An important Louis XVI carved giltwood grand canapé by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené, stamped I•B•SENE, the gently curving back, outwardly curving sides and cushioned seat covered in silk, the channelled toprail with a running guilloche border above scrolled arm rests headed by carved floral and foliate sprays, the straight channelled seat rail with a running guilloche and beaded border above tapering fluted feet headed by paterae
Paris, date circa 1785
Height 95 cm, length 210 cm, depth 76 cm.
Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1748-1803) can be considered the most distinguished member of a large family of Parisian menuisiers. The son of Claude I Sené (1724-92) he was sometimes known as J-B Sené l'aîné, presumably to distinguish himself from his younger brother Claude II Sené. Both brothers became maître menuisiers in 1769. In January 1770, six months after he was received into his guild, Jean-Baptiste opened his own business in the rue de Cléry under the name of the 'Gros Chapelet'. His skill as a craftsman was soon recognised and rapidly propelled him toward fame and fortune and as such he was the only Louis XVI menuisier to have seriously rivalled Georges Jacob (1739-1814) as a creative artist. In fact their work has at times been confused, no doubt with the elder influencing Sené to a certain degree.
1785 saw Sené's appointment as a fournisseur de la Couronne and thereafter he was often employed by the Menus-Plaisirs in the creation of chairs and other seating for Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette to be housed at their royal palaces, most notably the Châteaux de Saint-Cloud, Compiègne, Fontainebleau and Versailles. For the majority of these important commissions Sené generally worked under the direction of Jean Hauré, the principal entrepreneur des Meubles de la Couronne and often collaborated with a variety of sculpteurs en bois, notably Vallois, Alexandre, Regnier, Laurent and Guérin. He was also strongly patronised by other members of the royal family and important court personnel such as Madame Elizabeth à Montreuil, the duc de Penthièvre for whom he made a suite at Château d'Eu, circa 1787 (now at Château de Chantilly), as well as the marquis d'Harcourt at Château de Versailles.
Despite his close association with the royal family and the French aristocracy, in 1794 Sené received an order from the Revolutionary government to supply a hundred office desks for those clerks working in various departmental offices. This order was also repeated the following year. Sené's favour with the Republican government may have stemmed from the fact during the early stage of the Revolution he acted as a delegate from the Section de Bonne-Nouvelle to the second Paris Assemblée Electorale.
As here his work was nearly always in the Louis XVI style, was of the highest quality and of refined and elegant form. Rich carvings, guilloche borders and paterae-headed fluted legs were among his stylistic characteristics. On a number of occasions he also included a figure, trophy or even monogram at the centre of the toprail, for instance on a set of furniture made in 1787 for Marie-Antoinette's bedchamber at Saint-Cloud (parts of which are now housed at the Musées du Louvre and the Arts Décoratifs in Paris). Sené also favoured detached fluted columns to flank the back of a chair or canapé such as on a set made in 1788 for Marie-Antoinette's cabinet de toilette at Saint-Cloud (now divided between the Musée de Nissim de Camondo in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London). In addition to those public collections already mentioned one can find examples of Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené's work at the Musée de Carnavalet in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum California and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.