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Work Three fauteuils and three cabriole chairs

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Trois fauteuils et trois chaises en cabriolet

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

This set of three fauteuils and three chairs in a restrained cabriole style is part of the furniture ordered for Marie-Antoinette's "cabinet intérieur"-her private apartment-at the Château de Saint-Cloud, which is now divided among the Musée du Louvre, the Château de Compiègne, the Château de Fontainebleau, and the Mobilier National. It was provided for the sovereigns' spring stay in 1788. Created by various craftsmen working together, these chairs represent a totally new design concept.

Saint-Cloud and royal orders in the time of Louis XVI

In 1785 Marie-Antoinette bought the Château de Saint-Cloud from the Duke of Orléans. The initial furnishings were simple and hastily commissioned or taken from other residences, until the Royal Furniture Repository ordered seating of appropriate quality for the king and queen's spring stay in 1788. This order was part of the ongoing policy of renovation of the royal residences implemented by Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville d'Avray, the new intendant-general of the Royal Furniture Repository, and of Calonne, the new minister of finance, both of whom were appointed in 1783. They entrusted this task to the joiners Georges Jacob, Jean-Baptiste Boulard, and Jean-Baptiste-Claude Séné.

Furnishing the grand cabinet

The process involved a number of people. In October 1787 Jean Hauré, who coordinated the royal furnishings, received the order to furnish the grand cabinet. The order specified a settee, two bergères, and two fauteuils à la reine (all now at the Château de Compiègne), four semi-cabriole chairs à carreaux and four semi-cabriole fauteuils à carreaux (three of which are in the Louvre, the others in the care of the Mobilier National), two footstools (one now at Fontainebleau, the other lost), and a folding screen and a fire-screen (both also lost). The designs for the set had been provided by the Furniture Repository, and the wax models prepared by the sculptor-modeler Martin. The joinery was entrusted to Jean-Baptiste-Claude Séné. The settee was sculpted by Alexandre Régnier, the fire-screen by Matthieu Guérin, and the other pieces by Nicolas-François Valois.

Real inventiveness

The chairs and armchairs in the Louvre are described as "cabrioles," their backs being lightly curved. The chairs are also "à carreaux," meaning that the seat is lower than that of a "chaise à garnir," to allow for a cushion ("carreau") to be placed on it. This more comfortable type of chair may have been for ladies' use only. Stylistically, its design was something utterly new in 1787. The uprights of the back are fluted columns whose Ionic capitals are topped with pine cones. On the armchairs the bases of the baluster-style arm stumps rest on flower-decorated corner blocks. The upper part of the legs, with their beaded spiral fluting, is ringed by a floral wreath, and the apron is covered with a tracery frieze. These chairs are emblematic of the Louis XVI style in their antiquity-inflected architectural vocabulary and, still more, in their use of tracery and garlands of flowers. These features influenced Séné's subsequent work and would have a considerable impact on large-scale nineteenth-century furniture manufacturing.

Bibliography

Pallot B.G.B., Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre, tome 2, Paris, 1993, pp. 162-165.

Technical description

  • Jean-Baptiste-Claude SÉNÉ

    Trois fauteuils et trois chaises en cabriolet

    1787

    Paris

  • Sculpture de Nicolas-François Valois, dorure de ChatardNoyer doré

    H. : 91 cm. ; L. : 61 cm. ; Pr. : 56 cm. (fauteuils) H. : 89 cm. ; L. : 53 cm. ; Pr. : 49 cm. (chaises)

  • Provenance : grand cabinet intérieur de Marie-Antoinette au château de Saint-Cloud ; en 1795, au palais du Luxembourg pour l'ameublement du directeur La Révellière-Lépeaux puis pour Lazare Carnot ; de 1853 à 1871, au château de Saint-Cloud.Versement du Mobilier national, 1948 , 1948

    OA 9452

  • Decorative Arts

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