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A large scale pair of giltwood Louis XV fauteuils. They have a serpentine top rail with a boldly carved vase at the centre hung with a laurel swag. The arms are scrolled and elegantly join the seat rails. The front rail is similarly decorated to the back top rail and the vase motif is repeated. The fauteuils stand on cabriole legs, each surmounted by a carved fan motif. Throughout, the carving is of exceptional quality.Seat height: 16½in (42cm)Gilding refreshed.This pair of fauteuils is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Primarily they are of unusually generous proportions. Secondly though pre-eminently of rococo design the swag-hung vase motif is a neo-classical motif and therefore places these chairs very much at the birth of the Neo-classical revival. Though unstamped, their design finds no direct parallel which leads one to suppose an author rather than a generic workshop production. The menuisier, Louis Delanois, was one of the forerunners in the classical revival and there is a chair illustrated by Svend Eriksen, plate XXIV in his monograph on Louis Delanois published in 1968. This chair which is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York bears various decorative parallels which might suggest Delanois as a name but there is no certainty. The vase motif which is the only neo-classical element on the fauteuils is probably the most ubiquitous of all decorative devices from this era. To find such a confident use of this motif in a pair of chairs, otherwise wholly rococo in expression, is most unusual. The reaction against the perceived frivolity of rococo design began almost at once. However, it is not until the mid 1750's that one begins to see menuisiers starting to introduce a hybrid of the two schools. Svend Eriksen's seminal work 'Early neo-classicism in France', published in 1974, explores how what we know as the Louis XVI style had fully eroded the fluidity of the Louis XV rococo style by the time of his coronation in 1774. In the above-mentioned volume the derivation of the vase motif as coming from students at the French Academy in Rome is discussed. Once a student had won the Grand Prix de Rome at the Académies Royales they were sent at the King's expense to Rome to study and draw from classical antiquity. Many of these young students sent back drawings and capricci of vases and other ornament. These were then published and distributed as an inspiration for menuisiers, bronziers and ebenistes. Several albums of these survive and Eriksen illustrates examples by Neufforge 1755, Le Lorrain 1752 or earlier, Vien 1753 and Saly as early as 1746, and several others. The vase seems to have been used as a rallying cry for a neo-classical idea representing not only classical antiquity but also the flowering of the late Baroque in Rome which reminded artists of the decorative grammar of the Louis XIV period and before. By employing the vase as a decorative motif, designers were thus able to sandwich the rococo period between the perceived gravitas and simplicity of classical epochs. Seat height: 16½in (42cm)
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