Literature: Pierre Kjellberg, “Le Mobilier Français de la Transition Louis XV-Louis XVI à 1925”, 1980, p. 154, pl. 146, illustrating a mahogany bergère, likewise with a gondola back and toprail terminated by similar carved rams’ heads and additional cloven hoof feet. The bergère was part of a suite composed of a canapé, eight begères and two chaises.
A very fine Empire carved mahogany fauteuil de bureau attributed to Jacob Desmalter et Cie, the shaped gondola back terminating in finely carved rams’ heads, on curved supports above a padded leather seat, the straight seat-rail above turned legs, each headed by a gilded rosette
Paris, date circa 1805
Height 80 cm, width 62 cm, depth 48 cm.
The inspiration for these magnificent carved rams’ heads may have derived from available sources such as an engraving, now in the Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris by Nicolas Xavier Willemin, which shows a decorative ram’s head from an Etruscan horn-shaped drinking vessel known as a rhyton, (illustrated in Ulrich Leben, Molitor, Ebéniste from the Ancien Régime to the Bourbon Restoration”, 1992, p. 116, pl. 116). Willemin’s “Collection de plus beaux ouverages de l’antiquité”, published sometime before the abolition of the monarchy in 1792 included a number of engravings, derived from various sources, illustrating numerous ancient furnishings, artefacts and architectural ornaments. Among them were many decorative elements derived from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, which in turn inspired a new type of classical French furniture such as that made by Jacob Frères and Jacob Desmalter et Cie during the Consulate and Empire periods. Such inspiration is clearly evident here as well as in other pieces by Jacob such as a bergère with arm rests supported by gilded sphinxes (illus. Kjellberg, ibid. p. 154). It also compares very closely with another slightly later Jacob fauteuil de bureau with lion head terminals, previously sold in this gallery (illustrated “Richard Redding Masterpieces of the Past”, 2000, p. 40).
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 82 cm, width 60 cm, depth 51 cm.
The esteemed firm of Jacob-Desmalter et Cie at rue Meslée was run by François-Honoré-Georges Jacob (1770-1841) and his father Georges Jacob (1739-1814). Georges, who had made his name as one of the very finest menuisiers during the pre Revolutionary years retired in 1796, after which he handed his business on to his two sons, Georges II (1768-1803) and F-H-G Jacob. However Georges II died shortly after so his brother, who added the suffix of Desmalter (named after one of his father’s properties in Burgundy), went back into business with his father, renaming the firm Jacob-Desmalter et Cie.
Following Jacob-Desmalter’s appointment as ébéniste de l’Empereur the firm’s activities significantly increased. Numerous commissions came from the Garde-Meuble Imperial to supply furniture to various Bonaparte residences, especially those of the Empress Joséphine. The firm was also patronised by many notable figures and rich Parisian bourgeoisie. Commissions also came from abroad, from Czar Alexander I of Russia and Charles IV of Spain. Among the firm’s most important surviving items are the Imperial throne at Fontainebleau, the jewel cabinet made for Marie-Louise and the display cases in the Cabinet des Antiques at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Jacob-Desmalter’s work can also be admired in numerous other collections including the Châteaux de Compiègne, Fontainebleau, Malmaison, Versailles and Sceaux l’Ille-de-France as well as the Musées du Louvre, Marmottan, Mobile National, Grand Trianon, Napoléon and Tours. The Bibliothèque Marmottan, Banque de France, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères and the Palais d’Aranjuez in Spain are among many others to own Jacob-Desmalter’s work.