A royal provenance and none less than one directly relating to Louis XV and his residence at the Château de Versailles singles this commode out as one of extreme importance. When sold at Sotheby’s London, Important French Furniture and Clocks, 15th June 1990, lot 42, the catalogue noted that the day-book of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne under number 1588 (as stamped on the commode) listed it as follows “Du 10, Xmbre 1749 / Livré par les Sr Gaudreau ébéniste / Pour Servir dans la salle à manger de l’apartement de mesdames de France à Versailles / Deux Commodes de bois de rose Satiné et violet à placages en mozaiques centrees par devant et sur les côtes, à dessus de marbre brèche d’Alep, et deux tiroirs fermans à clef, avec entrees de serures mains fixes et ornemens de cuivre en couleur d’or, longuer de 4 pieds sur 23 pouces de profondr et 32 pouces de haut”.
Alexandre Pradère, “French Furniture Makers”, 1989, p. 148, illustrating this commode.
A highly important Louis XV gilt bronze mounted rosewood and tulipwood marquetry and parquetry royal commode almost certainly made in conjunction by the royal ébéniste Antoine-Robert and his son François-Antoine Gaudreaus, delivered on 10th December 1749 by François-Antoine Gaudreaus for the dining room of Louis XV’s daughters at Versailles, marked with the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne inventory number 1588, of serpentine form veneered with a basket-weave trellis in kingwood, the shaped brèche d’Alep marble top above two drawers veneered sans traverse with a central panel of floral marquetry outlined with elegant gilt bronze scrollwork, with rocaille escutcheons and conforming drawer pulls, the sides centred by magnificent gilt bronze plumed bearded mask mounts, the angles headed by scrolled rocaille mounts above slender cabriole legs terminated by foliate scrolled sabots
Paris, date circa 1745
Height 84 cm, width 132 cm, depth 64 cm.
From 1726 up until 1751 the Gaudreaus workshop (also known as Gaudreaus) had the enviable position as royal ébéniste to King Louis XV. At first the business was solely under the control of the highly talented ébéniste Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus (b. circa 1682 d. 1746;); it was then jointly run by him and his son François-Antoine Gaudreaus (b. circa 1715 d. 1753). The son of a cobbler, Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus decided to serve an apprenticeship under an ébéniste; in 1708 he was received as a maître and in the same year married Marie-Denise née Maingot. He had a large workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and soon gained great repute. His growing success led him to move to a large house, (once owned by the silversmith Nicolas de Launay), which was subsequently fitted out as an ébéniste’s workshop by François Guillemard, after which Gaudreaus moved in. It is for this reason that the first furniture made by Gaudreaus for the Garde-Meuble Royal in 1725-26 was supplied under the name of Guillemard. His work at this time reflected the current vogue for furniture ‘in olivewood with compartments forming circles or semi-circles’. In addition he produced pieces, as here, in kingwood and rosewood and often in plain walnut or in cherry decorated with fillets.
François-Antoine Gaudreaus was received as a maître prior to 1735 at a relatively young age and proved as able as his illustrious father. Following Antoine-Robert’s death the business was directed by his son in conjunction with his widow, who continued supplying the Crown up until 1751. In that year the Gaudreaus name no longer appeared in the Garde-Meuble daybooks, having been replaced by Gilles Joubert. It is likely that the younger Gaudreaus fell ill for in July 1751 his assets were sold and within two years he had died.
A commode of this grandeur would have taken a number of years to make and orders from the royal court were exceedingly plentiful, it is more than likely that the piece was made during Gaudreaus senior’s life time but in conjunction with his son and was then delivered a few years later by the latter after his father’s death. Since the practise of stamping furniture with a specific ébéniste’s name was not common before 1745, it is not surprising that none of the furniture made by either of the Gaudreaus was ever stamped and thus only those pieces, such as this, bearing the Garde-Meuble inventory number can be confirmed as coming from this prestigious workshop.
The majority of Gaudreaus furniture for the Crown, numbering more than 850 pieces, supplied 1726-46 consisted of commodes, bidets, night tables, commode-chairs and dressing tables. However commodes made up half his consignments, of which 111 were veneered, 252 were of solid walnut while 12 were made of solid oak. One of the most important early commissions dates from 1738 when Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus supplied a kingwood medal cabinet kingwood commode for the Cabinet d’Intérieur of Louis XV at Versailles, with elaborate mounts by the Stodtz brothers who probably also designed the work itself. The following year saw another important kingwood commode in the style of Cressent, with elaborate mounts by Caffiéri, which was supplied to the king’s bedchamber at Versailles (now in the Wallace Collection, London). The present commode is slightly more delicate in its overall form than the latter work but likewise boasts the most beautiful mounts, in particular the imposing mask heads to either side. These can be compared to a female mask head centring the front of another commode circa 1740-45 once attributed to Cressent but reattributed by Pradère to Gaudreaus (Wallace Collection London).
Although Antoine-Robert and François-Antoine supplied many pieces to the Crown their business also enjoyed an illustrious private clientele that included the comte de Clermont, the ducs de Valentinois and de Bouillon, Saint-Simon, the marquis d’Antin and the prince de Chalais.
The Château de Versailles, one of the most beautiful and important of the French royal residences began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge. In 1668 Louis XIV, the Sun King, ordered its expansions, employing the architect Louis Le Vau who built the first enveloping wing, which he expanded into an enlarged courtyard. Jules Hardouin-Mansart took over in 1678, adding two immense north and south wings and filled in Le Vau’s terrace to form a Hall of Mirrors. He also designed the chapel, which was completed in 1710 while the Opera house was added by Louis XV in 1770. It was here that Louis XV based his court. Crowned when he was only five, at the age of 15 he married Maria Leszczinska, daughter of the King of Poland. By the time he was 27, Louis had already fathered ten children, seven of whom survived. His son the Dauphin was later to father king Louis XVI, while the six royal princesses were collectively known as Mesdames and it was in their dining room that the present commode once stood.