According to tradition made for Jean Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova, duc de Padua, on the occasion of Napoleon's visit to his residence at Château de Courson. Subsequently in a private European collection.
Marie-Noelle de Grandry, "Le Mobilier Français, Directoire Consulat Empire", 1996, p. 77, illustrating a very similar lit en bateau in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris.
A highly important Empire gilt bronze mounted mahogany lit en bateau attributed to Jacob-Desmalter et Cie with sumptuous gilt mounts attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire after a design by Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine, of boat-shaped form with outswept panelled ends joined by low side rails, adorned with superb gilt bronze mounts in the form of griffins amid scrolls above putti and caryatid Victories and on the side rails garlands of vine sprays above butterflies, a pair of hunting dogs and a central lion head fountain
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 110 cm, length 220 cm, depth 130 cm.
The importance of this superb lit en bateau is not only due to its beauty and high quality but its creators and provenance. According to repute it was made for Jean Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova, duc de Padua (1778-1853) to mark the occasion of a visit by his cousin-in-law Napoleon to Arrighi de Casanova's residence at Château de Courson, just south west of Paris. Thus in all probability it was once slept in by the Emperor. In preparation of such an important event the duc de Padua would have commissioned the finest makers. They were namely the renowned firm of ébénistes Jacob-Desmalter et Cie at rue Meslée, Paris who modelled it on designs by Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853) and adorned the work with the most sumptuous mounts made by the celebrated bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), who often supplied Jacob for their finest pieces. The bed compares closely to one now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, which as here includes griffin mounts at the top of the head and foot boards as well as a running frieze of vine leaves above butterflies and a similar fountain at centre; however the present piece has caryatid Victories at either end and hunting dogs in place of classical winged male and female figures.
Jacob-Desmalter also made a similarly styled bed, again with sumptuous mounts including a pair of dogs attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire for the duchesse de Bassano (sold by Richard Redding Antiques). Likewise it closely relates to another lit en bateau by Jacob but with less ornate mounts housed at Château de Compiègne (illustrated in Madeleine Deschamps, "Empire", 1994, p. 92); yet another bed of almost identical form stamped Jacob R. Meslee was sold by Sotheby's Monaco, 3rd March 1990, lot 44. It also compares to a number of lits en bateau of similar form including a slightly earlier example by Jacob for Pauline Borghese at Château de Neuilly as well as another for Madame Récamier designed by Berthault, which is decorated with swan mounts (illustrated in Denise Ledoux-Lebard, "Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle", 1989, pp. 269 and 277). The firm was also responsible for the furniture for the Emperor's bedroom at Compiègne including a set of gilt wood chairs and a matching lit en bateau. In addition Jacob made a number of lits en bateau including one with giant cornucopias at the foot and head for the Empress's bedchamber at Compiègne and another for Caroline Murat at Château de Neuilly (illustrated in Ledoux-Lebard, op.cit. pp. 311 and 340).
Given the superb quality of the sumptuous gilt mounts they can certainly be attributed to the preeminent fondeur-ciseleur Pierre-Philippe Thomire, who often supplied and worked in conjunction with Jacob-Desmalter. As the premier firm of ébénistes during the early nineteenth century, Jacob-Desmalter enjoyed the patronage of the Emperor and many of his imperial family as well as leading figures from European society. This celebrated firm was founded in 1765 by Georges Jacob (1739-1814), who was one of, if not, the finest menuisier immediately before and after the French Revolution. Jacob's particular interest in antiquities and innovation was continued by his two sons, Georges II (1768-1803) and François-Honoré-Georges (1770-1841). When they succeeded their father, following his first retirement in 1796, the two brothers renamed the business as Jacob Frères. Following Georges II's early death in 1803 François-Honoré assumed the name of Jacob-Desmalter and subsequently went back into business with his father continuing the business as Jacob-Desmalter et Cie. The elder partner then retired once more in 1813 and in 1825 François-Honoré was succeeded by his own son.
The firm continued under family ownership until it was sold in 1847. 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.
The firm often modelled their more elaborate pieces on designs by the architects and ornemanistes Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine, who together were instrumental in creating the Empire style for the Emperor Napoleon. In turn Percier and Fontaine had a profound impact on other contemporary artists and craftsmen, especially after they published their Recueil de Décorations Intérieures, Paris, 1801-1812, which included a number of designs for beds, of which pl. XXV compares fairly closely with the overall form and decoration on the present piece. In keeping with the spirit of the Empire the superb matt and polished gilt bronze mounts reflect the prevailing interest in classical antiquity to include griffins, winged caryatid Victories, swags of vines to represent the harvest, butterflies to symbolise the soul and dogs as a sign of fidelity.