The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Chest-of-drawers
  • Attributed to François Mondon (1696-c.1775)
  • France
  • c. 1740
  • Pinewood, veneered with walnut, ebony, contre-partie Boulle marquetry of turtleshell, green-stained horn, mother-of-pearl, brass, Sicilian jasper, gilt bronze and steel
  • Object size: 86.5 x 150.2 x 70 cm
  • Stamp: 'F M' (four times)
  • F406
  • East Galleries I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Commodes like this, with two large drawers below two smaller ones, were known as commodes en tombeau, and became very popular from the second decade of the eighteenth century. Often veneered with tropical hardwoods imported from abroad, and with rich gilt-bronze mounts applied to emphasise the corners, feet and handles, commodes became a regular feature of French interiors.

    This one is veneered with walnut, ebony and contre-partie Boulle marquetry of red and green stained horn and mother of pearl to give it an expensive and luxurious aspect. Stamped on the carcase with the initials ‘FM’, it is thought to have been made in the workshop of François Mondon, a cabinet-maker operating from the rue du faubourg Saint-Antoine in Paris from c. 1720-70 who specialised in commodes of this shape. His workshop premises also included a shop, from where he sold his own furniture and those pieces he had sub-contracted to other cabinet-makers.

    The prominent corner mounts represent the busts of two Roman generals. These mounts are almost the same models as those found on pieces of furniture by Charles Cressent (1685-1768), underlining the difficulties in attributing furniture to cabinet-makers on the basis of gilt-bronze mounts. When these two busts were added is unknown, but the quality of the chasing is not of the standard found on authenticated work by Cressent, suggesting that unauthorised copies of Cressent’s models were used. The generals also show no evidence of ever having been gilded; although unusual for the nineteenth century, furniture mounts in the eighteenth century were often left un-gilded, even by cabinet-makers as eminent as Cressent, but instead underwent a less expensive treatment to give the brass from which they were made a gilded appearance. The other mounts on this commode – such as those on the apron and the handles – are gilded, and are found elsewhere on Mondon’s furniture as well as on pieces by other cabinet-makers of his generation such as Etienne Doirat, Louis Delaître, Pierre IV Migeon and Mondon’s brother-in-law, Jacques-Philippe Carel. This underlines the importance to the evolution of French eighteenth-century furniture of the ‘marchands fondeurs’, or bronze-makers who sold the mounts to cabinet-makers. It appears that cabinet-makers themselves owned the exclusive models to their mounts only rarely.