Paris, c. 1725
Carcase of oak and resinous wood, rosewood and curly walnut veneer, gilt bronze, rance marble
84 x 282 x 82.5 cm
Purchased with the support of the Heritage Fund, 2006
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This commode, designed for a state bedroom, is remarkable in more ways than one. At almost three meters long, it is the largest eighteenth-century French commode; few quality commodes measure even half that length! Its top, made of a single piece of rance marble, is an achievement in itself; its molded outline follows the crossbow shape of the front, which is continued on the sides. The commode stands boldly on four legs ending in gilt bronze sabots in the form of bear paws with spreading claws. The structure of this double commode is equally exceptional, with four drawers arranged in two rows, separated by a central pillar and framed at both ends by two small corner cupboards, each with one door. It dates from the Régence period and, unsurprisingly, is not stamped: although theoretically compulsory from 1637 onward, few cabinetmakers stamped their work until the 1720s. The side doors suggest that this piece was made by Charles Cressent (1685-1767), who particularly favored this type of construction. However, this commode features none of the bronze mounts from Cressent’s workshop, the models of which were jealously guarded by the sculptor-cabinetmaker; it may therefore have been the work of Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus (c. 1682-1746), a cabinetmaker to the king, who specialized in double commodes such as the commode-shaped medal cabinet delivered for the king’s interior apartments at Versailles in 1738 (Musée National du Château de Versailles). Like Cressent, he made furniture pieces with side cupboards, such as the commode delivered in 1739 for Louis XV’s bedchamber at Versailles (Wallace Collection, London). However, the rosewood mosaic parquetry on the commode in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (a precursor of the abovementioned examples) suggests that it could also be the work of a third cabinetmaker, Étienne Doirat, whose career ended prematurely with his death in 1732. The provenance of this piece has also remained uncertain. It may have been made for Marie Anne de Bourbon, Princesse de Conti, the legitimized daughter of Louis XIV; the inventory of her mansion, drawn up in 1739, features “a large rosewood commode in two parts, nine feet long [2.92 m] with two drawers on each side and a rance marble top covering both parts […]”. The only reason to doubt this identification is the lack of any mention of side cupboards. In 1836, the commode was acquired by Vicomtesse Alfred de Noailles - a purchase that reflects the nascent “antiquarian” taste for eighteenth-century furniture. According to an inventory drawn up in 1851, at the time of Léontine de Noailles’s death the commode stood in the antechamber of the family mansion on Rue d’Astorg. Whoever made and whoever commissioned this commode, it represents a major landmark in the history of these pieces of furniture, emblematic of the Enlightenment.
Le Cabinet de l’amateur, exhibition catalogue, Orangerie des Tuileries, 1956, no. 221, p. 65
Bertrand Rondot, “Une exceptionnelle commode entre dans les collections du Musée des Arts Décoratifs,” Revue du Louvre, no. 4, October 2006.