A Krieger bureau plat
Lot 1188W
An impressive Louis XV style gilt-bronze mounted marquetry inlaid and bisque porcelain inset bureau plat
Maison Krieger
after the bureau du roi by J. -F. Oeben and J. -H. Riesener
circa 1900
Sold for US$ 362,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
An impressive Louis XV style gilt-bronze mounted marquetry inlaid and bisque porcelain inset bureau plat
Maison Krieger
after the bureau du roi by J. -F. Oeben and J. -H. Riesener
circa 1900
The rectangular top of arc-en-arbalète outline inset with a tooled leather writing panel and fitted with four short drawers to the shaped apron with opposing faux drawers, raised on cabriole legs, inset with oval bisque panels to the sides depicting the Three Graces and inlaid with marquetry panels depicting ribbon tied bouquets, foliate and floral trailing ornament, shells, coral and draped pearls, all with ribbon tied berried and foliate encadrements, the cabriole legs headed by lion pelt chutes trailing to scroll sabots, the lock plate inscribed M[AIS]ON KRIEGER / AMEUBLEMENT / PARIS.
height 31in (79cm); width 70 1/4in (178cm); depth 36in (92cm)

Footnotes

  • The bureau du roi in Versailles is perhaps the most famous piece of furniture in the world, and is certainly among the most luxurious furniture creations of the eighteenth century. Louis XV ordered this cylinder-top desk from Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763), who at the time of his premature death in 1763 had already completed its design and a good part of its production. Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806), who married Oeben's widow and took over his business, completed the bureau in 1769 for a final cost of 62,000 livres, one of the highest prices ever paid for a piece of furniture until that time (in comparison, the average annual salary of a worker throughout most of the eighteenth century was approximately 300 livres).

    The bureau would occupy Riesener for the rest of his career, as attested by his numerous invoices for the polishing and cleaning of its bronzes, and the care of its extremely complicated mechanisms (the cylinder apparently opened and the writing slide moved forward, all with the simple turn of a key – altered in the nineteenth century, no one has since been able to recreate the original mechanism). At the height of the Revolutionary fervor, Riesener even covered the royal double-L monogram with biscuit porcelain plaques so that the desk would not be disfigured or sold by anti-royalists.

    The first known copy of the bureau du roi was created in circa 1860 for Richard Seymour Conway, Fourth Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870). Hertford employed Carl Drechsler for this ambitious project, a little-known ébéniste who worked for the celebrated sculptor and bronze maker Charles Crozatier. Through his friendship with Emperor Napoleon III, Hertford gained access for Drechsler to the bureau itself, allowing him to make casts of the bronze mounts and produce a faithful and stunning copy, today housed in the Wallace Collection in London.

    Henry Dasson was next to try his hand at this tour de force of furniture making, and he exhibited his copy of the bureau at the Paris Exposition universelle of 1878. As Dasson had taken over Drechsler's business upon the latter's death in 1867, it can be assumed that he inherited at least some of the models and the bronze casts of the desk Drechsler had created for the Marquess of Hertford. Further examples are also known by Zwiener, Beurdeley, Jansen and Linke, and were created for such prestigious clients as Ludwig II of Bavaria and Russian Czar Nicholas II.

    Examples such as the present model – as a bureau plat without the cylinder top – are rare, however. An eighteenth-century model does exist: a bureau plat was created as a companion to the bureau du roiin 1786, ordered by Louis XVI for his cabinet intérieur at Versailles. By Guillaume Jean-Benneman under the supervision of Jean Hauré and today a part of the Rothschild collection at Waddesdon Manor, this bureau plat differs from the Versailles cylinder bureau in a number of significant details: the modeling of the bronzes, somewhat crisper and more detailed than on Oeben and Riesener's work; the design of the marquetry panels, and especially the fact that Benneman's bureau plat still conserves the marquetry double-L monogram that Riesener later covered with the blue-ground biscuit plaques.

    It would seem therefore that Krieger, in creating the present example, used the original bureau du roi (or Drechlsler and Dasson's versions) as a model, rather than the bureau plat at Waddesdon manor. This could be explained simply by the proximity of the Versailles model. An example by Beurdeley illustrated in Mestdagh, fig. 295, p. 254, also appears to have been based on Oeben and Riesener's work.

    The Maison Krieger was founded in 1826 by Antoine Krieger (1804-1869), and was one of the longest-running fine furniture businesses of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although it changed names several times, it remained in family hands (primarily the family of Krieger's wife, the Damons, and his son-in-law, Cosse) until the mid-twentieth century. By the late nineteenth century, Krieger was one of the largest producers of furnishings in Paris, and their factories extended over five acres in the Faubourg St. Antoine.

    Literature:
    Pierre Verlet, Le Mobilier royal français, Picard, 1992, II, pp. 63-75.

    Camille Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'art français 1850-1900, Les Editions de l'Amateur, 2010, p. 19; pp. 76-78.
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