Thomas Hope, “Household Furniture and Interior Decoration”, 1807, pl. VII, illustrating the Aurora Room at his London home showing on the right a giltwood side table with almost identical female caryatids as here and pl. XIII, illustrating a more detailed drawing of the side-table. Denise Ledoux-Lebard, “Inventaire Général du Musée National de Versailles et des Trianons vol. I, Le Grand Trianon, Meubles et Objets d’Art,” pp. 25-26, illustrating and describing a rectangular table-console with almost identical caryatid figures centred by a very similar arrangement of griffons rather than sphinxes flanking a flaming rather than covered urn. Denise Ledoux-Lebard, “Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle, 2000, p. 271, illustrating the aforementioned console double face by Jacob-Desmalter. Pierre Arizzoli-Clémantel and Jean-Pierre Samoyault, “Le Mobilier de Versailles: Chefs-d’Oeuvre de XIXe Siècle”, 2009, pp. 142-143, illustrating and describing the aforementioned console double face by Jacob-Desmalter in the Grand Trianon at Versailles.
A very fine Empire style gilt bronze mounted mahogany guéridon after a model by Jacob-Desmalter, the circular verde antico marble top above a mahogany frieze mounted with laurel leaf banding in between rosettes and anthemions, supported of the heads of three finely cast gilt bronze female caryatids, each facing outward with hair in plaits, bare feet and arms crossed, wearing arm bands and a low cut diaphanous dress gathered up toward her breast, the stretcher centred by a chased covered urn flanked by three elegant crouching winged sphinxes wearing Nemes headdresses and plaits tied at the front, the whole on ball feet
Paris, date circa 1880
Height 84 cm, diameter 90 cm.
The design for this superb guéridon is based on a famous table-console or ‘console double face’ by the celebrated firm of Paris ébénistes Jacob-Desmalter which was itself based on designs by Napoleon’s chief architects and ornamentalistes Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853). The table-console was delivered in 1808 to the Palais de l’Elysée in Paris where it stood in the bedroom belonging to Napoleon’s younger sister Caroline Murat. Her console, which was later moved to the Grand Trianon at Versailles where it still stands, is of rectangular form and originally had a top inlaid with a mosaic copied from Herculaneum which was replaced by a marble top during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Supporting the top and standing at each corner are four outward facing caryatids that are almost identical to the present examples. Like the original console, this guéridon features additional bronzes upon the stretcher but rather than a flaming urn, as on the original, there is a covered urn and again instead of two outward facing griffons this guéridon has three outward facing sphinxes.
Typifying the spirit of the Empire period that embraced the arts of ancient Greece, Rome as well as Egypt, Jacob-Desmalter’s original console was largely inspired by designs by Percier and Fontaine, whose drawings of interiors and furnishings featured in their “Recueil de Décorations Intérieures”, first published in 1801. In turn their designs played an important role in disseminating the Empire style throughout Europe. Among those who reflected their taste was the English designer Thomas Hope (1769-1831) whose own book of designs, “Household Furniture and Interior Decoration”, published in 1807, was based on the furniture and interiors that he had created for his home at Duchess Street in London. Hope’s book of designs included a drawing of his room dedicated to Aurora, goddess of the dawn dominated at one end by a sculpture of Aurora and Cephalus by John Flaxman (1755-1826). Against the right hand wall stood a giltwood side table, (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and detailed in pl. XIII), featuring two supporting pairs of Egyptian caryatids with folded arms which compare extremely closely to those on Jacob-Desmalter’s piece and in turn with the present guéridon. In his description of the side table, Hope noted that the figures represented the four horae or parts of the day.
Interestingly a later nineteenth century version after the original ‘console double face’ with almost identical caryatids, central covered urn and sphinxes bears the stamp of the bronzier Leon Kahn. Although few details of his career are recorded we know that he made a number of high quality reproductions after original pieces by the leading Louis XV and Louis XVI ébénistes. Among them was a pair of Louis XVI commodes adapted by Guillaume Benneman from a model by Joseph Stöckel that were supplied to Marie-Antoinette in 1786 for the Salon des jeux at Château Fontainebleau. Elsewhere Kahn’s name appears on the underside of bronzes adorning a pair of Louis XVI Style mahogany pedestals after a model by Jean-Henri Riesener.
The later years of the nineteenth century witnessed an increasing desire from wealthy sectors of society such as Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to decorate their residences in the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century style. Owing to the inevitable shortage of original pieces, craftsmen such as Kahn and especially Alfred Beurdeley or Henri Dasson met the demand by recreating high quality revival pieces.