Jean-Michel Mabille and the sphere by Martin Baffert, circa 1770, is a tour de force of horological complexity (estimate: £600,000-1,000,000). It is so charged with technology that it may be viewed as an elite 18th century equivalent of the innovative 21st century products of Silicon Valley or the best watchmakers of today. In exquisite detail, the sphere displays the movements of the planets and the signs of the zodiac, while the super-precise equation of time movement displays the days of the week, month and year and even the phases of the moon, creating a veritable compendium of planetary and astrological information. The clock was made for a cousin of Louis XV, Louis-François de Bourbon, the Prince de Conti, a famous general who at one stage was considered as a candidate for the Polish throne. The prince retired from court life following a falling out with the royal mistress Madame de Pompadour, concentrating instead on amassing a celebrated art collection which was housed in a special gallery in the Temple. This clock was included as lot 1020 in a legendary sale held in 1777 following his death. His fame also rests on the Romanée vineyard he acquired in 1760 to which he added his last name; Romanée-Conti remains one of the most expensive wines in the world. 

The Prince de Conti’s Planetary Clock

The Prince de Conti’s Planetary Clock. A remarkable Louis XVI Ormolu Planetary Clock (‘Sphère Mouvante’), the movement by Jean-Michel Mabille and the sphere by Martin Baffert, circa 1770, is a tour de force of horological complexity. Estimate: £600,000-1,000,000Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

A VASE MADE FOR LOUIS XV'S FINANCE MINISTER 
A spectacular Louis XV ormolu-mounted Chinese flambé-glazed porcelain vase, with sinuous rococo mounts attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, circa 1755, was almost certainly made for the celebrated collector and financier Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville (1701-1794) (estimate: £600,000-1,000,000). Machault, who as Contrôleur Général des Finances was Louis XV’s Finance Minister, oversaw the newly created porcelain manufactory at Sèvres and was a passionate collector of porcelain both from Europe and the East. The mounts exemplify the work of Duplessis, one of the great artistic innovators of the period who was the principal designer and bronzier at Sèvres, where Machault would have had access to his talents. 

A spectacular Louis XV ormolu-mounted Chinese flambé-glazed porcelain vase, with sinuous rococo mounts attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, circa 1755

A spectacular Louis XV ormolu-mounted Chinese flambé-glazed porcelain vase, with sinuous rococo mounts attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, circa 1755 (2)

A spectacular Louis XV ormolu-mounted Chinese flambé-glazed porcelain vase, with sinuous rococo mounts attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis, circa 1755, was almost certainly made for the celebrated collector and financier Jean-Baptiste de Machault d'Arnouville (1701-1794). Estimate: £600,000-1,000,000Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

THE HAMILTON PALACE AGATE EWER 
A rare and precious objet d’art from the late 1790s, combining a richly veined 17th century agate ewer and basin with fashionably neo-classical gilt-bronze mounts possibly by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the design attributed to Jean Guillaume Moitte, has a remarkable history (estimate: £500,000-800,000). It is first recorded, following recent research by Patrick Leperlier, in a sale in Paris of the marchands experts Paillet and Delaroche in 1801, and was subsequently acquired circa 1807 by the Duke of Hamilton, who assembled one of the greatest collections of art in the 19th century. It is likely that he purchased this work in Russia when he was Ambassador in St. Petersburg. It passed by descent to his grandson the 12th Duke and was included in the legendary Hamilton Palace sale of 1882 after which it remained in the same private collection until 2005. The ewer evokes the jewel-like kunstkammer objects so prized by princely collectors in the 16th and 17th centuries; its dolphin-form handle could suggest it formed part of the collection of the Grand Dauphin, Louis XIV’s heir, a celebrated collector of precious objets d’art, much of whose collection is now in the Prado Museum, Madrid. 

The Hamilton Palace Agate Ewer

The Hamilton Palace Agate Ewer. A rare and precious objet d’art from the late 1790s, combining a richly veined 17th century agate ewer and basin with fashionably neo-classical gilt-bronze mounts possibly by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the design attributed to Jean Guillaume Moitte, has a remarkable history. Estimate: £500,000-800,000Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

A ROYAL MODEL BY FELOIX 
A pair of jewel-like Louis XVI wall lights, with Jupiter’s eagle surmounting a ribbon-tied caduceus-form backplate, are of the same model as a pair supplied to Louis XVI by Dominique Daguerre in 1788 for the Cabinet de Garde-Robe at Versailles, described in detail in an inventory of the room in 1792 (estimate: £200,000-300,000). Although the bill does not identify the bronzier responsible for these exquisitely modelled wall lights, they are likely to have been executed by Louis-Gabriel Feloix, who in 1781 supplied a set of four wall lights to the Cabinet Intérieur of Marie Antoinette at Versailles, which also feature remarkably similar cornucopiae-form arms and ribbon-tied back plates.

A royal model by Feloix

A royal model by Feloix. A pair of jewel-like Louis XVI wall lights, with Jupiter’s eagle surmounting a ribbon-tied caduceus-form backplate, are of the same model as a pair supplied to Louis XVI by Dominique Daguerre in 1788 for the Cabinet de Garde-Robe at Versailles, described in detail in an inventory of the room in 1792. Estimate: £200,000-300,000Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.