A very elegant Empire console table on four slightly tapered legs. The front legs are framed at the bottom by a simple concave architrave in gilt bronze and are topped with gilt bronze Hermes. The plinth is plain. The friese is decorated with three stylized gilt bronze rosettes surrounded by plain gilt bronze rings. The console is topped by a slate of white marble.
Despite the straightforward design this console table exudes elegance and panache. The mirror placed between the rear legs accomplishes a very spacious impression, whereas the modest ornamentation conveys a distinguished impression.
Compared to earlier art movements Neoclassicism is simpler and more right-angled. The bronze ornamentation is less exuberant. During the “Directoire”, in the early years of the Revolution, the designs of furniture get more straightforward. Models and ornamentations are inspired by classical antiquity. Charles Percier (1764 – 1838) and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762 – 1853) leave their mark on the designs of the day in which the Empire already resonates. Also the work of Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825) is of great significance for the applied arts of the Directoire and later Empire style. Once Napoléon Bonaparte comes to power he unmistakably makes his mark on the interior design and decoration of mansions and palaces. Around 1803 the Empire style emerges expressing its preference of massif and impressive elements. The military campaigns of the day, especially the one to Egypt, inspire the designers. After the Naval Blockade by the British in 1806 the supply of exotic woods stagnates and furniture makers are forced to turn to domestic wood species. The favorite material, however, is mahogany. The style is characterized by straight lines and orthogonal symmetrical designs without marquetry. Favorite subjects for decoration are sphinxes, felines, dolphins, swans, bees and “Renommées” – winged mythical creatures – that give the Empire its unmistakable character.
The Jacob Dynasty
For more than eighty years four generations of the Jacob family manufacture chairs and furniture of excellent quality. The company was founded by George Jacob (1739 – 1814) in Paris in 1765 right after he was registered as “maître menuisier”. When George retired in 1796 two of his sons, George II and François-Honoré-George, took over the company. When George II dies in 1803, George I sees himself forced to return to the family business at the rue Meslee. The company becomes the largest supplier of furniture during the Napoleonic era. Later, in 1825, George’s grandson, Georges-Alphonse Jacob-Desmalter, takes over the company that will last until the reign of Louis-Philippe. In 1874 Georges-Alphonse terminates the business in favor of a career in architecture.
Between 1796 and 1825 the brothers George II Jacob (1768 – 1803) and François-Honoré-George Jacob-Desmalter (1770 – 1841) managed the most successful and influential furniture workshop in Paris. Whereas George I mainly produced seating (menuisierie) in Neoclassical style, his sons, once freed of the restraints of the syndicates, also produced all kinds of larger furniture (ébénisterie) of impeccable quality that was very much appreciated by their clientele.
Michel Beurdeley, Jacob et son Temps, Saint-Remy-en-l’Eau, 2002
Denise Ledoux-Lebard, Le Mobilier Français du XIXieme Siècle, Paris, 1989
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