Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism
© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Thierry Ollivier
18th century: neoclassicism
Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé (1736-1818), bought the Palais Bourbon in 1764 and entrusted its renovation to innovative architects. Among the items of furniture commissioned from cabinetmaker Jean-François Leleu was the commode in the Louvre, destined for the prince's bedroom. Delivered in 1772, its architectural character and bronze decoration make it typical of the "Greek" style in vogue in the 1760s.
Profile and bronze decoration typical of the "Greek" style
This commode has three front-opening drawers, the uppermost shallower than the other two, as is characteristic of "transitional" style and Louis XVI commodes. The extreme linearity of the design is relieved by cut-off, fluted corners topped with bronze acanthus leaves. Set on monumental lion's paw feet, which are a feature of Leleu's work, this very low commode is highlighted with a gilt bronze Greek fret frieze along the bottom and alternating scrolls and fleurons along the top. Like the lower drawers, the side panels are decorated with water leaf fillets. All these ornaments hark back to the Greco-Roman repertoire. The bronze drawer handles are set at the corners, a stratagem Leleu often resorted to on his commodes as a means of freeing up the marquetry areas.
The marquetry on the side panels and the drawers uses a latticework pattern inset with rosettes. For the middle of the façade, Leleu opted for a marquetry basket of flowers decorated with ribbons. His mastery of marquetry rosettes was complete and he used them on a number of pieces, including a fall-front bureau in the Nissim de Camondo Museum, Paris, and a commode in the Wallace Collection, London. Superbly crafted, the flower and rosette marquetry is reminiscent of that on the table by Jean-François Oeben. Leleu had of course worked under Oeben and helped make his innovations known. The master-pupil influence could scarcely be clearer than it is here.
Leleu and the Prince de Condé
Throughout the period 1772-77, Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, was a major client for Leleu, who provided the Palais-Royal with three other commodes similar to the one in the Louvre: a large one dating from 1772 and part of the Wallace Collection, London, and two small ones now at the Petit Trianon, Versailles. All three were made for the bedroom of the Duchess of Bourbon, the Prince de Condé's daughter-in-law. The patterns used on the Louvre commode-lion paw legs and Greek fret frieze-are also found on a Leleu fall-front bureau in the Wallace Collection.
BibliographyAlcouffe Daniel, Dion-Tenenbaum Anne, Lefébure Amaury, Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre, tome 1, Dijon, Éditions Faton, Paris, 1993, pp. 198-201.
Stamped by Jean-François LELEU (?, 1729 - Paris, 1807)
Oak frame; veneer of sycamore, rosewood and kingwood; polychrome wood marquetry; gilded bronze; Griotte Rouge marble
H. 0.87 m; W. 1.24 m; D. 0.59 m
Provenance: bedchamber of the prince de Condé at the Bourbon palais
Acquired in 1953 , 1953
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