Bernard II van Risenburgh, maître in 1730.
B.V.R.B AND THE INTRODUCTION OF LACQUER FURNITURE
This magnificent commode dates to circa 1740 and is part of a celebrated group of lacquer-mounted commodes by Bernard II Van Risenburgh and almost certainly supplied by the marchand-mercier Thomas-Joachim Hébert. The earliest known commode mounted with a panel of Japanese lacquer by BVRB was supplied in 1737 by Hébert for Marie Leczinska for the Cabinet Retraite de la Reine at Fontainebleau, which is now in the Louvre (Nouvelles acquisitions du départment des Objets d'art 1985-1989, Paris, 1990, no. 68, pp. 142-144.) The idea was probably conceived by Hébert, who was given the commission to supply it in place of Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus, who was the principal supplier to the Garde-Meuble at this time. It is likely that BVRB provided through Hébert most of the furniture decorated with Oriental lacquer that was supplied to the Garde Meuble in the years following the Fontainebleau commode.
SIMILAR EXAMPLES WITHIN THE OEUVRE OF B.V.R.B.
The present commode, along with two other examples, represents a transitional phase in BVRB's production of lacquer-mounted commodes, between the earliest one delivered to Fontainebleau in 1737 yet before the examples in Japanese lacquer dating from the later 1740's and '50s, such as the commode from the Collection of Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild, sold Christie's London, 8 July 1999, lot 205 and that ordered by Machault d'Arnouville and sold Christie's Monaco, 19 June 299, lot 80. The present commode comprises a nearly identical example except for the chutes to a commode in coromandel lacquer, formerly in the collection of the duc de Grammont in the 1930's (sold Dubreuil Palone et Lasquin, Galerie Georges Petit, May 1925) and is now in the Lesley and Emma Shaeffer Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Acquisition number 1974.356.189, and illustrated in Apollo, January 1985 and January 1994), and another virtually identical commode with Chinese lacquer with different angle and apron mounts, formerly in the collections of Julius Wernher and the Property of the Luton Hoo Foundation, sold Christie's London, 11 June 1992, lot 73 ($1,201,020). These earlier commodes all bear the similarities of being in Chinese lacquer, having a three-part division to the front with a central cartouche, and virtually identical framing mounts to the lacquer panels. The mount at the base of the cartouche on the present example and the Shaeffer commode are in the same position but reversed on the Luton Hoo commode. None of the mounts on these commodes bear the C couronné poinçon, indicating that they almost certainly date to circa 1740 but before 1745, when that stamp began to be employed on any metal alloy containing copper.
Frustratingly an early provenance for this commode remains undiscovered. There are many eighteenth-century descriptions of lacquer commodes having Portor marble tops which are known. Monsieur de Massiac in 1777, the président de Séneozan in 1778 and M. de Tourolle in 1779 all had similarly described pieces, none of which can be firmly identified as the present example.
The son of a cabinet-maker of Dutch origin, Bernard II van Risenburgh is arguably the most celebrated ébéniste of the Rococo period. Elected maître in October 1730, van Risenburgh established his workshop independently of his father's in the Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, where he began to produce furniture distinguished principally by the extraordinary quality of its conception, construction and innovative ormolu mounts. Throughout his career, BVRB worked almost exclusively for the marchand-merciers and, unlike many of his contemporaries, he had almost no direct contact with his illustrious private clientele. In this respect, he is singularly a product of the marchand-mercier system. It was through the intervention of the well-known marchands for whom BVRB worked, therefore, particularly Thomas-Joachim Hébert and, subsequently from the mid-1750s Lazare Duvaux and Simon-Philippe Poirier, that his furniture was delivered to the principal patrons of the day - foremost amongst them being the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne.
BVRB is perhaps most celebrated for the employment of innovative materials in his furniture, particularly panels of Chinese and Japanese lacquer and, subsequently S©gvres porcelain plaques, all of which he obtained through the marchand-merciers. Indeed, the commode made by BVRB and supplied by Hébert for Queen Marie Lesczyinska's use at Fontainebleau in 1737 is the earliet example of lacquer-mounted furniture delivered to the Garde-Meuble. Likewise, he is also renowned for the extraordinary design, burnishing and chasing of his ormolu mounts, which are uniquely found amongst his oeuvre and do not recur, as was typically the case, on furniture by other makers. It is assumed, therefore, that he either designed and cast his own mounts - a rare practice for an ébéniste of the period and in direct contravention of the strict guild regulations - or that they were reserved by the bronzier for his exclusive use. In accordance with the guild rules, Van Risenburgh stamped his furniture, but he used only the initials BVRB and it was not until the 1950's that this abbreviated stamp was associated with this celebrated maker, (see J.P. Baroli, 'Le mystrieux B.V.R.B, enfin identifié', Connaissance des arts , March, 1957, where the commode offered here is illustrated).
A LOUIS XV ORMOLU-MOUNTED CHINESE BLACK, POLYCHROME AND GILT LACQUER AND VERNIS COMMODE
The serpentine-fronted moulded Portor marble top above a pair of doors mounted sans traverse with Chinese lacquer panels with European embellishments depicting figures within landscapes and peering from a window, the center with figures within a pavillion within walled enclosures against a tree-lined landscape, mounted with a central cartouche framing of C-scrolls, rocaille, and trailing flowers, within a C-scroll and floral outer border, the sides with a pair of waved doors enclosing a compartment with a shelf, the doors similarly decorated and mounted, the angles with ruffled shell and foliate angles, on splayed legs terminating in floral scroll-cast sabots, the marble top with stencilled inventory number '1214' to the underside, with very small initials in ink 'R.C. to top drawer, old repairs to the marble top, minor restorations to the lacquer, the ebonized uprights refreshed
THE PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN FAMILY
33in. (84cm.) high, 70in. (178cm.) wide, 27¼ (69cm.) deep
J.-P. Baroli, 'Le Mystérieux BVRB enfin identifié', Connaissance des Arts, March 1957, p. 58 (illustrated).