An important and fine Empire gilt bronze mounted and parcel gilt thuya wood console table<BR />attributed to Jacob Desmalter <BR />early 19th century
Lot 1347W
An important and fine Empire gilt bronze mounted and parcel gilt thuya wood console table
Tuileries Palace
attributed to Jacob Desmalter
early 19th century
Sold for US$ 50,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
Property of a San Francisco collector
An important and fine Empire gilt bronze mounted and parcel gilt thuya wood console table
Tuileries Palace
attributed to Jacob Desmalter
early 19th century
The rectangular verde antico marble top above a frieze with berried laurel mounts centering a finely cast medallion of Zeus depicted with flowing hair, flanked at each end with a medallion depicting Ares to the left with flowing beard wearing a Trojan helmet with a golden oak leaf victor's wreath and Hector to the right with long hair and sideburns wearing a Trojan helmet also with golden oak leaf wreath, raised on giltwood winged lion monopodia supports on a reverse breakfront platform, the inside front top corner with Garde-Meuble paper label with the capital letter 'T' and inventory number '84' in ink; the center top support rail underside stamped with the marque au feu of a crown above the letter 'T' within an oval; the inside front rail with an illegible paper inventory label with an indistinct number; the rear back rail with a painted red inventory: 'M.G.M. E-12550 4A'; the underneath of the base with a paper printed label 'Sypher & Co, Successors to D. Marley, Antiques and Articles of Vertu, 739 & 741 Broadway, New York'.
height 41 1/4in (105cm); width 45in (114cm); depth 20 1/4in (51cm)


  • Provenance:
    Butterfield & Butterfield, November 6, 1985, Estate of James Cram, San Francisco, lot 990


    Zeus was both father of the gods and father of men and thus was considered the most powerful of the Olympian gods. Zeus created men and gave them homes on the face of the earth. As a punishment for the men, Zeus created the first women. Ares, god of War, was the son of Zeus. Ares was feared and hated, however, at the same time honored by all great warriors for his military prowess. When the Achaeans laid siege to Troy, Ares stood with the Trojans riding into battle in his chariot drawn by horses named Flame and Terror. Zeus forbade Ares from further engagement in the war as he wished the war to proceed according to his plans. To circumvent his father's wishes, Ares took mortal guise entering the body of Hector, son of King Priam of Troy. Hector thus imbued with Ares' superhuman strength fought heroically against the Achaeans. A vengeful Achilles eventually killed Hector outside the walls of Troy.


    The lion is one of the strongest animals of the earth, and when given wings it becomes a celestial creature, moving freely into the heavens. This legendary winged creature derives from Shedu in Sumerian and Akkadian mythology as a human headed winged bull or lion. The winged version seen today is that of St. Mark the Evangelist who became the patron saint of Venice when his body was brought back from Alexandria. Venice, as a republic, thrived for a millennium as a center of economic and artistic strength, and when Napoleon conquered that state in 1797, the winged lion symbol became one of his own.


    Jacob Desmalter (Francois-Honore-Georges Jacob) was from a dynasty of furniture makers that produced superb objects for over 80 years. His father, Georges Jacob (1739-1814), supplied furniture to the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne during the fourth quarter of the 18th century. His clients included the comte de Provence, comte d'Artois, and his commissions for Marie Antoinette include furnishings for the Petit Trianon, and the chateaux Fontainebleau, Versailles, St. Cloud and Rambouillet. At the end of the 18th century Georges Jacob's friendship with the republican painter Jacques-Louis David allowed him to weather the Revolution. In 1796 he sold his firm to his two sons who established Jacob Freres. Francois-Honore Jacob added Desmalter to his name in 1803 in memory of a family property in Burgundy. The Jacob brothers' successful relationship with the important designers Charles Percier and Pierre Francois-Leonard Fontaine led to many commissions in the new Neoclassical fashion based on antiquity, Etruscan, Greek and Roman motifs. First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine were among those who supported the new neoclassical taste and commissioned Jacob-Desmalter to work with Percier and Fontaine to furnish Malmaison and their Paris residence. In 1803 in preparation for his coronation, Napoleon and Josephine commissioned Percier and Fontaine to redesign the interior of the Tuileries Palace, soon to be their official residence. That year more than 330 pieces were ordered from Jacob-Desmalter to be delivered prior to the coronation, including Napoleon's throne. Throughout the reign of Napoleon I, Jacob-Desmalter was the primary provider of furnishings to the Imperial Garde-Meuble, designing and producing superb furnishings for Fontainebleau, the Grand Trianon, Saint Cloud, and Rambouillet. In 1810 Jacob-Desmalter refurbished apartments for Empress Marie-Louise upon her marriage to Napoleon in 1810. Denise Ledoux-Lebard (Le Mobilier Francais du XIXe Siecle) indicates that for the years 1803 to 1813, the cost of furnishings provided by the firm just for the Tuileries Palace totaled 541,765 F. After the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy under Louis XVIII in 1815, the firm of Jacob-Desmalter remained in favor and continued to receive commissions from the Crown.


    The Garde-Meuble was established under Louis XIV in the 17th century. Its purpose was the indexing, managing, and securing royal furniture, tapestries, carpets, bronzes, and other luxury furnishings. It continued to be administered by a central government department throughout the 18th century and was responsible for the movement of furnishings from one royal residence to another. Inventories were maintained and furniture was branded, labeled or stenciled in accordance to which royal residence the item was located. The Garde-Meuble also maintained large storage facilities in Paris. After the Revolution the department continued to exist but its purpose was managing the furnishings of the confiscated royal properties and furnishing the public spaces of the new republic. When Napoleon I ascended to the throne, the Garde-Meuble oversaw the movement, placement procurement, payment and inventorying of the Imperial furnishings.
    Records were meticulously maintained in written ledgers and journals. Items, particularly furniture, were labeled, branded, or stenciled with ciphers of the various residences, or text with inventory numbers. Whenever a piece was moved from one residence to another, would receive a new mark or label.. The brand (marque au feu on the underside of the top cross brace of the offered console table is one of the stamps used by the Garde-Meuble for the Tuileries during the Restoration period. (see Jean Nicolay, Maitres Ebenistes Francais au XVIIIe Siecle). The paper label on the inside front rail with the capital letter 'T' and the number '84' in black ink also indicate a Tuileries provenance. Traditionally the inventory letter 'T' was used for property in the Grand Trianon but in this case, it is probably for the Tuileries. Similar Empire examples with known to have Tuileries provenance, are also marked with the letter 'T" (see Denise Ledoux-Lebard, page 312, for an Jacob Freres giltwood fauteuil from the apartment of Mme Bonaparte at the Tuileries palace). The offered console also has an illegible partial Garde-Meuble label on the inside of the same rail. Unfortunately, a later label of the firm Sypher & Co. is glued over that label. During the Restoration period, Empire period furniture was moved to various residences of the returning monarchy. Under Napoleon III much of the remaining Empire furniture was either placed in warehouses or dispersed. That is one of the reasons that some of the Empire period imperial furniture survived the burning of the Tuileries palace during the Paris Commune of 1871. Later in the 1870s through the 1880s several auctions of furnishings from the Garde-Meuble took place but further auctions were stopped by the French government in the early 1890s.


    Although no records exist concerning when the offered table left the collection of the Garde-Meuble, there is a Sypher & Co. label on the underside of the offered console's base. This places the table in the United States as early as the fourth quarter of the 19th century. Sypher & Co. were successors to D. Morley Antiques, first established in 1821, and sold it to Sypher brothers in 1865. By 1878, Obadiah and Asa Sypher were at the fashionable address of 739 & 741 Broadway. They catered to wealthy Americans including the Astors and Vanderbilts, satiating their desire for fine European and Asian antique furniture, tapestries, silver and porcelain. They also produced high quality reproductions. Sypher & Co. assisted museums in acquiring property. The Metropolitan Museum has items in its collections that retain the same Sypher & Co. label found on the offered console, including a Federal games table by Lannuier.


    Decades later the Empire console table resurfaced in the collection of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (M.G.M.). It was common prior to the Second World War for movie studios to acquire and use antiques as props. MGM's award winning set designers traveled worldwide acquiring furniture, automobiles, statuary and tapestries. Often these would be bought at auction and estate sales. In 1970 MGM partnered with auctioneer David Weisz to clear out props from seven sound stages including antiques, costumes (Elizabeth Taylor's wedding dress from Father of the Bride (1950), statuary, and 11,000 pieces of furniture. The auction lasted three weeks. Several important finds from these sales have found their way in recent years to auction including the 'Marot' table in the 1990s. More recently a M.G.M. prop resurfaced in a Bonhams London saleroom on March 7, 2012, via Atherton California: the rediscovered "Seddon" Cabinet originally commissioned by King Carlos IV of Spain. That cabinet had the same MGM inventory labeling as the offered console. It is interesting to note that while film aspires to imitate life in the Golden era of Hollywood, the Hollywood Royalty were using props created for Royalty of another era.

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