The upper section inspired by traditional Japanese gateways, crowned with a three-quarter faux-bambou superstructure around which are coiled two dragons below a golden cloudscape, supporting a shelf with a further...
The upper section inspired by traditional Japanese gateways, crowned with a three-quarter faux-bambou superstructure around which are coiled two dragons below a golden cloudscape, supporting a shelf with a further pair of dragons to the angles, the convex-fronted cabinet’s main body with a focal three-dimensional scene in red lacquer and bronze electroplated with copper, silver and gold detail depicting a richly-robed geisha around which is curling a mythical wolf, below blossom and bamboo and with stylised traditional tea ceremony vessels to the foreground, within a border decorated with geometrical motifs referencing traditional Japanese textile prints, upon a rosewood door applied with hinges and locks in ornate scrolling stylised naturalistic forms, opening to reveal two shelves, the reverse of the door contoured in ebony studded with golden detail, the frieze drawer above, with a pull handle forms a gilt and enamel cicada, adorned with a gilt-framed cloisonné enamel panel depicting a butterfly and white floral scene against a turquoise-coloured background, finished with an echo of the aforementioned geometrical designs in latticework, flanked to each side by a further drawer, the square front applied with a gilt Fo dog mask and ring handle against a floral and abstract polychromatic enamel background, below which the flanks of the cabinet echo the frieze drawer decoration with added floral terminals to the latticework, to panelled sides, the base applied with foliate-etched clasps and a central pierced floral mount in gilt and patinated metal, the tapering stand with stiff-leaf frieze, above pierced decorative contours and stylised foliate element, resting on five legs joined by a stretcher, on leaf-form feet, circa 1874 - 1878, signed Christofle et CIE to the bottom right corner fo the door, the underside with shield-shaped paper U.S. Customs label inscribed Serial: 1108/Lot: C.C.&C.17 Dimensions: 76 ¾ in. (195 cm.) high; 33 ¼ in. (84.5 cm.) wide; 26 in. (66 cm.) deep Émile Reiber (1826-1893), designer Grohé Frères, cabinetmakers Eugène Capy (1829-1894), modeler Mallet, modeler Guignard, patina maker Antoine Tard, enameler Christofle Company, manufacturer Note Japanese artistic influence has so permeated the Western decorative landscape that it is hard to imagine a time when its very particular tones, textures and references would need translating. However, whilst Japanese art had long been sourced by Dutch traders to an elite of aristocratic and royal collectors, it was the opening up of Japan to international trade in the mid 19th Century, after 200 years of seclusion, that brought Japanese cultural influence into the Western mainstream. Particularly in France and England, Japanese techniques such as lacquerware, ceramics, and woodblock prints had a huge influence on domestic taste. This particular cabinet is the perfect distillation of the Japanophilia that swept across Europe in the decades that followed, which became known by the term coined in 1872 by French art critic Pilippe Burty: Japonisme. In some fields (especially in jewellery) these themes continued to curry favour until the 1920s, combined as they were here with the Chinoiserie and Orientalisme (Near Eastern) of the 18th Century. It is understandable that this cabinet and its pair, which now lives in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris (inv. 27662), were exhibited widely and both illustrated and written about, not only by Christofle at International Exhibitions but by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 1922 for an exhibition named ‘Le Décor de la vie sous le Second Empire’. The cabinets’ lent themselves perfectly as showcases of French artistic mastery and as a perfect three-dimensional manifesto for Japonisme. Christofle et Cie is still a household name today and was founded in Paris in 1830 by Charles Christofle. It is most well-known for having brought electroplating, or galvanoplastie, to France, having bought the patents for the revolutionary process from the British firm Frederick Elkington in 1842 and 1843. Pieces produced by this new technique were first exhibited at the ‘Exposition des produits de l'industrie française’ in Paris, in 1844 and won the firm a gold medal and its founder the Légion d'Honneur. Shortly afterwards, Charles Christofle was appointed Fournisseur officiel du Roi Louis-Philippe and, in 1855, Fournisseur de l'Empereur, supplying fine quality pieces, predominantly tableware, for the various palaces and ministerial offices of Napoleon III. By 1855 Maison Christofle employed 1200 workers. The commercial success brought by the production of electroplated silverware firmly established Christofle as France's leading manufacturer of gold and silverware in the second half of the 19th century. Following Charles Christofle's death in 1863 the firm passed to his son Paul (1838-1907) and nephew Henri Bouilhet (1830-1910) who worked to promote fine workmanship and good design which they prominently showcased at the international exhibitions. In 1865 Christofle appointed Émile-Auguste Reiber (1826-1893) as head of their design studio. Reiber was an incredibly erudite and respected designer and the founder of the influential design magazine ‘L’Art pour Tous’ and collaborator of fellow Alsatian, the famous potter Theodore Deck (1823 – 1891). Reiber designed Deck’s most famous work, a porte-bouquet in 1863 and there would be many examples of examples produced by Christofle in metalwork that mirror Deck’s production in ceramic. An avid Japanophile, in 1877 Reiber published ‘Le Premier Volume des Albums-Reiber’ under the heading ‘Propagande Artistique du Musee Reiber’. This collection of 98 designs included everything from costumes to ceramics and interestingly, many similar patterns to the abstract geometric latticework elements of this cabinet. These albums contained not only Japanese designs but Chinese, Islamic and Classical motifs too. In the introduction Reiber explains that it was with the purpose of bringing new design ideas to the fertile minds of fellow designers in light of the impending 1878 International World fair. This is testimony to his erudition on the subject and goes a way to explain the incredible designs that he produced for both Christofle and Deck. However, it is only at Christofle that Rieber could have found the skill to bring to life his most ambitious projects, as only they had the clout connections and means to gather the considerable technical capabilities in orfévrerie, galvanoplastie (electroplating) and bronzework necessary under one roof. Reiber’s designs were executed by the sculptor or modeller, Monsieur Mallet, the bronze patination by Monsieur Guignard, ‘un homme ingénieux et d'un grand goût dans ses décorations artistiques de l'orfévrerie et du bronze’ who by 1874 had thirty years’ experience at Christofle, and the enameller Antoine Tard. Antoine Tard had reputedly invented cloisonne enamels without being aware of the Chinese precedent and they were described as the equal of the most beautiful cloisonné from China. Antoine Tard first exhibited cloisonné enamel at the Paris 1867 exhibition with a dish for Christofle that now resides in the V&A Museum in London. His work for Christofle and goldsmith Emile Philippe caused quite a stir in 1867 and he went on to be credited with the enamel work on many of the godfather of Japonisme/Chinoiserie’s enamelled jewellery: Alexis Falize. Guignard’s skill with bronze patination was commended with reference to the gilt, silvered and patinated bronze panels of geishas to these cabinets: “il nous faut citer parmi les plus précieux collaborateurs de Christofle, Guignard, l'auteur de ces patines métalliques, dont les deux meubles d'encoignures sont, comme dessin et comme exécution, les deux plus merveilleux exemples que nous connaissions” (Les Beaux-arts et les arts décoratifs, Exposition universelle de 1878, Gazette des Beaux-arts Paris, 1879, p.313). With the decoration taken care of in-house, the cabinet itself was the work of highly respected Parisian firm Grohe. The company had been established in the mid-1820s and exhibited at the major exhibitions throughout the 19th century and supplied furniture to the French Royal households at Tuileries, Saint-Cloud and Fontainebleau, and to Queen Victoria for Windsor Castle. The collaboration between these exemplary craftsmen and artists created one of the most admired objects of the Japonisme movement, which was acquired by one of the most famous and infamous characters of the Parisian social scene in the mid 19th Century. In 1922 when the two cabinets were lent by the Maison Christofle heirs the Bouilhet family for an exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, they were cited as having been created for Mme de Paiva. Born Esther Pauline Lachmann in Russia in 1819, this extraordinary character rose from modest beginnings to captivate the attention of the beau monde of Paris from her legendary hôtel particulier on the Champs-Élysées. The salon in particular had been built by a team of artists, between 1856 and 1866 under the direction of the architect Pierre Manguin. Hôtel de la Païva was considered one of the finest and most opulent examples of private architecture and interior design at the height of the Second Empire. It had been made possible by La Paiva’s third husband Count Henckel von Donnersmarck who was one of the richest men in the world, who had also bought her Château de Pontchartrain. The path that had led to this financially advantageous union is an infamous one with many liaisons and broken hearts across Berlin, Vienna and London. Notably amongst these, her Portugese second husband (after which she was called ‘La Païva’), Albino Francesco Araújo de Païva, who took his own life when he heard of her relationship with Count Henckel von Donnersmarck. Scandal was very much inherent to La Païva’s personal story and did not end with her romantic life as in 1877 she was forced to leave France and relocate permanently to their neo-renaissance palace, Schloss Neudeck, on their estates in Upper Silesia in modern-day Poland. This impressive abode was decorated by Charles Rossigneux (1818-1907) who worked extensively with Maison Christofle and bought a large part of the furnishings at the International Exhibition in Vienna in 1873, where Christofle exhibited. Christofle produced many of the important elements of interior decoration, including a wrought iron and bronze staircase. In 1875 Christofle sent to Schloss Neudeck twenty-eight boxes and two specialists to assemble the contents. Whether the Japonisme cabinets were created for this castle and never delivered or indeed for Paris and returned when the couple relocated, it is unclear. They remained together in the Bouilhet family until 1930 when one was gifted by Andre and Tony-Henri Bouilhet in memory of Henri Bouilhet to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.
Maison Christofle et Cie. By repute made for the Marquise de Païva (1819-1884). Henri Bouilhet (1830-1910) and by descent to: André Bouilhet (1866-1932). Private Collection, France. Property of a Private European Collection; Christie's, London, 23 February 2006, Lot 100. With Oscar Graf, Paris, 2012. Private Collection Christie's London, The Exceptional Sale, 8th July 2021, lot 10.
1874, Exposition l'Union Central des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. 1878, Exposition Universelle, Paris. 1883, International Colonial and Export Exhibition, Amsterdam. 1889, Exposition universelle, Paris. 1891. French Exhibition, Moscow. 1893, The World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago. 1900, Exposition universelle, Paris, Musée Centennal, Mobilier & Decoration à l’exposition universelle international de 1900, à Paris, Rapport de la Commission d’Installation, Paris, # 311 ‘Deux meubles d’encoignure japonais, executes ca 1874’, p.89. 1922, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Pavillon de marsan, Palais du Louvre, Le Décor de la vie sous le Second Empire, Paris, 27 May - 10 July 1922, n°544 ‘Deux Encoignures exécutées pour Mme de Païva, d’après le dessin de Reiber. Ébénisterie de Grohé, bronzes et cloisonnés de Christoph[l]e A M. A. Bouilhet’.
This cabinet: Les Beaux-arts et les arts décoratifs, Exposition universelle de 1878, Gazette des Beaux-arts, Paris, 1879, p. 311. C. Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'art français: 1850-1900, Paris, 2010, Fig. 164, p. 147. Roberto Polo The Eye, a selection of masterpieces from the collections which he has formed, Paris, 2011, no. pp. 203, 208-210. Le Quotidien de l’art, Paris, no. 215, 13 September 2012, p.11. W. Zeisler, L’objet d’art et de luxe Français en Russie (1881-1917), 2014, Fig. 21, p. 32. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs cabinet: H. Henry, Dictionnaire de l'ameublement et de la décoration depuis le XIIIème siècle jusqu'à nos jours, Paris, Quantin, 1887-1890, Vol. II, ill. Fig 296, p.395. Gazette des Beaux Arts et des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1878. Tome 1, page 304, a similar cabinet illustrated. Odile Nouvel-Kammerer Le Mobilier français, Napoleon III, Années 1880, page 69, a similar cabinet illustrated. Denise Ledoux-Lebard Le mobilier français du XIXième siècle, page 128, a similar cabinet illustrated. Penelope Hunter-Stiebel and Odile Nouvel-Kammerer Matières de Rêves: Stuff of Dreams from the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs, catalogue from the exhibition, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, 2002, pages 86-7, a similar cabinet illustrated.