A rare pair of Empire gilt bronze mounted patinated and parcel-gilt carved mahogany fauteuils by Jacob-Desmalter et Cie, stamped JACOB D. R. MESLEE, each with a padded back, arm rests and seat covered in a pink silk with a foliate latticework, the rectangular reeded top rail above an anthemion band above channelled backrests with carved palmettes and slightly curved splayed sides carved with foliate scrolls and volutes, the acanthus wrapped arm rests terminated by gilt bronze female classical heads on baluster-shaped pilasters, the gently bowed seat rail ornamented with husks and rosettes above sabre-shaped back legs and baluster-shaped front legs with gilded sabots
Paris, date circa 1805
Height 98.5 cm, width 67 cm, depth 62. each.
The renowned firm of Jacob-Desmalter only used the stamp of JACOB D. R. MESLEE between the years 1803 and 1813, at which time the celebrated Parisian ébénistes, based at rue Meslée, was run by Georges Jacob (1739-1814) and his son François-Honoré-Georges Jacob (1770-1841). 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 the former died prematurely and thus Georges senior went back into business with the younger son up until his final retirement in 1813. Both Georges and François-Honoré-Georges (who took the names of Jacob-Desmalter) were the most innovative ébénistes of their time as testified by the present chairs which rely upon reinterpretations of classical prototypes within a modern framework.
The fauteuils can be considered a blend of the Neo-classical and subsequent Empire styles. Characteristic of the firm's style at this period are their monumental form as well as the inclusion of gilded areas. Jacob-Desmalter often off-set areas of plain or patinated mahogany against carved giltwood or gilt bronzes but very rarely as here combined such a rich array of parcel gilt and gilt bronze mounts. The extensive carved ornamentation is of the highest quality while among other refinements are the beautiful classical gilt bronze heads that terminate the arm rests; similar heads appear on other pieces by Jacob Frères such as a demi-lune console in the Musée du Château de Versailles, Grand Trianon (illustrated in Denise Ledoux-Lebard, "Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle", 2000, p. 276) as well as pieces by François-Honoré-Georges for instance on a mahogany secrétaire of circa 1808 at Château de Compiègne (illustrated ibid. p. 320). While a number of Jacob-Desmalter chairs feature heads at the end of the arm rests, the majority are of animals notably lions or rams; female heads are far rarer and if appearing generally take the form as winged classical figures below the arm rest terminal, for example on another fauteuil of circa 1805 bearing the same stamp as here in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (illustrated in Marie-Noelle de Grandry, "Le Mobilier Français, Directoire Consulat Empire", 1996, p. 71).
As the leading firm of its day Jacob-Desmalter was heavily patronised by the Emperor Napoleon and also supplied work to many notable figures and rich Parisian bourgeoisie. Commissions also came from abroad, from Tsar 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, Mobile National, Grand Trianon, Napoléon and Tours. In addition, the Bibliothèque Marmottan, Banque de France, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères and the Palais d'Aranjuez in Spain are among many others to house work by this celebrated firm.