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Work Suite of eight fauteuils à la reine and two settees

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Mobilier des "Quatre parties du Monde" : huit fauteuils et deux canapés

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

This set, comprising eight fauteuils à la Reine and two settees, is upholstered with tapestries from the Gobelins manufactory representing the four parts of the world, which is to say the four continents then known. The tapestries are earlier than the frames, which were made by Louis-Charles Carpentier (circa 1730-circa 1788). These chairs are characteristic of the "Transition" style and already present Louis XVI ornamentation that is perfectly assimilated.

The making of a "meuble"

The set of tapestries upholstering the chairs from the Grog collection was commissioned in 1748 from the Gobelins manufactory for the personal use of Augustin Bouret de Villaumont, Treasurer General of the Royal Household from 1743 to 1756. This "meuble" (or furniture set) was to illustrate the four parts of the world. The cartoons for the backs, which are adorned with figures, were designed by Charles Eisen and those for the seats, adorned with animals, by Pierre Lenfant. Each fauteuil is devoted to one of the four continents, so two tapestries needed to be woven for each continent. One settee was commissioned by Bouret de Villaumont to represent a synthesis of the theme, which was the subject of a Brussels tapestry in his bathroom; he wanted the chairs to match this wallcovering. The inventory of his estate makes no mention of chair woodwork to receive these tapestries, however: whether he changed his mind or the work was not completed at the time of his death in 1760 is a question that has not been settled. His widow married in 1763 the farmer-general Pierre-Isaac Marquet de Peire, whose estate inventory of 1779 mentions two settees and eight fauteuils covered with Gobelins tapestries representing the four parts of the world.

An exotic iconogaphy

The backs of the armchairs representing Europe are adorned with several shepherds, their seats with a cow and sheep. America is illustrated by a couple of Indians beneath a palm tree on the chair backs, and a parrot and a monkey on the seats. Africa is evoked by a "negress" borne by two "negroes" and by two tigers adorning the seats. Lastly, Asia is personified by a Turk accompanied by his servant on the backs and two dromedaries on the seats. The two settees synthesize these representations. On the back of the first settee may be seen four figures in a port, and on the seat two lions in a cage borne by two dromedaries led by a monkey, two tigers, three parrots, and two horses. The second settee, realized at the same time as the framework, bears the same scenes, but reversed in direction. These tapestries are a digest of what was known of the world in the middle of the eighteenth century, and more especially the way in which it was imagined by Westerners.

"Transition"-style furniture

Because the estate inventory of the second husband of Bouret de Villaumont's wife mentions these chairs upholstered with tapestries of the four parts of the world, their framework must have been made between 1760 and 1779. Stylistically, this set may be dated more closely to the years 1770-75. The backs are effectively still curvilinear, and the crossrail of the seat remains thick-set, features of "Transition" furniture. The involuted form of the arm-rest is completely new and announces certain later chairs; it is perfectly adapted to the joining dado, which proves Carpentier's mastery of this new formal solution. Lastly, the complexity of the sculpture reveals a perfect assimilation of the decorative vocabulary of the Louis XVI style: the back is adorned with a frieze of piasters and the seat with a frieze of interlacing knotwork decorated with a flower in the middle, ornamentation that Georges Jacob would use for the furniture of the Château de Saint-Cloud ten years later.

Technical description

  • Estampillés : Louis-Charles CARPENTIER

    Mobilier des "Quatre parties du Monde" : huit fauteuils et deux canapés

    Vers 1770 - 1775

    Paris

  • Noyer doréGarnitures en tapisserie des Gobelins ; atelier de Pierre-François CozetteD'après Eisen et Lenfant, vers 1748

    H. : 1,02 m. ; L. : 0,74 m. ; Pr. : 0,62 m. (fauteuils)H. : 0,94 m. ; L. : 1,87 m. ; Pr. : 0,70 m. (canapés)

  • Provenance : tapisseries commandées par le fermier général Augustin Bouret de Villaumont ; bois commandés par le fermier général Pierre-Isaac Marquet de Peire ; collection du troisième vicomte Astor à Cliveden.Don de M. René Grog et Mme Grog-Carven, 1973 , 1973

    OA 10506

  • Decorative Arts

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