A two-door marquetry cabinet on four legs of which the front two are placed at an angle. The front plinth with a waved apron features an ormolu mount in Transition style. The front columns, placed at an angle, are decorated with faux cannelures and are adorned with a Neo-Classical corner mount of a foliate and fruit festoon hanging from a bow-tied ribbon. The columns at the back are also decorated with faux fluting.
At first glance, this piece of furniture looks like a splendidly embellished two-door cabinet, but its interior holds a surprise: it features a secretaire with a collapsible writing-surface that rests on traverses. Four drawers with gilt bronze drawer pulls beneath the flap and, between the pigeon holes, three drawers with pull knobs. Above the writing-surface four drawers with puller knobs, two letter trays and sixteen pigeonholes of various sizes. The open top compartment spans the entire width of the cabinet.
The doors and the sides of the secretaire are adorned with two panels each, framed by marquetry single meander banding on the sides and double meander bands on the doors. Each of the panels is decorated with fine marquetry inlays in the form of centred vases. The side panels depict vases issuing various long-stemmed flowers while they are empty on the doors. The lower vases on the sides of the cabinet are identical to each other and the vases above also mimic each other on both sides. The vases on the lower panels of the doors are also matching in design, as are the two vases in the upper panels.
Both the doors and the sides have top friezes veneered with a wavy band of acanthus leaves. Each of the doors is equipped with a gilt bronze escutcheon in the Neoclassical style.
The four different vases in marquetry decorating the secretaire follow designs by Maurice Jacques (c. 1712 - 1784), a leading painter and ornament draughtsman in his time. As “peintre et dessinateur à la Manufacture Royale des Gobelins” (Painter and Designer for the Royal Gobelins Manufactory in Paris, he mainly drew up designs for tapestries and especially their elaborate borders, known as “alentours”. Jacques regularly collaborated with the celebrated painter François Boucher. He was also involved in the design of "meubles". In the Gobelins manufactory, the term "meuble" stood for the drawn model of the upholstery for an ensemble of chairs and canapés decorating an interior. For example, the Louvre in Paris keeps chairs with upholstery designed by Jacques. The draughtsman was commissioned to do so by the Duchess d'Enville around 1768, when she was redecorating the Château La Roche-Guyon in the Neoclassical style.
In addition to his work for the Gobelins manufactory, Jacques published several books of decorative prints. They circulated rapidly, and his designs were put to use all over Europe, (fig. 1, in exh.cat. Haarlem 1998, p. 112). Jacques' designs were not only applied to carpets and upholstery but were also frequently used for the marquetry on furniture.
There are two other pieces of furniture known to us in the Netherlands that are comparable to our secretaire. They are similarly embellished with fine marquetry of vases after designs by Jacques. The two commodes may possibly have formed a commissioned ensemble before the trio was separated over time. Most likely, all three pieces originated from the workshop of the same cabinetmaker.
Exhibition catalogue Haarlem 1989. Frans Grijzenhout and Carel van Tuyll van Serooskerken red., Edele eenvoud, Neo-classicisme in Nederland 1765-1800, Zwolle 1989.
Annigje C.H. Hofstede, Meubelkunst, 40 eeuwen meubelgeschiedenis, Utrecht 1989. (the very secretaire is shown on page 174)
Annigje Hofstede, Nederlandse meubelen, van Barok tot Biedermeijer 1700-1830, Zwolle 2004.
Bill G.B. Pallot, Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre, tome 2, Paris 1993.
Peter Thornton, From & Decoration, Innovation in Decorative Arts 1470-1870, London, 1998.
Z.J. Woudstra & sons, Nieuwe Hoogstr. 4, Amsterdam
Sotheby Mak van Waay, Amsterdam, december 8. 1975, lot. 2707
Private collection, Belgium