Work Large Buffet
Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century
© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Philippe Fuzeau
The so-called Napoleon III apartments in the Louvre are the work of the architect Lefuel, and were installed between 1856 and 1861 in the new wing on the rue de Rivoli which connected the Louvre to the Tuileries. They were intended as reception rooms for the Ministry of State, an important government department. The rooms are generally in the Louis XIV style, especially the dining room, whose large buffet is, however, entirely representative of the prevailing eclecticism.
The dining room and buffet under the Second Empire
The Napoleon III apartments were intended for receptions, so the dining room was used only for banquets. The room testifies to the hosts' love of luxury, sometimes to the point of ostentation. The walls were covered with paneling in the Boulle style, wallpaper, and hangings, and the décor was completed with paintings of hunting and garden scenes. The furniture consisted of a buffet, a table, chairs, and sideboards. At meals, the table had a large centerpiece by the house of Christoffle.
The buffet stood at the end of the room within a semicircular bay, whose curved form it followed. The whole suite of furniture was somber in tone. Chairs, tables, console tables, pedestals for busts, and the buffet, are all in ebonized wood. With four doors in the lower part, the buffet has two side cabinets with four drawers, an étagère and a clock signed by Perrelet. The buffet is integrated with the room not only in its form but also in its ornament, which is shared by the rest of the furniture, probably designed by Lefuel himself. The style adopted for these great apartments was the style of Louis XIV, which was "de rigueur" for official buildings under the Second Empire. The furniture was delivered between 1859 and 1861: a number of cabinetmakers were involved in its production, but the records do not establish who was responsible for what. As in the case of the décor, the firms commissioned were often not the most famous of their time.
An opulent piece
The ornamentation of this very large buffet, which is richly adorned with scrollwork, reveals the prevailing eclecticism of the Second Empire: the decorative repertoire (lozenge panels with rosettes, consoles, a lion mask) is derived from the Louis XIV style, while other features (the garlands of flowers, the seashells, and the keystone motifs at the corners of the doors) recall the rocaille. All these ornaments are gilded, which heightens the sense of opulence, and the very high quality of the gilding is nicely set off by the ebonized wood particularly popular under the Second Empire.
BibliographyDion-Tenenbaum Anne, Les appartements Napoléon III au musée du Louvre, Paris, 1993.
Blackened wood, gilded bronze
H. 3.50 m; W. 4.67 m
Napoleon III Apartments. Large dining room
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