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Origin: France
Circa Date: 1820
Stock No: F2J0348
Location: London
H: 31.9 in (81.0 cm)
W: 49.2 in (125.0 cm)
L/D: 32.7 in (83.0 cm)
Price Range:
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A fine and rare rosewood parcel gilt Empire bureau plat having leather covered slides at each end and a double tier of citronnier lined drawers in the frieze. The table stands on four parcel gilt leopards head monopodia, each end joined by stepped plinth stretcher. Signed Molitor and baring the JME stamp.

Gilding restored. The leather replaced.

Bernard Molitor led a charmed life. He was born in Betzdorf, Luxembourg in 1755 and trained as a sculptor before tiring of provincial life and moving to Paris probably before 1778. He lived through the most turbulent of times and survived the French Revolution, the Terror, the Empire and even the Restoration without serious loss. At his death in 1833, at the then very senior age of seventy-eight, he left a substantial fortune. The great and famous ébénistes of the late 18th and 19th centuries rarely enjoyed a lifetime of financial stability, let alone the ability to survive political upheaval. The life and work of Bernard Molitor are exceptional from this perspective alone, before you even examine his prodigious output.

Early on in his career his business acumen came to the fore. In 1778, he is recorded in the 'Petites Affiches' advertising a patent insect killer. Later, in 1782, he advertised an ingenious patent hand warmer, fashioned as a small pile of books; the box in mahogany or walnut, had a metal liner which could be filled with hot coals. However, Molitor's output was not limited to innovative gadgets. He had a cabinetshop which he leased at the Arsenal and enjoyed considerable success, though it was not until 1787 that he was received as a maître.

In 1788, Bernard Molitor made the usual 'political' marriage to which successful cabinetmakers seem predisposed. He married Elizabeth Fessard, daughter of the charpentier du roi. Perhaps it is cynical to see this marriage as entirely motivated by career, as Molitor had already received a royal commission but he soon received frequent commissions from the Queen's circle.

The Revolution brought ruin to many and death at the guillotine. The ace Molitor held was that his cousin, Michel, had been actively involved in the storming of the Bastille; so with his help, Bernard, though interrogated, managed to avoid arousing serious Revolutionary suspicions. Over the following decades, he was honoured with commissions from the Emperor Napoleon, King Jerome of Westphalia and many private noble collectors including the duc de Choiseul-Praslin. Molitor's remarkable survival owes most to the fact that he managed to create a style that was both simple and original. His work was clearly individual as well as not being too intrusive. Above all other factors, Molitor achieved success over this extended period because his work was reliably of outstanding quality.

Leben, Ulrich. 1992. Bernard Molitor. Philip Wilson Publishers.


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