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Work Pair of bergères à la reine

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Paire de bergères

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Peter Harholdt

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

These two bergères belonged originally to a set comprising two settees, six little window seats, four bergères, four small gondola-shaped fauteuils, eighteen chairs, four voyeuses, one firescreen and one screen, all designed to furnish the 'salon de compagnie' (reception room) of Madame Elisabeth (1764-1794), the sister of Louis XVI, at the Château de Montreuil (Versailles). This furniture set was one of the last to be delivered to the Royal Furniture Repository before the French Revolution.

The Château de Montreuil

In May 1783, following the bankruptcy of the Prince and Princess de Guéméné, Louis XVI purchased the Château de Montreuil, the property at Versailles that they owned, and handed it over to his sister Madame Elisabeth (1764-1794). This small château was bought furnished. The princess would spend most of her day there, returning for the night to Versailles. When she was twenty-five, the king allowed her to reside at Montreuil the whole time. Starting in 1788, a grand project to transform the château was launched under the direction of the architect Jean-Jacques Huvé (1742-1808). Work on the building was finished at the end of 1788, after which major orders of furniture were placed to complete the existing furnishings. The 'salon de compagnie' to which these two bergères belonged was a large square room in the avant-corps of the château. The curtains and the tapestry of the seats were made of an earlier piece of cloth found in the Royal Furniture Repository's store. This fabric was originally meant for the 'salon des jeux' (game room) of Louis XVI at Fontainebleau. The lampas covering the bergères was rewoven following the original silk.

The woodworking and carving

The cabinetmaker Jean-Baptiste-Claude Séné produced the wood frames for the seats. The carving was done by Alexandre and Laurent and the gilding by Chatard. The bergères are supported by legs in the shape of reversed balusters adorned with curved fluting covered in the top part with acanthus foliage. The legs are connected to the seat by chair brackets carved with rosettes. A border of beading and a frieze of ribboned flowers decorate the seat rail. The arm supports, emerging from the brackets, have the same form as the legs but in reverse, and rest on a base adorned with two palmettes. The outline of the padded armrests follows a curve that harmoniously blends with the frame of the chair back. The latter is carved on the front side with a string of beads, while the reverse side displays a border of acanthus foliage.

A group representative of the style of the 1780s

These bergères belong to a type of chair designed around 1787-8 for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the Château de Saint Cloud and produced either by Georges Jacob or by Séné. They show the same taste for architectural features, with legs and arm supports shaped either like columns or like balusters, and display the same elaborate care in the carving of the decoration. In the case of these bergères, the ornaments are indeed so finely carved that they almost look as if they were engraved. They present a combination of floral motifs reminiscent of the furniture pieces by François-Toussaint Foliot delivered for Marie Antoinette at Versailles in 1779, and of classic motifs such as the palmettes, which also appear on the head of Marie Antoinette's bed at Fontainebleau, produced by Séné in 1787. The carved decoration of these two seats is a perfect illustration of the rich ornementation found on Louis XVI cabinet furniture.

Bibliography

B. Pallot, Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre, t. 2, Paris, Faton, 1993, p 178-179.

Catalogue d'exposition : "Nouvelles acquisitions du département des Objets d'art 1985-1989", Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1990, pp. 155-157.

Technical description

  • Jean-Baptiste-Claude SÉNÉ

    Paire de bergères

    1789

    Paris

  • Estampillées : Jean-Baptiste-Claude Séné, sculpture de Laurent et Alexandre, dorure de ChatardHêtre doré ; garniture de lampas moderne d'après la soierie "aux Cyclopes" d'origine

    H. : 97 cm. ; L. : 70 cm. ; Pr. : 61 cm.

  • Provenance : exécutées pour le salon de compagnie de Mme Elisabeth à Montreuil (Versailles) ; vendues avec le mobilier de Montreuil en 1794.Don de M. et Mme Francis Barbe, 1988 , 1988

    OA 11164, OA 11165

  • Decorative Arts

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