The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Cabinet
  • Etienne Levasseur (1721 - 1798)
  • France
  • c. 1775
  • Oak, pinewood, Macassar ebony, African ebony, contre-partie Boulle marquetry of turtleshell and brass, gilt bronze, green silk, glass, steel
  • Object size: 105 x 162.1 x 46 cm
  • Stamp: 'E LEVASSEUR JME' (twice)
  • F388
  • West Gallery III
Further Reading
  • A rectangular, break-front cabinet (bas d'armoire) veneered with ebony and contre-partie Boulle marquetry and mounted with gilt bronze. The central oval plaque depcits a scene known as the Rape of Helen, a story from Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid, with Paris ushering Helen down some steps to the water's edge during her abduction from Troy. This cabinet may have originally been sold with its pair, which may have been veneered in première-partie marquetry or may have been decorated with a central medallion depicting a different scene. Another cabinet in the Wallace Collection (F389) is very similar but is not the original companion piece.

    Although very much in the style of André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) and perhaps even derived directly from a Boulle model, this cabinet dates from the early Louis XVI period. Cabinets of this model were commissioned from Etienne Levasseur (1721-1798) by Claude-François Julliot, a dealer (marchand mercier) who specialised in buying and selling old and new Boulle furniture and who is likely to have supplied Levasseur with the mounts for this piece, which are casts after mounts on original Boulle pieces. During the 1760s and 1770s the appetite for Boulle furniture from art collectors and connoisseurs was very marked and Levasseur was one of several cabinet-makers who built up a good business restoring original pieces by André-Charles Boulle, producing copies of them, or making neo-classical interpretations of early eighteenth-century Boulle furniture.
    Cabinets such as this one were often used to store books.