15.000 - 25.000
13 October 2020
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Parquetry decoration and gilt. Moulded and chiselled bronze mounts after a design by Leon Message
Of two circular tops. The upper top with glass and gilt bronze removable tray supported on four putti with triton tails
Geometric design and lozenge parquetry decoration to lower top
Acanthus leaves and shell motifs bronze decorative elements applied to scalloped apron, cabriole legs and feet
Apron bronze mounts marked "FL" on the reverse
France, ca. 1900
NINETEENTH CENTURY FURNITURE
The second half of the 19th century is, undoubtedly, the age when decorative arts favoured the revivalist taste, the fusion of styles and the collecting. At an age when society looked attentively at the past, the greatest masters of previous centuries were inevitably reinterpreted by the new artists, hence promoting the emergence of quality replicas that were accepted by their contemporaries as genuine works of art. The glory of the golden age of Versailles was reborn in the decorative arts, particularly in furniture, inspired by the artistic character of the reigns of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI and by the much admired prototypes of the great furniture makers such as André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763) or Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806).
In 1860s Paris there a noticeable increase in the number of luxury furniture making workshops which, in that period employed 2000 workers, a figure
in stark contrast with the 14,500 employed by the lower quality furniture making workshops. Luxury furniture makers were amongst the most privileged Paris craftsmen, being responsible for the production of exceptional pieces of furniture often destined to the French Imperial House or to other European Royal Courts.
The two tea tables that we are bringing to sale are particularly representative of the artistic quality and irreprehensible production technique of two exceptional artists of that era, Paul Sormani (1817-1877) and François Linke (1855-1946).
PAYNE, Christopher, 19thCentury European Furniture, Antique Collectors ́Club 1985;
RODRIGUES, Tiago, The furniture of Maison Krieger at art auction: A fine vitrine in Louis XV style sold by Veritas at Lisbon, ArtisOn, no5, Lisboa, ARTIS-IHA/FLUL, 2017;
VERLET, Pierre, Le mobilier royal français du XVIIIe siècle. IV – Meubles de la Couronne conservés en Europe et aux États-Unis, Paris, Editions Picard, 1990;
VERLET, Pierre, Les ébénistes du XVIII siècle français, Paris, Hachette, 1963;
VERLET, Pierre, Les meubles français du XVIII siècle, 2o edição, Paris, Presses Universitaire de France, 1982.
François Linke (1855-1946)
François Linke was born in June 1855 at Pankraz in Bohemia. After an apprenticeship with a local furniture maker, the young Linke travelled to Prague, Budapest and Weimar as a salaried worker. It was only in 1881, after having worked for various German masters, that he opened his own workshop at Rue du Faubourg-Sainte-Antoine, the Paris street where furniture makers congregated.
At a time of fierce competition, his path would not be easy and, for the following two decades, he would survive by selling his own furniture to other makers such as Jason and Krieger.
All changed in 1900 following his participation at the Paris Universal Exhibition. For this greatest of events, and having established a partnership with Léon Messagé, Linke produced sixteen pieces from which stand out the Grand Bureau, that granted him a gold medal, and the Grande Bibliothèque, as well as an exuberant cupboard and a long-case clock belonging today to the Medeiros e Almeida Museum in Lisbon.
For his contemporaries, Linke’s Great Exhibition participation was a truly reinvigorating experience, making him stand out from amongst the other furniture makers that were simply showing traditional furniture inspired by 18th century styles. Linke’s work, on the other hand, was characterized by a symbiosis between the traditional styles and the developing Art Nouveau artistic movement, a successful combination that popularized his style as “entièrement nouveau”. Charles Dambreuse, one of the critics attending the Exhibition wrote: “L’Exposition de la maison Linke est le gros événement de l’histoire du meuble d’art en l’an de grâce 1900”.
Those sixteen masterpieces were the result of many hours of hard labour as well
as of Linke’s bet on his future. All the production costs were fully assumed by himself, with no anticipated commissions or sales expectations, a fact that, in case of failure, could have ruinous consequences. The risk taken would however pay off and the recognition and exposure at the Great Exhibition would effectively open the path to many reputable and significant commissions, allowing him to open a permanent showroom at Place Vendôme in 1903. From that moment onwards his clientele diversified, as he detailly annotated in his diaries, to include royalty (the kings of Sweden, Belgium and Egypt or Prince Radziwill), politicians (president Émile Loubet), American millionaires and even other illustrious makers that would visit his showroom and acquire his pieces.
He would participate in other international events, such as the St. Louis Exhibition in 1904, being awarded a gold medal, or the Franco-British Exhibition in 1908 in London. Presumably in the latter he must have been visited by a member of the British Royal Family, as can be inferred by the presence of one of his chests of drawers in the Royal Collection. Displayed at Buckingham Palace’s Tapestry Room since 1914, this important piece of furniture is clearly seen in a series of 1934 photographs of King George V, Queen Mary and the then Prince of Wales, future King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor.
After World War 1, François Linke accepted the extraordinary commission of furnishing the Ras el-Tin Palace in Alexandria, for Egyptian King Fuad I (1868-1936), possibly the largest furniture commission ever, eclipsing even those from 18th century Versailles.
With its reputation fully established, Maison Linke became a distinguished furniture maker well until the beginning of World War 2, its technical brilliance and the artistic change it had embodied never again repeated in the history of furniture.
In 1906 François Linke was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur, the highest French Decoration that was allowed to him. He kept accepting commissions, both from French and overseas patrons, up until the 1940 German Occupation of Paris, eventually dying in May 1946, a few days before his 91st birthday.
Léon Messagé (1842-1901)
In the last decades of the 19th century, Linke developed a very productive partnership with sculptor, bronze caster and designer Léon Messagé (1842- 1901). Linke’s success as the most important furniture maker of the Belle Époque is based on the originality of his designs as well as on the quality of the pieces he produced, both characteristics that made him, ”... the most sought after furniture maker of the late 19th and early 20th centuries”, according to furniture expert Christopher Payne.
Léon Messagé was born in Burgundy in 1842, and aged 20 he is working
in Paris as a sculptor and designer of furniture, silver and other decorative objects, in collaboration with such furniture makers as Roux et Brunet or Joseph Emmanuel Zwiener. Interestingly, the fact that he reserved the rights over all
his works, allowed him to use and adapt his production to pieces by different maker’s.
In 1890 he published the “Cahier des Dessins et Croquis Style Louis XV”, a compilation of 36 drawings for furniture, silver and other objects.
The present tea table bronze mounts are similar to some of the models published in this book.