February 20, Versailles informed us have received an extraordinary gift: a Japanese lacquer commode performed by Gaudreaus for the bedroom of Louis XV in the Chateau de Choisy.
Let’s focus on this piece, the donation and the intricacies of this donation.
Curved in black and gold Japanese, with red floral motifs and European lacquer or vernis Martin (see our previous article), opening in front by two large drawers without apparent traverses and two side cabinets. It rests on cabriole legs and wears a red marble top.
It has outstanding ormolu rocaille bronzes decorated with palms, reeds, shells, concretions and windings.
Our furniture was delivered in 1744 by the marchand mercier Thomas-Joachim Hébert for the bedroom of King Louis XV at the Chateau de Choisy and was executed by the cabinetmaker Antoine Robert Gaudreaus. The chamber of Louis XV at Versailles was also furnished with a commode by Gaudreaus, delivered in 1739, inlaid kingwood and whose bronzes are signed Caffieri.
Lacquers from Japan were at the time, a very rare and particularly expensive product. To perform this commode, the garde meuble royal provides Hébert a lacquer screen, bought by Louis XIV, he cut up and of which he made thin the lacquer panels so they can be plated on the frame of the commode. This step is particularly difficult because the lacquer is very fragile.
The commode remains at the Chateau de Choisy until it was unfurnished then passes into the rooms of Madame Elisabeth and Queen Marie-Antoinette at Chateau de Saint-Cloud finally sold during the revolutionary sales.
It reappears in Egypt in the early twentieth century and passes in Italy by an American collector before being acquired in auctions in Italy in 1987 by Edmond J. Safra.
It is the widow of the latter, which through its philanthropic foundation has donated it at Versailles. This donation is not the first of the Edmond J Safra foundation; it has previously given to the Louvre two terrines and stands in silver executed by the goldsmith Balzac from the famous Penthièvre Orleans service as well as watercolors and manuscripts.
The story behind
This donation was not made without problems. Announced in 2009-2010, the services of Italian cultural goods refused to grant permission to leave their territory to the commode they saw as a national treasure when it has not in any meaning for Italy own heritage . It was not executed by neither an Italian artist, nor an Italian residence and arrived in the peninsula late, around 1960. It took the intervention of many curators and diplomacy to our piece of furniture can join the French public collections after more than three years of negotiations.
Let us hope that the quality of this commode gives new impetus for the restoration of certain rooms of Versailles and it will generate more donations from major collectors.
Images: Chateau de Versailles, ©Didier-Saulnier