The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Chest-of-drawers
  • Chest-of-drawers
  • René Dubois (1737 - 1798)
  • France
  • c. 1765
  • Brecciated Sarrancolin marble; oak veneered with Japanese lacquer, amaranth stained black and mahogany stained black (on the legs); gilt bronze; silk, paper and gimp (lining drawers)
  • Object size: 93 x 157.5 x 57 cm
  • Stamp: 'I DUBOIS / JME'
    Stamp: 'VITEL'
    Stamp: 'JME / I DUBOIS; X / VITEL'
  • F245
  • West Room
Commentary
History
Images & Media
  • Frustratingly, we do not know who this fabulous commode table was made for, although in the past it has been linked to both Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour. The extravagant mix of luxurious materials such as Japanese lacquer and gilt bronze suggest it was an important commission and certain elements of its design, such as the sirens mounted on the corners, point to the work of one of the foremost architects of the second half of the eighteenth century, Charles de Wailly. De Wailly was at the forefront of the early neo-classical movement in Paris, and was instrumental in bringing the goût-grec, or so-called Greek taste, into fashion. Here you can see the classically-inspired sirens, but also egg-and-dart moulding derived from ancient architecture, references to Hercules, including the lion pelt encircling the keyhole and the club-shaped legs, and allusions to the goddess of love, Venus, in the billing doves and gilt-bronze roses; love is further emphasised by Cupid’s bow and quiver, on which the doves are perched, pointing to a love or marriage theme behind the commission.
    The commode table was intended to stand underneath a pier glass between two windows, and is a form more frequently found during the Louis XV period than in the subsequent reign. It has a single drawer and two side cupboards.
    Lacquer wares were imported into Europe from China and Japan and pieces of lacquer were often incorporated into European furniture. Lacquer was extremely expensive and was reused in new, fashionable pieces of furniture. In consequence, pieces which originally belonged to different panels were sometimes jumbled together in a collage. On the drawer front of this commode table you can see that the lacquer is made up of small pieces which bear no relation to each other. The gilt-bronze fretwork cleverly hides the joins.