A Regence tortoiseshell and cut brass inlaid toilet mirror
Lot 177
An Important Regence brown tortoiseshell and brass marquetry Toilet Mirror,
Sold for £92,960 (US$ 149,001) inc. premium

Lot Details
A Regence tortoiseshell and cut brass inlaid toilet mirror A Regence tortoiseshell and cut brass inlaid toilet mirror A Regence tortoiseshell and cut brass inlaid toilet mirror A Regence tortoiseshell and cut brass inlaid toilet mirror A Regence tortoiseshell and cut brass inlaid toilet mirror
An Important Regence brown tortoiseshell and brass marquetry Toilet Mirror,
possibly attributable BVRB I,
applied with gilt-bronze mounts, the later shaped rectangular plate within a 'C' scroll and stylised flowerhead cast slip and moulded edge inlaid with trailing leaves and mother of pearl strawberry flowers and pink coral strawberries with lunette and flowerhead cast outer-border held with foliate clasps, headed by a female espagnolette mask on leaf cast scroll feet, the reverse ornately inlaid with Berainesque etched brass marquetry centred by a plume of feathers and trophies of war surmounted by a baldaquin with an owl, flanked by
Chinamen bearing fruit amongst strapwork, ho-ho birds, ladies sitting in riband tied swings, squirrels, canopies, fruit, foliage and female figures with dogs within a scrolling foliate border, the hinged easel back also inlaid with similar scrolling marquetry and a female mask, labelled on the reverse of the easel, Hamilton Palace No 998 78cm high, 58cm wide.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:Lot 998, Hamilton Palace Sale, Christie’s 17 June – 20 July, 1882

    A TOILET GLASS, in shaped Louis XIV. frame, by Buhl, the border inlaid with flowers and foliage in brass and mother o’pearl, mounted with ornaments of chased ormolu, and surmounted by a female mask, the back of tortoiseshell, inlaid with figures, birds, and ornaments of engraved brass 23in. by 19in.

    Lot 54, The Bretby Heirlooms, The Property of the Earl and Countess of Canarvon, Christies 4 June 1918, sold to Hanbury

    Style
    The design of this mirror first appeared in the published designs by André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), undated but thought to have appeared between c 1708 and 1720. The design has been closely associated with a mirror F50 of almost identical appearance at the Wallace Collection, bearing the coat of arms of Charlotte de Saint-Simon (1696-1763) the duchesse de Chimay. It originally had been made for the duchesse de Berry, daughter of the Regent, Philippe duc d’Orleans in 1713 and then given on her death in 1721 to her lady-in-waiting the duchesse de Saint-Simon, who in turn bequeathed it to her daughter (Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture, vol. II, pgs. 712-716).The design of the Hamilton Palace mirror is identical in outline, the chief difference being in the mounts. The gilt-bronze profile portraits of young boys with their puffed-out cheeks match the original Boulle design precisely and are found on other pieces of furniture attributed to Boulle. This provides one of the principal reasons for the attribution of the Wallace mirror to André-Charles Boulle himself.

    The marquetry design on the back of the Hamilton Palace mirror resembles the mirror from the Wallace Collection in its general dependence on the designs of Jean Berain (1640-1711). However, whereas the Wallace mirror is closely based on a published design by Berain, the design of the back of the Hamilton Palace mirror shows greater freedom and delicacy of design, as well as including chinoiserie figures, musicians, hunting trophies and animals. It can be compared with the designs of Claude Audran III, who created the small menagerie for the Duchesse de Bourgogne at Versailles (c1692) or the chinoiserie decoration in the cabinet du roi at the Chateau de la Muette by Watteau c1710. Such exotic decoration was particularly appropriate for objects to be used in the private spaces of the cabinet or bedroom.

    Technique
    The use of tortoiseshell (or turtleshell as in fact was the actual material) and brass developed by André-Charles Boulle and given his name was so popular that it was used by other Parisian cabinet-makers in the early eighteenth century. The Hamilton Palace mirror is unusual in the addition of mother-of-pearl, stained horn and ivory. This technique is found on a small number of late 17th-century French pieces, comprising a bureau mazarin at the Victoria and Albert Museum and two closely related desks, one made for the Duchesse de Retz and now in the Royal Collections, the other at the Getty Museum, which Gillian Wilson has argued was made for Maximilian of Bavaria. In addition a mirror was sold Christies, Important French Furniture 7 December 1995, lot 36 in the same technique and with virtually the same design on the back, although probably with restorations to the mounts and some of the marquetry.

    The marquetry of all three desks has been compared to that on the desk made for Maximilian of Bavaria, now in the Louvre. This desk, executed in Boulle marquetry of tortoiseshell and brass, uses specific combinations of the grotesque designs of Jean Berain I with chinoiserie figures and drolleries of animals. More importantly the central panel of the Maximilian of Bavaria desk and that of the sides of the Getty desk share the idiosyncratic use of obelisks and architectural motifs, which has led Georg Himmelheber to place all these pieces as coming from the same workshop.

    Bernard van Riesenburgh I and Jean Pierre Latz
    In their article on the group of furniture by the Master of the Maximilian desk, Ronfort and Augarde have made a strong case for this figure to be none other than Bernard Riesenborough I, (in Paris 1696 d.1738) father of the more famous mid-eighteenth century cabinet-maker of the same name. The close parallels between the design of the Hamilton Palace mirror and the use of the same unusual materials associated with the BVRB I workshop would indicate that both the Christies mirror and the Hamilton Palace mirror came from his workshop. A further link can be made between the chinoiserie figures from the mirror and those found on the top of a bureau mazarin in Munich, now attributed to BVRB I and dated c 1705.

    Henry Hawley first connected the designs of BVRB I to the work of Jean-Pierre Latz (c1691-1754) who is first recorded working in Paris in 1719. Hawley made the tentative suggestion that Latz might have worked for BVRB I. His son BVRB II was the executor of Latz’s will and Latz used many of the same patterns and mounts as BVRB I on his own furniture, having probably bought them on the dispersal of BVRB’s workshop at his death in . Hawley pointed out that most of the furniture attributable to Latz came from the end of his career, so that a closer link between the two cabinetmakers cannot be established. Like BVRB I, Latz specialised in clock-cases, which still formed the main activity of his workshop according the inventory taken at his death in 1754. Although the early work of Latz can still not be identified, it is interesting that he continued the use of mother-of-pearl, horn, tortoiseshell and brass for the clock cases he made for the Electors of Saxony and Prussia. Several of these clocks also show the use of the trophy motif, thus linking them closely with the design of the Hamilton Palace mirror.

    Alexander Hamilton Douglas (d 1852) 10th Duke of Hamilton
    Inheriting the title in 1819 the 10th Duke was described by G.F. Waagen as an ‘ardent lover of all styles of art’. He was famous for his purchases of early Renaissance and 16th century Florentine paintings and was a great collector of French furniture from the ancien regime. He was also a trustee of the British Museum and Vice-President of the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland (the predecessor of the National Gallery of Scotland). He is also famous for his pride, seen in his claim to be the true heir to the throne of Scotland, which may account for the number of portraits of the Medici family and other important European families. Although the Duke was himself a great admirer of Napoleon and he acquired paintings and sculpture of the Emperor, he showed no interest in acquiring furnishing from this period. In this he no doubt reflected the taste in England established by the Prince Regent for eighteenth-century French works of art.

    Hamilton Palace was enlarged and rebuilt by the 10th Duke after he inherited the title in 1819 from the 1820s to 40s. He invited Percier and Fontaine, Napoleon’s architects, to design the new palace, although in the end he chose a local architect, David Hamilton (1768-1843) to create a rather more old-fashioned façade in the Neo-Palladian style, based on earlier proposals by William Adam in 1730. The interiors of Hamilton Palace were richly decorated in coloured marbles, splendid tapestries and deep-coloured textiles, offering the visitor a magnificent if somewhat gloomy décor. The rooms were furnished with magnificent works of art, a great collection of paintings, furniture of royal provenance, including the highly important secretaire and commodes made by J.H. Riesener for Marie Antoinette, now at the Metropolitan Museum, and a commode by Cressent, now at Waddesdon as well as splendid contemporary tables and cabinets of pietra dura and marbles.


    Collecting Boulle furniture
    Boulle furniture was highly collected at the beginning of the nineteenth century and the 10th Duke of Hamilton was no exception. It is most likely that he acquired the mirror although the first record of its appearance at Hamilton Palace is in the inventory of 1876.

    Among the pieces of Boulle furniture bought by the Duke were the pair of great Boulle wardrobes, now in the Louvre, and which he bought at the sale of his father-in-law, William Beckford at the Fonthill Abbey Sale of 1823. These had probably been bought by Beckford from the dealer Robert Fogg, who acquired many goods in France from the Revolutionary sales and sold them to English collectors, among them the Prince or Wales, later George IV, and George Watson Taylor, one of the most extravagant of early 19th century collectors of French furniture. The sale catalogues of Phillips for 1818, 1819 and 1820 show a number of pieces, often with royal attributions arriving on the London market. The Duke acquired his own collections while on his travels on the Continent, from agents and dealers who scouted for furniture for him in Paris and in London. Robert Hume ( was one of his principal agents, acting as the Duke’s advisor in the building of Hamilton Palace, as his agent for the purchases of antiques on many occasions, including at the Fonthill sale, and in providing modern furniture in the same magnificent style. Equally French dealers such as Maelrond or the artist/dealer Ferréol de Bonnemaison (1766-1826) took advantage of the English interest in such works to provide the English market either with antique pieces from the ancient regime or modern works in a similar style. At the Bonnemaison sale in 1827, the Duke purchased a Boulle marquetry commode signed by Etienne Levasseur from the Comte d’Artois’ bedroom at the Hôtel du Temple and a pair of Boulle pedestals.


    Hamilton Palace Sale
    When the 12th Duke fell into financial difficulties, he sold the contents of the Palace in one of the greatest sales of the century, described by George Redford in The Times 1882 as ‘a collection as varied and complet in the illustration of pictorial art as it is distinguished especially by works in statuary of bronze and marble, by mosaic and pietra-dura work of the highest excellence, and by decorative objects of every kind upon a scale of great magnificence and extraordinary beauty’. At the time commentators noted the huge prices paid for the furniture and decorative arts, which often fetched more than the paintings. That so many of these pieces have ended up in museums throughout the United States, France and England is a testimony to their quality and to the long-standing passion for French furniture.


    Bibliography
    Henry Hawley, ‘Jean-Pierre Latz, cabinet-maker’ The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, September-October, 1970

    Daniel Augarde and Jean-Neré Ronfort ‘Le Maitre du Bureau de l’Electeur’, Estampille, January 1991

    Godfrey Evans, ‘The Hamilton Collection and the 10th Duke of Hamilton’, Journal of the Scottish Society of Art History, vol. 8, 2003 (we are grateful to Godfrey Evans for this reference)

    Ronald Freyburger, ‘Eighteenth-Century French Furniture from Hamilton Palace’, Apollo, December 1981


    Our grateful thanks to Adriana Turpin for the compilation of this footnote.
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