ChicagoWilson, Gillian, Arlen Heginbotham, Jessica Chasen, et al. “Pair of corner cupboards.” In French Rococo Ébénisterie in the J. Paul Getty Museum, by
and Arlen Heginbotham, edited and with an introduction by Anne-Lise Desmas.
Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum,, 2021. http://www.getty.edu/publications/rococo/catalogue/12/.
MLAWilson, Gillian, et al. “Pair of corner cupboards.” French Rococo Ébénisterie in the J. Paul Getty Museum, by
Gillian Wilson and
J. Paul Getty Museum, 2021. http://www.getty.edu/publications/rococo/catalogue/12/. Accessed DD Mon. YYYY.
By Jacques Dubois (French, 1694–1763, master 1742)
White oak veneered with pear* and bloodwood, set with leather panels of Chinese black lacquer, and painted with European lacquer; gilt bronze mounts; brass and iron hardware and locks; brèche d’Alep top
H: 3 ft. 2 1/4 in., W: 2 ft. 7 1/2 in., D: 1 ft. 11 1/4 in. (97.2 × 80 × 58.7 cm)
Each corner cupboard has a bowed front and is fitted with a single lockable door. It is supported on four short legs, three of which are of cabriole form. The two outer legs are five-sided in section, while that in the center front has an almost flat outer surface and a curved back. The fourth leg at the back of the piece is L-shaped in section, fitted with a block of smaller dimensions. The stone tops are of brèche d’Alep, cut to conforming shape and with a molded front edge.
The corners are set with pierced gilt bronze mounts. Each consists of a central cabochon set in a C-scroll, edged by a leafy border. This is enclosed on either side by hipped scrolls of C and S form, fringed with a shell-like form, terminating in scrolling leaves below and rising above to an S-shaped platform, resting on and supporting leafy motifs. A leafy twig bearing three berries rises from the lower part of the mount, twining and appearing to either side of the main arrangement as it rises. Each corner mount is the reverse of the one opposite it.
A straight mount of overlapping leaves and berries descends from this mount to the top of the leg, where it joins a cluster of acanthus leaves. These leaves overhang a concave molding that extends horizontally across the front of the corner cupboard, immediately below the single door. A short plain molding extends from the acanthus leaves down the outer edge of each outer leg to the scrolled and pierced foot mount. Each foot is composed of S-scrolls enclosing an arrangement of leaves from which rises a short stem carrying leaves and berries, set against a large divided leaf. A mount of the same model is set on the central foot, and a twisted rope molding rises from either side to outline the lower profile of the corner cupboard. Above the central leg is a small mount in the form of a shell flanked by foliated C-scrolls.
The door is set with a large continuous framing mount composed of C- and hipped S-scrolls set with leaves. On either side rise twining leafy branches carrying berries. Shorter flowering branches emerge above and descend to either side. The center of the upper part of the frame is composed of four addorsed C-scrolls asymmetrically arranged, set with leaves, leafy twigs, and berries. In the middle of the lower section of the framing mount is a larger rising asymmetrical arrangement of C-scrolls set above a large pierced shell, which is supported by further C-scrolls. Short branches bearing flowers emerge from the left and above.
The doors are set with leather panels of Chinese black lacquer featuring three tones of gold and touches of vermilion and red ocher. The scene on corner cupboard .1 shows an open fenced area in front of a house with a pillared porch. Above right are three horses depicted in two tones of gold on which is set a lord attended by two members of his court and servants carrying fans. In front of the house are ten more servants, each wearing a short-brimmed hat, engaged in various actions. Two carry swords, two carry red staves, two carry standards, and two beat drums. Another carries a large flag that the wind has wrapped around his body. The tenth figure is damaged, and it is not possible to define his task. In the center are seven more servants. One carries a sword, another a flag, and two carry standards. The activities of the remaining figures are not comprehensible, probably due to incorrect overpainting. The ground is painted with tufts of grass, and a tree emerges from behind a rock on the lower right.
The lacquer on cupboard .2 depicts a large open temple held up by columns. Inside are three figures, one bearded and seated, and two large drums. A fourth man stands on the staircase and receives a letter from a messenger. To the left of the temple a large tree stands in front of various structures. Above is a group of four warriors. All carry swords. One bears a standard, and two others carry scepters on the ends of long red poles.
The remaining surfaces on the facades of the corner cupboards are decorated with European black lacquer, and each door is outlined with a narrow border of gold paint. Each lock plate is partly concealed by the framing mount. Set between broad scrolls and a leafy emergence, they take the form of simple stippled plates centered by keyholes. The interior surface of each door is veneered with an outer frame of quartersawn bloodwood surrounding four panels of the same veneer. The cupboards are fitted with a single shelf, and the entire interior surface is covered in European vermilion red lacquer (fig. 12-1).
Each corner cupboard is stamped on top of the front right leg stile “IDUBOIS” once and “JME,” for jurande des menuisiers-ébénistes twice (fig. 12-2).
The corner cupboards are stamped “IDUBOIS,” for Jacques Dubois.1 A pair of corner cupboards in the Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome carries a framing mount on their single doors of the same floral and extremely asymmetrical model (fig. 12-3).2 They are stamped by Dubois, and apart from having similar profiles and measurements (105 x 85 x 54 cm) they carry mounts elsewhere of differing models and are veneered with bois de bout marquetry. No other corner cupboards of this design by Jacques Dubois are known.
Corner mounts of the same model can be seen on a small commode veneered with Chinese lacquer and stamped by Dubois in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.3 A commode stamped by this master veneered with amaranth banding and bearing corner and feet mounts of the same model was sold in Paris in 1954.4 A bureau plat set with corner mounts of this model and veneered with panels of lacquer, of similar form to that in the musée du Louvre made for the duc de Choiseul,5 was sold from the Patiño Collection in New York in 1986.6 In an inventory taken of Dubois’s large workshop at his death in 1763 the following is listed: “2 grandes encoignures aussi de vernis de la Chine à cartels, prisées 1 000 l.”7
In J. Paul Getty’s diary for 1950 he notes that in September he visited Lionel Levi of Cameron’s in London, where he saw “a fine pair of Louis XV lacquer encoignures L3,500. Agreed to the price.”8 Evidently the final transaction with Getty was held a month later by Levi’s associate Frank Partridge, and the price given in the files of the Museum is $11,931.93. The cupboards were sent to Malibu, but Getty asked for their return in 1960, and they remained in Sutton Place until just before his death. They were returned to the Museum in 1975. The years of exposure to the uncontrolled climate in both Sutton Place and the Ranch House in Malibu have taken their toll on the Chinese lacquer. They have been restored and repainted so many times that little of their original surface remains visible (see “Technical Description” below). For this reason the corner cupboards have never been on display in the Museum.
A note in the Museum’s files states that the corner cupboards were once in the collection of Nathaniel von Rothschild of Vienna.9 This provenance appears to be incorrect. Nathaniel von Rothschild’s collection was in part restituted in 1947 to Clarice von Rothschild, who sent it to Rosenberg & Stiebel in New York. Gerald Stiebel cannot find a mention of the corner cupboards in the company’s archives and thinks it is unlikely that his forebears would have passed them to a London dealer.10 The original invoice, provided by Frank Partridge, makes no mention of a Rothschild provenance. In Collector’s Choice Getty writes, “I have a pair of black lacquer Louis XV encoignures by Dubois. I’d been in the market for such a pair for about fifteen years before I saw these at Partridge’s in London. Their beauty and elegance so impressed me that I bought them—regardless of their high price—without hesitation. Frank Partridge was under the impression that these also came from one of the Rothschild collections. But their previous ownership was never fully confirmed.”11
It is likely that the corner cupboards were in fact sold by Francis David Charteris, the twelfth Earl of Wemyss and eighth Earl of March (1912–2008), at Christie’s on March 7, 1946: “99 A PAIR OF LOUIS XV ENCOIGNURES, each enclosed by one door, lacquered with Chinese figures and buildings in gold heightened with red on black ground, mounted with ormolu borders to the panels and corner mounts chased with sprays of flowers entwined with scrollwork, surmounted by giallo marble slabs—32 in. wide stamped I. Dubois, ME.”12 Unfortunately, the sale catalogue is not illustrated.
They were acquired by Raphael Rosenberg for 890 guineas.13 He was in partnership with his brother Saemy, having left Germany before World War II. The London company was known as S&R Rosenberg Ltd. There is a likelihood that they bought the corner cupboards together with Levi of Cameron’s and Frank Partridge, but this has yet to be confirmed.14
–1946: Francis David Charteris, twelfth Earl of Wemyss and eighth Earl of March, Scottish, 1912–2008 (Gosford House, Longniddry, East Lothian, Scotland) [sold, Old French and English Furniture and Porcelain [ . . . ], Christie’s, London, March 7, 1946, lot 99, to Raphael Rosenberg]; 1946– : Raphael Rosenberg, German, 1894–1968;15 –1950: Cameron and Frank Partridge & Sons, Ltd. (London, England), sold to J. Paul Getty, 1950; 1950–76: J. Paul Getty, American, 1892–1976 (Sutton Place, Surrey, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate; 1976–78: Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892–1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.
Connecting Seas: A Visual History of Discoveries and Encounters, Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), December 7, 2013–April 13, 2014.
Getty and Le Vane 1955Citation: Getty, J. Paul, and Ethel Le Vane. Collector’s Choice: The Chronicle of an Artistic Odyssey through Europe. London: W. H. Allen, 1955., 151, 167; Wescher 1955Citation: Wescher, Paul. “French Furniture of the Eighteenth Century in the J. Paul Getty Museum.” Art Quarterly 18, no. 2 (Summer 1955): 115–35., 118, 122, 130, fig. 14; Getty 1956Citation: Getty, J. Paul. “Vingt mille lieues dans les musées.” Connaissance des Arts 57 (November 1956): 76–81., 81, ill.; Getty 1963Citation: Getty, J. Paul. Chefs-d’oeuvre de la collection J. Paul Getty. Monaco: Jaspard, Polus et Cie, 1963., 120, ill.; Getty 1965Citation: Getty, J. Paul. The Joys of Collecting. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1965., 150, ill.; Huth 1971Citation: Huth, Hans. Lacquer of the West: The History of a Craft and an Industry, 1550–1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971., 145, no. 234; Kjellberg 1989Citation: Kjellberg, Pierre. Le mobilier français du XVIIIe siècle: Dictionnaire des ébénistes et des menuisiers. Paris: Éditions de l’Amateur, 1989., 273; Boiron 1990Citation: Boiron, Stéphane. “Jacques Dubois, maître de style Louis XV.” L’Estampille/L’Objet d’Art 237 (June 1990): 42–59., 56, ill.; Bremer-David et al. 1993Citation: Bremer-David, Charissa, et al. Decorative Arts: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue of the Collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993., 33–34, no. 38; Wilson and Hess 2001Citation: Wilson, Gillian, and Catherine Hess. Summary Catalogue of European Decorative Arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001., 22, no. 38; Hagelskamp, Heginbotham, and van Duin 2014Citation: Hagelskamp, Christina, Arlen Heginbotham, and Paul van Duin. “Bending Asian Lacquer in Eighteenth-Century Paris: New Discoveries.” Studies in Conservation 59, suppl. 1 (2014): 221–22., S221–S222, fig. 1; Schilling et al. 2014Citation: Schilling, Michael, et al. “Chinese Lacquer: Much More Than Chinese Lacquer.” Studies in Conservation 59, suppl. 1 (2014): 131–33., S131; Hagelskamp, Heginbotham, and van Duin 2016Citation: Hagelskamp, Christina, Arlen Heginbotham, and Paul van Duin. “Bending Asian Lacquer in Eighteenth-Century Paris: New Discoveries.” Studies in Conservation 61, suppl. 3 (2016): 91–96., 91–96, figs. 1a–1b, 5c–5d, 6, 8.
At first glance, these corner cabinets appear to be assembled using standard frame-and-panel construction (fig. 12-4). A look at the underside quickly reveals, however, that things are not as they initially appear (fig. 12-5). Dovetails join the case back panels to the case bottom, and what first appear to be lower structural rails (securing the front and rear legs) are little more than thin battens of oak that were nailed across the case back without structural function. X-radiographs confirm that the same is true at the top of the case; ersatz rails are nailed along the top rear edges, seemingly to conceal the underlying dovetail joints and give the impression of frame-and-panel construction (fig. 12-6). The two back panels of each cabinet are joined to each other at the back corner with a simple dado, secured with glue and nails. The panels are each assembled from three boards of rather poor quality oak. In each case, the board closest to the back corner is longer than the others and runs down to the floor. These boards have been sawn to shape and form the basis of the rear foot. Once again, the functional joint between the rear panels is concealed with oak battens of negligible structural utility, giving the false impression of a solid post at the rear corner.
The back panels are attached to the two front posts with tongue-and-groove joints; as is commonly the case, the grooves can be seen extending below the case bottom on the rear face of the front legs. Even the front corner posts are not entirely what they appear. While there are indeed solid posts at the corners, they have been augmented on their inside and outside faces, as well as on their tops, with oak battens analogous to those used on the case back. The reasons for doing this are not readily apparent; the resulting composite post is not unusually large, and a single block of wood could easily have been used. It is possible that the widening of the posts represents a modification to accommodate corner mounts that are larger than those anticipated in the original carcass design. Another unusual feature of the front posts may lend credence to this supposition. When the corner mounts are removed, one sees that bulbous blocks of wood, approximately 10 cm high by 5 cm wide, have been inserted into the posts behind the mount’s central cabochon (fig. 12-7). The surfaces of these blocks are visible through the piercing of the corner mounts; it appears to have been necessary to add these blocks because the original contour of the post was too shallow to adequately fill the space behind the current mounts. This, again, supports the idea that the original carcass design was conceived with different, less protuberant, corner mounts in mind.16
The short front corner legs have been built up from several small blocks of oak, glued onto the post and then cut back to create the cabriole form. Beneath the front edge of the case bottom, two serpentine blocks of wood are attached, joining in the middle, to form the skirt. The central foot is attached into these blocks with a single large mortise-and-tenon joint, visible in X-ray. Diagonal cross braces attached with screws support the underside of the case bottom (see fig. 12-5); however, these do not appear to be original.
The cabinets’ bowed doors are made of laminated oak. X-radiography clearly shows that for each door, approximately fifteen narrow vertical staves are glued side by side to form the body of the door, and then substantial battens are attached to the top and bottom of the door with numerous wooden pegs and glue (figs. 12-8, 12-9). This rather unsophisticated method of assembly was also used by Dubois on the doors of his large corner cabinet made for Count Branicki (see cat. no. 11).