The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Side table
  • Side table
  • Attributed to André-Charles Boulle (1642 - 1732)
  • Jean-François Leleu (1729 - 1807), Restorer
  • France
  • c. 1705
    1764 - 1807 (Louis XVI style cassolette probably added during restoration by Leleu)
  • Oak, pinewood, walnut, gilt bronze, brass and première- and contre-partie Boulle marquetry of brass and turtleshell
  • Object size: 78.5 x 120 x 50.5 cm
  • Stamp: 'J.F. LELEU' (twice)
  • F425
  • Billiard Room
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This bow-fronted table is very similar to another in the Wallace Collection (F424) except for the marquetry designs on the tops. On this one, monkeys play and carouse in human dress, a theme satirising the folly of man that was popular in seventeenth-century Flanders and later in eighteenth-century France. Elements of the composition were taken from a copy of an engraving by Pieter van der Borcht IV (1580-1608). On the other, Cupid sits on a swing above an elaborate triumphal chariot carried on the backs of two oxen; the motifs are borrowed from engravings by Cornelis Bos (c. 1506-c. 1564). André-Charles Boulle was an inveterate collector of prints and drawings and possessed a large collection, from which many of his ideas were sourced.
    The design may be related to the smaller tables supplied by Boulle for the château de la Ménagerie in 1701. This was renovated by Louis XIV for the duchesse de Bourgogne, his beloved great-niece and the future mother of his great-grandson, Louis XV. The decoration was planned by the architect Jules-Hardouin Mansart and included furniture on a reduced scale, including seven tables supplied by Boulle. The decoration of monkeys, birds and foliate motifs would have harmonised perfectly with the interior decoration of the chateau and the portraits of animals which lined the walls.
    A drawing in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris shows a model of table similar to the Wallace Collection pair. The design reappeared, captioned as a 'Grande Table' and with a female mask on the drawer front, in a set of Boulle's engravings that was published as ‘Nouveaux Deisseins de Meubles et Ouvrages de Bronze et de Marqueterie’ (‘New Designs of Furniture and Works of Bronze and Marquetry’) sometime after 1707. Evidently a successful model, Boulle’s workshop made several variations over the years, with differing mounts on the legs.
    From eighteenth-century sales catalogues we can tell that tables of this type existed both as individual models and as pairs and that they were designed to be placed on either side of a chimney, or between windows. The tops were of marquetry, as in this example, or of leather or marble. This table has been displayed as a pair with F424 since 1870, but they may have been together since the late 18th century since they share the same key for their drawers. The differences in height and framing of the marquetry tops, however, suggest that they were originally intended as single tables.
    Three groups of tables of this type have been identified; the first consists of tables that follow the Boulle drawing in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs quite closely and have tops, where they survive, that either show this 'Birdcage' design or the 'Triumphal Chariot' design found on F424. The second and probably later group are generally slightly larger and have female heads at the tops of the front legs instead of the satyr masks found on this table, while the third group are considered to be the products of mid-18th century ébénistes responding to the later demand for furniture in the Boulle style.
    Stamped beneath the back rail of the stretcher is the mark ‘J.F. LELEU', the mark used by Jean-François Leleu (1729-1807, maitre 1764) who probably restored the table and may have added the cassolette of strongly Louis XVI character in the centre of the stretcher.