Ulrich Leben, “Molitor, Ebéniste from the Ancien Régime to the Bourbon Restoration”, 1992, p. 144, pl. 146 (cat. no. 42), illustrating a single door Cuban mahogany commode attributed to Molitor of circa 1802 adorned with an identical bas-relief frieze escutcheon and female bust supports; and p. 145, pl. 147 (cat. no 65A, measuring 130 x 60 x 40 cm), illustrating an almost identical Cuban mahogany bonheur-du-jour stamped B. Molitor of circa 1805-10 featuring the same bas-relief frieze, escutcheon and Classical caryatid busts but with further additional mounts below a black marble top.
An extremely fine Empire gilt bronze mounted Cuban mahogany bonheur-du-jour by Bernard Molitor, stamped B. MOLITOR and JME, the rectangular red porphyry marble top above a frieze centred by a gilt bronze mount portraying mythological scenes depicting the Sacrifice to Ceres above square tapering supports headed by gilt bronze classical female caryatid busts with coiled hair flanking the fall front with a central arabesque decorated escutcheon opening to reveal an inset gilt tooled green leather writing slide and two open shelves above two long drawers above a central upright door and flanked by two tiers of single drawers each with ring handles, the whole on four gilt bronze banded angular supports flanking a mirrored glass on a rectangular plinth
Paris, date circa 1805-10
Height 130.5 cm, width 62.5 cm, depth when closed 39 cm, depth when open 78.5 cm.
Bernard Molitor (1755-1833), one of the very finest ébénistes of the Empire period, produced a limited range of works of this or similar design and only very few with bas-relief friezes. These either consisted of scenes of putti (as on an armoire of circa 1808-12) or as here showing the Sacrifice to Ceres, which also features on a small Molitor bas d’armoire. Interestingly the mouldings for the Ceres frieze were first executed by the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres, circa 1791. Ceres, the mythological goddess of agriculture was especially associated with corn and as the personification of earth’s abundance is often shown with a corn-sheaf and sickle. She is also often portrayed riding on a chariot, sometimes as here pulled by a pair of lions. To her left are various figures offering her sacrifices to ensure a bountiful harvest. Molitor appears to have delighted in the idea of corn and plenty and often included associated mounts on his work for instance a corn-sheaf centring the frieze on a set of four consoles commissioned by Napoleon’s brother Jérôme, King of Westphalia. He also often included similar classical female caryatid head capitals on squared supports flanking a mirrored back.
As one of the finest furniture-makers from before the Revolution to the Restoration, Molitor combined originality and individuality to accord with changing fashions. Born in Luxembourg to German parents, by 1778 he had settled in Paris, where he became a maître in 1787 and received several royal commissions, surviving the Revolution and was later honoured with orders from the Directoire, the Emperor Napoleon, King Jérôme of Westphalia as well as a number of important private patrons including the duc de Choiseul-Praslin. Examples by and attributed to him can be found in Paris at the Musées du Louvre, Marmottan, des Arts the Mobilier National and Nissim de Camondo as well as the Châteaux de Malmaison, Versailles and Daubeuf in Normandy. Other works are housed in the Wallace Collection London, Cleveland Museum of Art Ohio, the Carnegie Institute Pittsburg, Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, Toledo Museum of Art Ohio, Schloss Wilhelmshöhe Kassel as well as in numerous private collections.