A rare and very elegant Louis XV gilt bronze mounted Chinese lacquer bureau de pente by Charles Chevallier, stamped C. CHEVALLIER, decorated overall with polychrome and gold on a black lacquer background with scenes from the court and figures from the palace on a lakeside setting with trees and flowers, birds, rocks, palace buildings, a bridge and Oriental figures beside and on the water, the serpentine shaped top with front opening slope above two frieze drawers, the frieze divided into three shaped flower-filled panels above a serpentine shaped apron, with bombé sides, the interior comprising four shaped red lacquer drawers and compartments, with foliate angle-mounts, the cabriole legs terminating in gilt bronze foliate sabots
Paris, date circa 1750
Height 80 cm, length 81 cm, depth 44 cm.
This exquisite piece is typical of the quality of Chinese lacquer work produced by French ébénistes of the eighteenth century. It was made by Charles Chevallier, (b. circa 1700 d. 1771), who came from a distinguished family of ébénistes.
His paternal uncle, Jean-Baptiste and his father, Mathieu (d. 1732), who had a workshop in rue de Saint-Paul, were both ébénistes. The latter probably only made very few pieces in lacquer or vernis martin - a technique which was more fully exploited by his two sons, Jean-Mathieu, known as Chevallier l'Aîné (1696-1768/71) and Charles, known as Le Jeune.
The brothers worked together in the family workshop under the sign of "A La Croix de Chevalier" situated in the rue de Grenelle, Paris. Charles also had a shop on the rive gauche in the rue du Bac. Although younger than Jean-Mathieu, Charles acted as manager of the business since he was received as a maître first, probably before 1738, whereas his brother was not accepted until 1743.
Although there is no documentary evidence to prove that Charles was appointed ébéniste to the crown, amongst his clientele were leading financiers and aristocrats of the day, for example the Minister Ogier d'Ivry, for whom he made amongst other pieces the "gracieux chiffonier de bois de rose".
Both Charles and his brother were listed in the 'Almanac d'indication', 1769 as leading exponents of their trade. At times Charles worked in association with colleagues such as Jean Lapie, for instance both their stamps appear on a bureau, presented by Bouvier now in the Musée de Carnavalet, Paris. Charles Chevallier died in Paris 1771, leaving behind him a prosperous workshop stocked with important pieces in "bois des Indes à fleurs", in lacquer and "façon de laque" (imitation lacquer). Many of the remaining pieces were left incomplete; for example there were more than one hundred commode frames but only a very few lacquer pieces. Among 40 secrétaires waiting to be completed there were nine secrétaires en armoire in "vernis en bois des Indes", priced at 70 livres each. There were also three other examples in "plaqué et vernis" priced at 92 livres. Charles also left two six-piece Chinese style screens ornamented in Coromandel lacquer, each valued at 144 livres.