Paris, c. 1790
Painted and gilt oak and resinous wood, fireplace in red griotte marble and gilt bronze; mirror
Bequest of Adèle Denouille, 1923
Inv. 21246 A-M et 21247
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The Chaussée d’Antin neighborhood in Paris was completely transformed in the 1780s. Originally an area of market gardens, it was covered with buildings designed by the most innovative architects – such as Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart and François-Joseph Bélanger – for clients including aristocrats, financiers and members of the demi-monde who shared a taste for elegance and an interest in innovation. New streets were created and lined with private mansions and apartment buildings. Even the Revolution did not put a stop to this building frenzy, but the district did not outlast the great urban transformations of the nineteenth century, and none of the four houses built in 1783 by the “master builder” Giraud de Talairac on Rue Neuve-des-Capucins (now Rue Joubert) survived. However, the wood paneling reassembled in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs preserves the memory of the building at number 258 (now number 35). Talairac was a shrewd entrepreneur who had acquired a certain reputation in the capital as the builder of “the tallest house in Paris,” on Rue Radziwill: a nine-story building with a spectacular double spiral staircase leading to a notorious gambling den. The building on Rue Joubert was more in line with other Parisian constructions; it had three bay windows on each story and comprised “a ground floor with stables and outhouses, a first and second story, servants’ bedrooms and haylofts in the attic.” This drawing room, located on the “piano nobile” (main floor), was originally considerably larger; it contained five mirrors and was illuminated by two windows overlooking the courtyard. It was probably not Giraud de Talairac who commissioned this elegant decoration, created at a later date than the construction of the house (which was ceded several times during the 1790s). The narrow beadboard panels adorning the room feature trompe-l’œil candelabra motifs that echo the patinated bronze ornamentation framing Wedgwood-style medallions in jasper or porcelain (materials used in the most luxurious interiors before the Revolution). The decorative effect is concentrated on the doors, with the same decorative principle on a faux bois ground evoking tulipwood and lemon wood, with a color scheme that was particularly popular in the 1790s. This composition, in the arabesque style that returned to fashion in the 1770s, recalls a well known decoration of the period – that of the dining room in the mansion of the actress Mademoiselle Dervieux, built on Rue Chantereine in 1788 by François-Joseph Bélanger, architect to the Comte d’Artois. The red griotte marble fireplace, a slightly later addition, is adorned with a gilt bronze frieze whose griffins echo those on the painted frieze under the cornice; the uprights are decorated with two figures of Egyptian women wearing sheath dresses, foreshadowing the popularity of Egyptomania at the turn of the nineteenth century.
B. R. Paul Jarry, Les Porcherons ou le faubourg Montmartre : architecture et décorations intérieures, Paris, F. Contet, coll. Les vieux hôtels de Paris, 1928, pp. 10-11, pl. 13-17.