A wonderful Louis XVI gilt bronze mounted oak-lined tulipwood, kingswood, amaranth, tulipwood and various fruitwoods marquetry table à écrire by Charles Topino, stamped C•TOPINO, the circular top with a three quarter pierced gallery inlaid with an Oriental landscape with Chinamen making music and reposing among flowers, trees and birds, above a red leather-lined writing-slide and inlaid frieze with a side drawer with inkwell, pounce pot and pen tray, on cabriole legs headed by a stop-fluted pilaster mount with laurel swags and joined by a kidney-shaped undertier inlaid with a vase of flowers and playing cards, on scrolling gilt bronze sabots
Paris, date circa 1775
Height 75 cm, width 57 cm, depth 40.5 cm.
Charles Topino (b. circa 1735 d. 1803) tended to specialize in making light furniture such as small tables, chiffonnières and bonheurs-du-jour although he is also credited with outstanding commodes and secrétaires in both the Transitional and full Louis XVI styles. Such pieces were distinguished by their high quality and individual marquetry decoration, for which he gained great acclaim. His marquetry tends to fall into two types. The first, of which the present piece is exemplary, featured still-lifes with items such as vases, teapots, bottles and other artefacts such as cards but less rarely Chinoiserie landscapes. These decorations were inspired by Coromandel lacquer screens that were very fashionable between the period 1770-75. Topino's second type of marquetry work comprised floral garlands and bouquets highlighted on a pale wood ground of citronnier or yellow-stained maplewood, generally found on furniture between 1775-80. He also occasionally combined geometric marquetry with these two main types of decoration.
The design and decoration of this excquisite piece conforms to some of his other works from the same period. In particular it can be compared with a bonheur-du-jour featuring identical cabriole legs, headed by the same mounts and again joined by a similarly shaped undertier (illustrated Alexandre Pradère, "French Furniture Makers", 1989, p. 320, pl. 364). As here many of his items featured fine mounts, often cast by Viret, chased by Chamboin and Dubuisson and gilded by Bécard as well as Gérard and Vallet.
Topino worked for a number of years as an independent craftsman before he was received as a maître in 1773. His father Henry-Nicolas Topino-Lebrun, who also appears to have worked as an ébéniste, was in Paris 1763 but by 1774 was living in Arras. From 1757 Charles Topino worked in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine gaining great renown as a marqueteur. Although Topino supplied distinguished client from the French aristocracy his daybook for the years 1771-79 suggests that he had very few private clients. Instead his main customers were the marchand-merciers and marchand-ébénistes, notably Héricourt, Dautriche, Migeon, Denizot, Moreau, Delorme, Tuart, Joubert and Boudin. In particular he is known to have supplied the latter with marquetry and lacquered light tables as well as bonheurs-du-jour. He sometimes sold complete pieces to all the above and at other times just provided them with marquetry panels.
As evidence of the high esteem in which he was regarded, in 1782 Topino was elected député of his guild. But despite this and the prodigious quality of his work he appears to have had considerable financial worries and was eventually declared bankrupt, December 1789. According to Salverte, his financial affairs were very disorganised and were made even worse by the French Revolution. His financial concerns may also have been compounded because of his moderate pricing, although today Topino's work commands very high figures and is highly sought after. Examples from his oeuvre were included in the Earl of Rosebery's former collection at Mentmore House (sold in 1977) and also remain in the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. Other pieces can be found at the Musées des Arts Décoratifs, du Louvre, Nissim-de-Camondo in Paris, also at the Lambinet Versailles, Château Champs-sur-Marne, Rouen, Ephrussi at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Cincinnati Art Museum.