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Work Commode and two corner cupboards

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Commode et paire d'encoignures

© 1997 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

This set of two corner cupboards and a commode was made by Joseph Baumhauer (died 1772). Baumhauer was one of the king's appointed cabinet-makers. Most of his work was sold through marchands merciers, dealers specialising in luxury goods and furniture. The clean lines and Greco-Roman ornaments of these three pieces are typical of the Greek style in vogue in the 1760s.

Greek-style bronzes and shape

Influenced by the marchands merciers, Joseph Baumhauer's work developed towards the Greek style. The commode has three doors. Behind the central door are three rows of drawers. The very low-slung commode stands on toupie feet decorated with bronze laurel leaves and is decorated at the level of the bottom transversal strut with a skirt of acanthus leaves. The cut-off corners are decorated at the top with acanthus consoles topped with rosettes. Around the top there is a gilded bronze frieze of plant-motif rinceaux and rosettes alternating with fleurons. The two corner cupboards with arched doors are decorated with the same gilded bronze patterns. These decorative features are taken from the Greco-Roman ornamentation which inspired the Greek style. This style first made an appearance in circa 1755, and grew extremely popular in the 1760s. Among its exponents were cabinet-makers such as Jean-François Oeben and Jean-François Leleu.

The perfection of the marquetry

The sides and the lateral panels of the front are decorated with marquetry forming a geometrical interlacing pattern of cartouches ornamented with parquetry motifs and small flowerets. The design has a certain resemblance to the pattern of intertwining hearts and diamonds on the furniture made by Gilles Joubert for the Royal Furniture Repository between 1771 and 1774. The austere neo-Classical design of the commode is tempered by the realistic-looking marquetry flowers in the central medallions, similar to those on pieces by Jean-François Oeben, Jean-François Leleu, and Jean-Henri Riesener. The same type of marquetry flower is used on the corner cupboards. On the commode, the flowers are presented in a basket, while on the corner cupboards they are presented as a bouquet.

Joseph and the marchands merciers

Joseph Baumhauer originally came from Germany.  As the French found his surname hard to pronounce, he eventually decided to call himself simply Joseph, and this is the name stamped on his furniture. The label on the commode and corner cupboards indicates that they were made for the well-known marchands merciers Darnault. Marchands merciers were dealers specialising in luxury goods and furniture. The Darnault label is also found on other pieces made by Joseph Baumhauer. Although Joseph never reached the grade of master, he was appointed dealer and cabinet-maker to the king in 1749. He worked mainly on commission, particularly for marchands merciers, who bought the pieces of furniture as he made them.

Bibliography

ALCOUFFE D., DION-TENENBAUM A., LEFEBURE A., Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre, Paris, 1993, pp. 194-197.

PRADERE A., Les ébénistes français de Louis XIV à la Révolution, Paris, 1989, pp. 230-243.

Technical description

  • Joseph BAUMHAUER, dit Joseph

    Commode et paire d'encoignures

    Vers 1770

    Paris

  • Placage d'amarante et de sycomore ; marqueterie de bois polychromes ; bronze doré ; marbre brèche violette

    H: 96 cm; L: 80.5 cm; Depth: 69 cm

  • Don de M. René Grog et Mme Grog-Carven, 1973 , 1973

    Etiquette imprimée du marchand Darnault

    OA 10374, OA 10375, OA 10376

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Printed label: "Darnault Père et Fils Marchand et Miroitier Ordin.re du Roy en ses Menus plaisirs, (...) / Au Roy d'Espagne / Rue de la Monnoye A Paris"