Royal Provenance

This extremely important and particularly rare pair of Louis XV Blue and White "Lacque à La Français Commodes were made for Madame de Pompadour in 1748 for the Château de la Celle de Saint Cloud, Near Versailles, for the use in the Salon Bleu.  Almost certainly by Mathieu Criaerd, but bearing the stamp of Charles Chevalier, the "Vernis Martin" lacquer painted y Alexis Peyrotte. 

Of serpentine rectangular form standing on four cabriole legs, which support Marbre de Rance tops of conforming shape with double mouldings. The white lacquer surfaces profusely painted with a papiers des Indes decoration of birds, rocks, foliage and fruits. The fronts with narrow painted borders, recently discovered under layers of yellow lacquer. They are richly mounted with ormolu mounts of the highest quality. The sides with sumptuously painted trompe l’œil rococo borders resembling carved framing.

Charles Chevalier  

1703-1771

and

Mathieu Criaerd  1689-1776  

The Chevalier Dynasty of  Parisian ébénistes constitutes one the longest running family of cabinet makers of 18th. Century France beginning with Mathieu, who with his wife Anne Martin had four sons and four daughters  The eldest of these four sons was Jean -Mathieu I (1694-1768); he was the brother-in-law of the vernisseur,  Guillaume Martin (1689-1749) .[i] The next was Jean François, who went to Potsdam. Then came Jean Mathieu (1694-1768) who had a son,  Jean-Mathieu II and a daughter, Suzanne, who married Antoine-Mathieu Criaerd , the son of Mathieu Criaerd and the maker of Madame de Mailly’s blue and white lacquer commode in the Louvres (see below).  Jean-Mathieu Chevalier was a very successful ébéniste and marchand. Indeed, a most beautiful floral marquetry commode, stamped by him, bears a remarkably similar form and disposition of mounts to the above.


 

Mathieu Criaerd (1689-1776)

The younger brother of  André Criaerd, he produced furniture of the very highest quality, mostly in the Louis XV style. Some at the beginning of his career, which spanned some thirty years, are in a late Régence style but he seems not to have particularly adopted the transitional style at the end of the reign. Although much of the marquetry is of geometric form aux bois des Indes, with few months,  there exists a large group of very similar form (see below) luxuriously mounted with gilt bronzes of the most exquisite form and finish. They are used on geometric, floral and oriental lacquer surfaces, one having been delivered by Hébert for the Cabinet of the Dauphin in 1747. Hebert also supplied the famous suite of furniture for Madame de Mailly at the Château de Choisy, In his journal is recorded that on the 30th. October 1742. 

Vernis Martin

The term ‘vernis martin’ is often bandied about as a ‘portmantau’ word, as if anything decorated in this way, during the reign of Louis XV, was definitively lacquered by the famous Martin brothers,  Guillaume (1689-1749) and Étienne-Simon (1703-1770), both described as peintres-vernisseurs. There were two younger brothers, Robert (1706-1765) and Guillaume II (1710-1770). The marriages of the three older brothers produced the next generation.They were certainly the leading firm of painter-varnishers in Paris during the 18th. Century and much frequented by Thomas-Joachim Hébert, who is perhaps the first to refer to the vernis de martin in the 1738 will of the Maréchal d’Estrées.

 

Madame de Pompadour

The Comtesse de Mailly, received the blue and white furniture at the Château de Choisy in 1742. She was to occupy the position of maitresse-en-titre for a short time only[i]. Two of her sisters followed in succession, the Marquise de Vintimille, who died giving birth to the King’s son, the Comte de Luc. M de Mailly returned to look after the baby but was quickly supplanted by another sister, the Duchesse de Châteauroux. She too died young in 1744. The King was heartbroken but found the usual intrigues of his aristocratic mistresses in seeking wealth and power tiresome. It was assumed that he would take on the fourth sister, Madame de Lauragais. While he liked her company, it was not to be and nor would he go back to M. de Mailly. The King’s mistresses had always been drawn from noble families; a bourgoisewas unthinkable, nor could they be formally presented to the King and Queen. 

In February of 1745, to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin a whole series of masked balls was organised. One of these took place in the King’s riding school at Versailles, which was where the King probably met Madame de Pompadour for the first time.



[i]  This unofficial title was given to the principal mistress of the King

Madame de Pompadour 1721-1764

She was fortunate in having for her Godfather, Jean Pâris de Montmartel (1690-1760), the youngest of the fabulously wealthy banking brothers who virtually ran the economy of France and second only to the King in wealth. Born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (meaning fish!) she was very early on taken on, along with her brother Abel (later the Marquis de Marigny) by Charles François  le Normant de Tournehem. Very unusually for a girl, she was exceptionally well taught. By the time she was of marriageable age ‘Reinette’ as she was known, was finding it difficult to be married, as her bourgeois parents had little money. De Tournehem offered an enormous dowry to his nephew, Monsieur Normont d’Etioles to persuade him to marry her. The young couple were to live with him in his house in Paris and the pretty Château d’Etioles in the forest of Sénart. He agreed, too, to pay all their bills.

Madame d’Etioles was blessed with great talents; she could dance, act and sing beautifully and play the clavichord perfectly. She liked natural history and was an enthusiastic gardener and botanist. Her knowledgeable interest in the famous philosophes of her day such as Voltaire, made her a sort-after guest at the salons in Paris. She had a famously intelligent wit and her charm and good nature were legendary. Very soon she had her own salon and acted as hostess to M. de Tournhem. She was a superb housekeeper and endowed with the most exquisite taste. She quickly came to know members of the Court, including the Comtesse de Mailly who spoke to the King about her attributes.

The King knew her by sight as he loved to hunt in the Forest of Sénart, close to the favourite of his houses, The Château de Choisy, an old hunting lodge which had been altered by his architect, Jacques Ange IV Gabriel. Here the King could relax with a small group of friends without being disturbed even by servants; a remarkable mechanical table saw to that.[i]Although only the oldest noble families, dating from before 1400, could hunt with the King, neighbours could follow in fast calèches. The King thus knew her by sight from 1741 until the fateful Ball in early 1745. The attraction was instant and although hesitant at first to install her as his mistress, she was quickly given the small former apartment of Madame de Mailly at Versailles. Very soon these became ever more palatial; Madame de Châteauroux’s large apartments at Versailles and  Fontainebleau came next.

The Marquise de Pompadour, as she quickly became, was given the estate of Pompadour which carried with it a Marquisate, long in abeyance.[ii] She was thus now an aristocrat and able to be presented at Court. The King showered money on her which enabled her to acquire and decorate her houses in her faultless taste; she hated anything banal. She often advised the King in the decoration of his own Châteaux. Until he met her, this shy, intelligent man occupied his time with politics and hunting. He had an innate naturally good taste and a thirst for knowledge. Madame de Pompadour brought all of this to him. Houses became something of a hobby for them both. Too private and reserved to approach the Marchands Mercier himself, she acted as his go-between. Her principal Marchand Mercier was Lazare Duvaux (1703-1758). 

Most of the houses she owned had already been built. Crécy was the first of her own homes though considerably enlarged by her favourite architect, Jean II Lassurance. All the houses were fairly close to each other; the roads were too poor to enable the Court to travel long distances. An itinerary was set by the King at Christmas which only death could interrupt or alter: Choisy, Marly, La Muette, Trianon and, later Bellevue, Crécy, St. Hubert and the Petit Trianon. The longer journeys to Compiègne and Fontainebleau required considerable expense. She also liked small Hermitages in both these places (as well as Versailles) where she created exquisitely scented gardens and in which the King could spend days alone with her. The one at Versailles is altered almost beyond all recognition; that at Compiègne is completely gone; only that at Fontainebleau has survived with an interior which she would have recognised (see below). This is a blue and white interior painted with garlands of flowers and birds designed by Alexis Peyrotte and also certainly painted by him. Having drawn designs for the silk manufactories of Lyons, he came to the attention of the Controleur Générale des Meubles de la Couronne, the Marquis de Fontanieu who invited him to join the workshops of the Crown in 1747 (see below).

Another small Château de Brinborion was followed rapidly by Montretout near Saint Cloud. She must  have known the small Château de Celle, so called because of its proximity to the ancient monastery of Saint Cloud. This was a Château belonging to François Gabriel Bachelier, a First Gentlemen of the Bedchamber and a close confidant of Louis XV. What had been a series of Medieval monastic buildings were pulled down and a new house, designed and built by Robert de Cotte, was put in its place.


 

Item Particulars

DimensionsCMInches
Width: 158 62.1/4 
Depth:

68

26 3/4
Height: 91m 35 3/4