Fine Louis XV bombé serpentine-shaped ormolu-mounted and European lacquer commode attributed to Mathieu Criaerd, circa 1750. The brèche d'Alep marble top above two large drawers sans traverse, the whole lacquered with a polychrom decoration of branches of peonis, different flowers and birds an adorned with a rich rococo ormolu-mounted ornamentation, such as central escutcheon or scrolled and foliate framings, on four cabriole legs terminating in scrolling sabots. From a stylistic point of view, the panels in Martin varnish with floral decoration which serve as decoration on the façade and on the sides of the chest of drawers which we present, can be compared to those in European varnish which decorate two commodes attached to the work of Bernard II Vanrisamburgh preserved at the Residence of Munich (illustrated in B. Langer, Die Möbel der Residenz München I, Die Französischen Möbel des 18. Jahrhunderts, Munich, 1995, pp. 98-102, catalogue no. 16 and 17).
However, the proposed furniture should be attributed to Mathieu Criaerd who regularly used this type of decoration composed of large flowers and polychrome foliage on a black background. This craftsman also seems to have favoured European varnish over much more expensive Eastern lacquers. Among Criaerd's chests of drawers made in the same spirit, we can mention a first copy sold in Paris, at Ader-Picard and Tajan, on November 28, 1972, (lot 151) a second for sale at Christie's, London, on December 9, 2004, (lot 200) sold for the sum of 195 000 pounds (photos of these two pieces of furniture attached). Finally, let us quote in particular a varnished chest of drawers imitating Coromandel's lacquers formerly in the Accorsi collection in Turin (reproduced in P. Siguret, Le Style Louis XV, Fribourg, 1965, p. 56); and a second in lacquered wood veneer preserved at the Louvre Museum (see D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum and A. Lefébure, Le mobilier du musée du Louvre, tome 1, Dijon, 1993, p. 152, catalogue no. 46).
Mathieu Criaerd (1689- February 1, 1776), received Master cabinetmaker on July 29, 1738, is among the most important Parisian furniture craftsmen of the mid-eighteenth century. Coming from a dynasty of cabinetmakers of which he was the most brilliant member, he acquired his master's letters in July 1738, then set up his workshop on rue Traversière-Saint-Antoine. In 1763, when the famous Jean-François Oeben died, he appeared on the cabinetmaker's list of creditors; he also seems to have collaborated with the great merchant mercier Thomas-Joachim Hébert. Established rue Traversière-Saint-Antoine, Antoine Criaerd's younger brother remains, without a doubt, the most brilliant and prolific member of this family of cabinetmakers. It is probable that he worked for Jean-François Oeben since, at his death in 1763, he was among his creditors. It also supplies the mercier merchant Hébert. After the death of his wife in 1767, he put an end to his activity and sold his workshop to his second son, Sébastien Mathieu, who limited himself to the trade.
Louis XV furniture of very high quality, of very careful manufacture, of elegant forms, left the workshop of the Traversière street. Among them, many chests of drawers, which alone offer an almost complete panorama of the evolution of the style and the different modes of furniture decoration during the first half of the 18th century. Mathieu Criaerd's first chests of drawers, straight or curved in tomb, are attached to the Regence models. Veneered sometimes with dark wood (rosewood, amaranth), sometimes with satin, they are decorated with classic bronzes used at the beginning of the century. The simplest Louis XV models have two drawers with, then without visible crosspiece, and are veneered with violet wood or rosewood with bronzes also standard. But on some of these models, much more elaborate bronzes, with a rare fineness of chasing, appear, particularly highlighted by the plain veneer base. Very remarkable in this category were the four chests of drawers commissioned by the Garde-Meuble's cabinetmaker, Gilles Joubert, for the hunting meeting at La Muette near Saint Germain-en-Laye. One of them, bearing an inventory number that made it possible to identify it, was, twice, presented for sale, in Paris in 1973, in London in 1985. Second part in Criaerd's work: the chests of drawers decorated on all their sides with satin marquetry and amaranth with cross motifs. A very rich and very typical bronzes decoration unfolds, made of thin foliage, garlands, drawing in the center a large cartouche with the most harmonious contorted forms. Abundant but never loaded, this bronze trim is always beautifully chiselled. There are several commodes of this type, almost identical. One of them is in Versailles in the cabinet of the Dauphin, son of Louis XV. Another was part of the old Jane Demarsy collection, dispersed at the Galerie Charpentier on 17 February 1937 (No. 100); a third, unsigned (L. 166 cm), was sold in Paris in 1985; two others are reported at the Château de Regensburg, in Germany. Finally, an almost similar chest of drawers with thicker and more abundant bronzes went on sale at the Galliera Palace on June 20, 1968.
On the chests of drawers decorated with shimmering floral marquetries, we find the same bronzes that skillfully highlight them without hindering their display. It is the same for the decorations of lacquers of China or European varnishes in the Far-Eastern taste of which Mathieu Criaerd makes great use. The result is a whole series of chests of drawers, some small, others larger, but all sumptuously decorated and adorned with bronzes, which constitute the most characteristic aspect of his production. One of these pieces of furniture, and not the least, a chest of drawers in polychrome lacquer and gold, with the usual bronzes and rocailles decoration, is part of the Grog-Carven donation to the Louvre Museum.
It is necessary to point out an exceptional order of furniture decorated in Martin varnish, but this time in the French taste. It is a chest of drawers, a writing table and a corner delivered by the merchant Hébert for Mrs de Mailly's room at Choisy castle: From January 29, 1743. Delivered by Sr Hébert, to serve in the apartment furnished with blue and white moire at Choisy castle (...), a corner of the same varnish white background painted with flowers, plants, birds, blue ornaments (...). One tier of the same varnish on a white background with three shelves.
The writing table has disappeared; so has the chest of drawers, which was in the Rothschild Hotel on rue Saint-Florentin in Paris before the war. Only the corner, without its tier, is known today. This exquisite piece of furniture, trimmed with chiselled silver falls and clogs, had been transported to the Château de Fontainebleau during the Restoration, then sold. We find it in a great antique dealer of Tours, then in the collection of the great amateur Richard Penard y Fernandez. It now belongs to the Louvre Museum. Mathieu Criaerd's other pieces of furniture, mainly slope desks, hairdressers, small tables and flat desks, seem to figure somewhat incidentally in his production. They are, on the whole, much simpler, decorated with plain veneers or inlaid with latticework, rarely with lacquer, and practically devoid of bronzes.
Really good condition
Le Meuble Français en laque au XVIIIe siècle, Thibaut Wolvesperges, Les Éditions de l'Amateur, Paris - 2000. Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIème Siècle, Pierre Kjellberg, Les Éditions de l'Amateur - 2002. Les ébénistes du XVIIIème siècle, Comte François de Salverte, F. De Nobele, Paris - 1962. Die Möbel der Residenz München, Die französischen Möbel des 18. Jahrhunderts, Brigitte Langer, Prestel - 1995. Les bronzes d'ameublement du Louvre, Tome I, Daniel Alcouffe, Anne Dion-Tenenbaum, Gérard Mabille, Éditions Faton, Dijon - 2004. Les Secrets de la Laque française, Le vernis Martin, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris - 2014. Le Style Louis XV, Philippe Siguret, Fribourg - 1965.
Provenance, private collection (acquired on a sale in the Palais des Beaux Arts of Brussels, the 13 December 1979, lot n° 684).