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Work Pair of armoires
Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo
Pair of armoires
© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Studio Sébert
18th century: rococo
This pair of monumental twin-doored armoires on a plinth base was made by the cabinet-maker Charles Cressent (1685-1768) for the navy treasurer Marcellin-François-Zacharie de Selle. De Selle was a keen collector who commissioned a number of pieces from Cressent for his study, including these two armoires which he used to store items from his collection. They are a fine testimony to Cressent's talent as a cabinet-maker and sculptor.
Two armoires commissioned by a collector
It was very rare for Charles Cressent to turn his hand to armoires - none are mentioned in his sales catalogues, for example. These catalogues are the only way to identify his work, as he never marked his name on his creations. However, it has been demonstrated that these two armoires are the ones that the well-known art collector Marcellin-François-Zacharie de Selle had in his home in 1761. De Selle initially rejoiced in the title of Intendant and General Comptroller of Silverware, privy purse, and Business of the King's Bedchamber in 1731. When his father died in 1743, he took over the important position of Treasurer General to the navy. His great wealth enabled him to purchase a mansion in rue Sainte Anne in Paris in 1748. He collected paintings, drawings, prints, bronzes, medals, engraved stones, lacquers, Far Eastern porcelain, and furniture by André-Charles Boulle. He furnished his study with pieces by Charles Cressent. These two armoires were made to house some of the objets d'art in his extensive collection.
The parquetry veneer
Cressent used his standard technique, parquetry veneering, for these two armoires. Parquetry veneering is a cabinet-making technique which uses the wood grain as a decorative element. In this case, Cressent drew a diamond-point pattern on the two doors and on the sides, using this procedure to differentiate the various parts of each armoire. Cressent often used a bloodwood veneer framed with darker amaranth, as he did for these two armoires. The composition of the two doors is framed by a narrow band of amaranth which brings out the pattern. The bronzes stand out more clearly against this darker amaranth background.
The iconography of the bronzes: a clue to the armoires' intended use
The two armoires each consist of three pilasters patterned with Rocaille ornaments which frame the two doors, both ornamented from top to bottom with a decor of gilded bronze. On the sides of the armoires are two compartments, one above the other, framed by a narrow rod of unburnished bronze and separated by a cartouche featuring two small dragons. These decorative elements are typical of the new Rocaille style that first became popular in the 1730s. The doors are each decorated with two children along with attributes pointing to the arts and sciences. The first armoire features music on the left door and geometry and astronomy on the right door, while the second features painting and sculpture on the left door and architecture on the right door. This choice of symbols should be seen as a reference to the intended use of the two armoires, which de Selle commissioned to house some of the objets d'art from his collection. It should be noted that Cressent, who trained as a sculptor, was particularly fond of depicting human figures, which feature on many of his pieces, including these two armoires and other works also in the Louvre such as the commode decorated with a monkey (OA 6868).
D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum, A. Lefebure., Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre, t. 1, Paris, Faton, 1993, pp. 130-135
Pair of armoires
Oak body, bloodwood and amaranth veneer, gilded bronze, Sarrancolin marble
H: 1.99 m; L: 1.73 m; Depth: 54 cm
Formerly in the collection of Marcellin de Selle, treasurer-general of the navy. Purchased 1974.
OA 10582, OA 10583
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