A French Louis XV Vaulted commode with two drawers, with Chinese lacquer and “Vernis Martin” panels and 'Vernis Martin' on the styles and around the panels. The commode is fitted with ornaments of chased and gilt bronze in the form cartouches around the lacquer panels and 'protection' such as chutes, drawer handles, trims and sabots. The top is of Brèche d'Alep marble.
The commode is slightly scalloped on the front. The sides are also curved from the front end, and straight at the height of the rear posts. The shapely jambs are resting on high arched feet. The commode has two large drawers across the entire width, without ‘traverse apparante’. The unit has an oak carcas. The drawers (except for the front) are made from walnut.
The furniture is completely lacquered with Chinese lacquer in red and gold and “Vernis Martin” on a black background for decoration in the cartouche on the front and the decorations on the sides and with European lacquer (Vernis Martin) for the contours and styles. Striking is the perfect ratio of the lacquer-decorations with respect to the total area of the front side and the both sides. Mathieu Criaerd was undeniably, along with BVRB and Jacques Dubois, one of the leading specialists in the field of lacquered furniture at the time of the culmination of the Louis XV style (1740-1755).
The proportion and distribution of gilt bronze fittings on the furniture is excellent. The entire commode is decorated with ornaments in Rocaille style. Note the apron piece (cul de lampe) of a heart surrounded by acanthus, a motif which, asymmetrical but highly refined, returns in the drawer handles.
It is interesting that the very detailed inventory, drawn up after the death of his wife in 1768, included no bronze parts. This confirms that Criaerd respected the rules of the guild and - in contrast to Cressent and Latz - bought his bronzes from HEBERT. The latter also worked for BVRB. BVRB, virtually unknown before 1957, used the same type of bronze mounts. In this respect we see that marchands-merciers as POIRIER and HEBERT kept some bronzes or lacquerware and even Sevres plaques exclusively for themselves to improve the quality of luxury furnishings.
From 1650 onwards the supply of Oriental lacquer was sufficient to be used on European furniture. The lacquer panels on large dividers and chests satisfied the need for decoration material of the cabinetmakers. The removal of the lacquer decorations in order to veneer other objects involved a particularly meticulous and delicate technique, that was not equally well mastered by all cabinetmakers. Especially when they started to apply the lacquer to curved surfaces from around 1730 onwards. There was, therefore, the need for a simpler process to lacquer furniture. In France, such a technique was developed by the Martin family, commonly known as “Vernis Martin”, that was widely imitated and adapted by others. In England another technique was developed, called “Japanning”, and the Dutch also had their own method to imitate oriental lacquer.
Oriental lacquer work, in general, was of high quality and very desirable in the second half of the 17th century and throughout the 18th century. Royal, and other, collectors appreciated the bright colors, the rich appearance, and the craftsmanship.
Mathieu Criaerd (1689-1776)
Criaerd descended from a family of furniture makers in Brussels; Mathieu Criaerd (1689) became master on July 29 1738. He settled in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where he in fact since 1740 worked for the marchand-mercier HEBERT, who supplies furniture to the garde-meuble Royale. Therefore, some beautiful furniture provided by HEBERT wears the stamp of CRIAERD
An inventory was made upon the death of his wife in 1768 that emphasizes the importance of CRIAERDs company. The list mentioned thirteen employees and 71 pieces of furniture inclusing 33 commodes. Chests of drawers in lacquer and 'Vernis Martin' and marquetry in bois de violet and satin were a specialty of Criaerd in his' grande époque 1740-1755.
In 1770 Mathieu retires; he sells his stock and leases his workshop to his youngest son for an annuity of £ 500. He dies in 1776 at the age of 87 years.
Criaerd had two sons: Antoine Mathieu Criaerd (1724-1787) and Sébastian-Mathieu Criaerd (1732-1796)
Criaerd gives each of them an initial capital of £ 6000 to settle independently; the oldest in 1748; the youngest in 1761. The latter developed especially as a marchand-mercier.
Unquestionably the children are far less succesfull than their father.
Mathieu Criaerd père marked his furniture with a stamp - MCRIAERD - while his two sons, Antoine Mathieu and Sebastien Mathieu stamped respectively: M.CRIARD and Sebastien with CRIARD. In addition to the difference in spelling - with no "e" - was the stamp of Mathieu père considerably greater (nearly two times the height).
Without a doubt Mathieu Criaerd was - along with J.P. LATZ and BVRB - the most important representative of the Louis XV style in the Rocaille period (1735-1755). All three delivered countless furniture to the royal family, with the intervention of the marchands-merciers HEBERT & Poirier but in the case of LATZ also by direct delivery to the 'garde meuble Royale' by virtue of his title cabinetmaker priviligié du Roi ' . To place Criaerd better, we must remember that in the first period of the reign of Louis XV - 1735-1740 - Cressent, Doirat and BVRB père were without a doubt the main suppliers. During the third Louis XV period 1755-1770 – these are especially BAUMHAUER dit Joseph, J. F. Oeben and Roger Vandercruse dit LACROIX (RVLC).
Comparable literature :
Pierre Kjellberg, Le mobilier français du XVIIIe siècle, Paris 2002.
Thibaut Wolvesperges, Le meuble français en lacque au XVIIIe siècle, Paris
Franz Friedrich Theodor Fleitmann (1828-1904) German chemist and entrepeneur. Fleitmann lived in Iserlohn in Germany where he leaded a nickel factory. He was the producer of the first nickelcoins in Germany. This money was nicknamed Fleitmann.
Private Collection Germany
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