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Work Commode of Madame du Barry

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Commode belonging to Madame du Barry

© 1990 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

In 1772, the marchand-mercier (dealer) Poirier had a commode adorned with Sèvres porcelaine plaques delivered to Louveciennes for Madame du Barry (1743-1793). The plaques reproduced paintings that are earlier than the commode. This piece, now in the Musée du Louvre, is attributed to the cabinetmaker Martin Carlin (circa 1730-1785) who was the creator of several porcelain-decorated pieces of furniture. It is a work representative of the royal favorite's taste for this kind of luxury furniture.

A commode in the transitional style

Shaped like a parallelepiped and with rounded stiles, this commode has three panels. The center one protrudes slightly and, in its lower part, extends over the rail. Two small drawers are fitted on either end above the side panels. The commode stands on curved legs but its overall style is emblematic of the return to simpler lines in the 1760s. For while it has retained from earlier commodes traits such as the animated lines of these curved legs and the bulge of the central panel, the piece's front and sides are nevertheless perfectly rectilinear. The gilt bronze mounts are still somewhat massive but assume a more sober appearance where they are used to frame the various parts of the piece. These mounts cover the pearwood veneering as well as hide the uneven lengths of the porcelain plaques. Both the veneering and the bronze work were meant to set off the beauty of the five porcelain plaques.

The porcelain plaques

The porcelain plaques show reproductions of paintings made before the commode was produced and were copied either from engravings or from the original works. In the center is L'Agréable Société by Jean-Baptiste Pater (1695-1736). Known only as an engraving by Filloeul, the picture is as a result shown reversed from the original. This plaque is completed by a frame of white and gold porcelain composed of eight friezes. The two other panels on the commode's front present reproductions of works by Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743): on the left, Par une Tendre Chansonnette, a painting now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and engraved by Charles-Nicolas Cochin, and on the right, Conversation Galante, the painter's reception piece to the Academy in 1719, copied in reverse based on the engraving by Jacques-Philippe Le Bas dated 1743. These three plaques celebrate love and music. On the sides, we find the images of Comedy and Tragedy reproduced from two overdoor panels painted in 1752 by Carle Vanloo (1705-1765) for the salon de compagnie (reception room) of Madame de Pompadour at the Château de Bellevue (Moscow, Pushkin Museum). The plaques were created by Charles-Nicolas Dodin, the most famous painter of the Sèvres manufactory.

The attribution to Martin Carlin

The commode was supplied to Madame du Barry in 1772 by the marchand-mercier Poirier. Although it does not show any stamp, it is without a doubt a work by Martin Carlin. The ties between the cabinetmaker and the dealer are well established. About 1775, Carlin furnished Poirier with a very similar commode, also in the Louvre. On both commodes, the central part ends with a projecting piece that forms right angles with the front rail. This is a common stylistic occurence with Martin Carlin. Madame du Barry was a major client of Poirier from whom she purchased another piece of furniture by Carlin, the Guéridon with Porcelain Top. Some of the bronze mounts found here are rarities in Carlin's work, for instance, the masks of women's heads or the lion snout. However they do appear again on the corner cupboards he produced ten years later for Mesdames at the Château de Bellevue. There are only four known commodes with Sèvres porcelain plaques, one that belonged to Mademoiselle de Sens (private collection), one formerly in the collection of R. Polo (private collection) and the two Carlin commodes in the Louvre.

Bibliography

Exposition "Nouvelles acquisitions du département des Objets d'art"
1990-1994, Paris, 1995, p. 144-147.
D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tenenbaum, A. Lefebure, "Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre", tome 1, Paris, 1993, 218-223.

Technical description

  • Attributed to Martin CARLIN (near Freiburg in Breisgau, 1730 - Paris, 1785)

    Commode belonging to Madame du Barry

    1772

    Paris

  • Oak frame; veneer of pearwood, rosewood and kingwood; soft-paste Sevres porcelain; gilded bronze; white marble; glass

    H. 0.87 m; W. 1.19 m; D. 0.48 m

  • Provenance: delivered in 1772 by the marchand-mercier Poirier to the comtesse du Barry (1749-93); Rothschild collection

    OA 11293

  • Decorative Arts

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Puiforcat
    Room 617

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Additional information about the work

Stamp: trace of the mark "JME" on the top part, in the lower right angle. Porcelain marks painted in blue: double "L" framing the letter-date "M" (1765).