length of interior 190 cm, width of interior 140 cm.
The duchesse de Bassano and by descent until the present day
A very important and rare Empire gilt bronze mounted mahogany lit en bateau attributed to Jacob-Desmalter et Cie with magnificent bronzes attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the outward curved headboard and footboard ornamented with a poppy spray emanating from a ram's head above a frieze mounted with a pair of female figures entwined by flowing drapery crowning a pair of doves perched upon a pedestal, above a pair of Corinthian columnar supports headed and terminated by a gilt palmette band flanking a mounted ribbon-tied flaming torch, the base further ornamented with magnificent mounts portraying an Apollo mask within a palmette border flanked to the left by a pair of doves attached by leads to a classical kneeling female and to the right by a seated dog attached by a lead to a classical kneeling male
Paris, date circa 1810
Height 110 cm, length of exterior 205 cm, width of exterior 144 cm,
length of interior 190 cm, width of interior 140 cm.
Not only is this magnificent bed a beautiful piece of furniture but also a work of great quality with a long and distinguished history. It was made for Marie-Madeleine duchesse de Bassano (1780-1827) and has remained within her family until recent years. Marie-Madeleine, second child and only daughter of Philiberte née Naigeon and Martin Lejéas Charpentier, comte de Lejéas Charpentier, was born on 26th March 1780 at Dijon, where her father served as mayor; she died just before her 47th birthday on 21st March 1827 at the Ile-de-France, Paris. Known for her spirit and fine manners she was one of the most remarkable figures within the Napoleon's Court and was appointed Dame du Palais Impérial in 1810 and was one of the ladies to go before Marie-Louise of Austria at the time of her marriage to Napoleon in 1810.
On 21st May 1801 Marie-Madeleine married her cousin Hugues-Bernard Maret (1763- 1839), who was created duc de Bassano in 1809. He too was born in Dijon on 22nd July 1763 and was one of the most important figures within Napoleon's circle and as a trusted and close friend acted as the Emperor's confidential advisor. Having worked as a journalist during the early stages of the French Revolution, in 1792 Maret entered diplomatic service. Napoleon then appointed him secretaire d'état under the Consul, as a ministre in 1804; a comte in 1807 and two years later gave Maret the title of duc de Bassano in recognition of his unwavering diplomatic service. From 1811-1813 the duc served as Ministre des relations extérieures during which time he concluded the treaties with Prussia and Austria, 1812 that preceded France's invasion of Russia. Having helped arrange Napoleon's return from Elba he was exiled in 1816 by the newly restored Bourbon monarchy but was allowed to return to France in 1820. In 1831 King Louis-Philippe made him a peer and in 1834 appointed him Prime Minister though Bassano was unable to form a cabinet.
A reproduction of a now unlocated painting showing the duchesse's bedroom portrays the bed in situ set upon a small rectangular pedestal, fitted beneath an elaborate draped canopy and set within a domed semi-circular star-painted alcove. The lavish interior also shows the duchesse seated underneath a portrait of her husband with four of their children Marie-Louise (b. circa 1801) who married Ernest comte Léjeas, Napoleon-Joseph-Hugues (1803-98), diplomat and politician who married Pauline Vanderlinde d'Hooghvorst, Hugues-Antoine-Eugène (1806-89) also a diplomat who married Caroline d'Aiguillon and Hortense-Eugénie-Claire (1812-82) who married Francis Baring, 3rd Baron Ashburton.
Judging from the age of her children, the painting would date to circa 1814 and thus portray the duchesse's bedchamber at Montalais, a beautiful villa situated at 23 route des Gardes, Meudon, Hauts-de-Seine, Ile-de-France on the outskirts of Paris. The property was designed circa 1796/7 by the architect François Bélanger for Mademoiselle Anne Françoise Elisabeth Lange, comedian and dancer of renown who in 1797 married the Belgian financier Michel Jean Simon. Due to financial difficulties they were forced to sell the villa and land of between 8-10 hectares on 25th July 1811 to the duc de Bassano for the sum of 80,000 francs (cited in the Meudon archives). Three days before this transaction Madame de Souza wrote to the Countess of Albany, noting "the duc de Bassano has bought a pretty house at Meudon, where Monsieur Fabre had caught a 'jolie' attack of gout. He bought it for 80,000 francs; it is undoubtedly not expensive." The duc and duchesse entertained Napoleon on a number of occasions at Montalais but Bassano's fortunes, like those of Napoleon's were soon to come to an end. The Meudon archives reveal that the duc was cited as an injured party following the losses and plundering during the stay of the Prussian troops at Meudon, 2nd to 6th July 1815 to the tune of 17,762 francs.
With Napoleon's abdication of 1815, Bassano was forced to leave France and thus sold Montalais in November 1815 for the sum of 43,000 francs to Monsieur Testu who immediately resold it to the famous banker Lafitte for 50,000 francs. In 1817 Lafitte divided the house, selling part to a Meudon fountain-maker named Métayer and the other part for 67,000 francs to Nadler-Noddler, who promptly repurchased Métayer's domain. The house was subsequently owned by the dramatic author Eugène Scribe and then Madame Louise Anne Marie de Trazegnies d'Ittres who married Jacques Achille Le Roy de Saint-Arnaud, maréchal de France. After her husband's death Madame Louise remained at Montalais but then sold the property in 1859 to a stockbroker named Collineau for 286,000 francs. More recently Montalais underwent a complete refurbishment and has been divided into several private residential apartments.
The bed made in the Empire style to a design promoted by Percier and Fontaine, can be attributed to the renowned firm of Jacob-Desmalter et Cie ébéniste de l'Empereur. It compares closely to one in the bedroom of the Double Apartment of Princes at Château de Compiègne (illustrated in Madeleine Deschamps, "Empire", 1994, p.92), which is of exactly the same style but has less ornate bronzes, excluding for instance the male and female figures, dog and doves. The room which Deschamps describes as 'one of the boldest creations of the Empire period' also includes partially gilded mahogany seats with claw feet and armrests supported by classical winged females by Jacob-Desmalter dated to 1808. Jacob-Desmalter 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. Jacob-Desmalter made a number of lits en bateau including one for Madame Récamier and another for Château de Neuilly as well as other sumptuous beds such as one with giant cornucopias at the foot and head for the Empress' bedchamber at Compiègne (illustrated in Denise Ledoux-Lebard, "Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle", 2000, pp. 318, 340 and 311 respectively).
François-Honoré-Georges Jacob, known as Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841) was born into a family of Parisian cabinetmakers. Jacob-Desmalter succeeded his father, the renowned Georges Jacob (1739-1814) in about 1796 and worked initially with his brother Georges II (1768-1803) under the name of Jacob Frères. But with the death of the latter in 1803, the business adopted the new name Jacob-Desmalter et Cie, with François-Honoré-Georges Jacob being assisted by his father. Based at rue de Meslée Paris, Jacob-Desmalter et Cie was considered among the very finest ébénistes of its era and as such delivered orders of furniture to Napoleon for his various Châteaux including Malmaison, Compiègne, Saint-Cloud and Fontainebleau. In addition the firm also received commissions to furnish many royal and Imperial European palaces such as Windsor, Saint Petersburg and Potsdam.
The bronzes, of equally exceptional quality can be attributed to the renowned bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843) ciseleur de l'Empereur, who supplied Jacob-Desmalter for its more important furnishings. The bronzes not only offer decorative effect but also appropriate symbolism; for instance the head and footboard are adorned with poppies, which because of their sleep-inducing properties became attributes of Hypnos, Greek god of sleep; the dog beside his master symbolises fidelity and the pair of doves leading the woman symbolise love. The theme is echoed by the pair of cooing doves and below by the flaming torch, relating to love's passion. Although rams also adorn the bed at Compiègne and many other Empire pieces, their presence may also allude to the duchesse's birth sign Aries, the ram.