Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (1754-1838), Château de Valençay.
A rare and highly important Empire gilt bronze mounted mahogany commode attributed to Jacob-Desmalter et Cie, the rectangular black marble top above a frieze drawer ornamented at centre by a highly elaborate gilt bronze mount, flanked either side by the tips of a pair of gilt bronze mounted mahogany floral and fruiting conjoined cornucopia that extend around and across the three main drawers and are joined at the lower drawer by a ribbon-tied motif, each drawer with serpentine handles and centred by an elaborate escutcheon that includes a pair of cornucopia, the whole upon a rectangular base on squared feet
Paris, date circa 1805
Height 90 cm, width 90 cm, width 55 cm.
This magnificent console is not only an outstanding piece in its own right but can also be appreciated because of its provenance and maker. It was made for Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, who was one of France's most important statesmen. Born in Paris, he was appointed Bishop of Autun in 1788; then elected to the States General he became president of the Assembly in 1790. He acted as foreign minister, 1797-1807 helping to establish Napoleon's position as Consul, 1802 and as Emperor, 1804. Napoleon thought it vital that his foreign minister and steward of Imperial banquets should have a fine estate where he could entertain foreign dignitaries so in 1803 he helped Talleyrand purchase Château de Valençay, which was then furnished with the most lavish and finest works of contemporary Empire art. However Tallyrand, concerned by Napoleon's increasing military ambitions, resigned his office in 1807. He then opposed his former friend to lead a strong anti-Napoleonic faction, acting once more as foreign minister under Louis XVIII. Talleyrand continued to live at Valençay among his fine collection of art up until his death in 1838.
In addition to its important provenance and based on its quality and style this outstanding console was almost certainly made by the renowned firm of Parisian ébénistes Jacob Desmalter et Cie who were one of the finest among the annals of French furniture making. From 1803-1813 it was run by Georges Jacob (1739-1814) and his son François-Honoré-Georges Jacob (1770-1841) but its history, under different names spanned over eighty years, during which they made superb quality pieces. Georges Jacob, who supplied furniture to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne during the latter part of the eighteenth century counted among his clients the comte de Provence and the comte d'Artois, while his commissions for Queen Marie Antoinette included furnishings for the Petit Trianon and the chateaux des Fontainebleau, Versailles, St. Cloud and Rambouillet. Georges Jacob's friendship with the Republican painter Jacques-Louis David enabled him to weather the French Revolution. In 1796 he handed the business over to his two sons Georges II (1768-1803) and François-Honoré-Georges Jacob, who worked under the name of Jacob Frères. Following Georges II's early death his younger brother went back into business with his father, adding Desmalter to his surname, renaming the business Jacob-Desmalter et Cie.
Following the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor, Jacob-Desmalter continued to be the main supplier of furnishings to the Imperial Garde-Meuble, when they made superb pieces for Fontainebleau, the Grand Trianon, Saint Cloud, Rambouillet and the Tuileries. In 1810 Jacob-Desmalter refurbished many of the Imperial apartments for Empress Marie-Louise upon her marriage to Napoleon that year. According to Denise Ledoux-Lebard, in "Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle", during the years spanning 1803-1813, the cost of furnishings provided by the firm for the Tuileries Palace alone amounted to 541,765 francs.