Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Manuscript of Cléry's Journal is auctioned


On 19th October this year, the manuscript was auctioned of Cléry's famous journal of the last days of the French royal family. It was one of over 600 lots in the collection of Lucian and André Tissot-Dupont (of the pens and lighters) sold  by Piasa in Paris. The manuscript represents Cléry's personal copy which served as the basis for the first printed edition of 1798.  It comprises 144 pages bound into six booklets and is a fair copy in the hand of a secretary, but with numerous autograph additions and corrections.   Cléry's family, who owned the manuscript until 1898, considered  that it may in fact have been entirely transcribed by Cléry himself. (According to P. Le Verdier, the original was a "manuscrit brouillon" consisting only of fragmentary notes).



The manuscript has several interesting annotations. There is a long note, dated November 1797,from the imperial censor who refused permission for the journal to be published in Vienna. Following this setback, Cléry journeyed to Blankembourg where on 21st January 1798 he presented the work to a visibly moved comte de Provence. Written on the title page in the future Louis XVIII's own hand, is the verse from the Aeneid which was later printed in the published work:

Animus meminisse horret - my spirit trembles with horror at the memory.

The sale also included the original copy of the first edition sent to Louis XVIII by Cléry, with his handwritten dedication.





The manuscript sold for €54,000 against an estimate of 30,000-50,000 . The autographed book made 24,000.







Henri-Pierre Danloux, Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Cléry (1759-1809), valet de chambre of  Louis XVI
This drawing of 1798 was auctioned in Christie's sale of the Rothschild Collection Marie-Antoinette in November 2015.








References

Piasa, Paris:  Sale of the Bibliothèque Tissot-Dupont 18-19th October 2016: 
·         Description du Lot 325

[Louis XVI].
CLÉRY, Jean-Baptiste Hanet, dit, Journal de ce qui s'est passé à la Tour du Temple Pendant la captivité de Louis XVI, Roi de France. Par M. Cléry, Valet de chambre du Roi. 
[Manuscrit], Paris [Vienne], 1793-[1797] 

TRÈS PRÉCIEUX MANUSCRIT PERSONNEL DE CLÉRY AUQUEL IL PORTA DE NOMBREUSES ADDITIONS ET CORRECTIONS AUTOGRAPHES : , - CELUI QU'IL VOULUT PUBLIER À VIENNE EN 1797 MAIS QUE LA CHANCELLERIE REFUSA (LONGUE ANNOTATION MANUSCRITE DU CENSEUR).
, - CELUI QU'IL VOULUT OFFRIR À LOUIS XVIII LE 21 JANVIER 1798, QUI AJOUTA DE SA MAIN SUR LA PAGE DE TITRE DU PRÉSENT MANUSCRIT LE VERS DE L'ÉNÉIDE : "ANIMUS MEMINISSE HORRET" ("MON ÂME TREMBLE D'HORREUR À CE SOUVENIR").
CE MANUSCRIT SERVIT À L'IMPRESSION DE L'ÉDITION ORIGINALE ET PROVIENT DIRECTEMENT DES DESCENDANTS DE CLÉRY ; IL EST CONNU ET CITÉ DEPUIS 1896, DATE À LAQUELLE IL SORTIT DE LA FAMILLE
MANUSCRIT de 144 pages en 6 cahiers in-4 (270 x 206mm). 


Ce "manuscrit au net", selon la terminologie du partage notarié des héritiers de Cléry datant de février 1896, est de la main d'un secrétaire. Son écriture est fort proche de celle de Cléry lui-même, si bien que ses héritiers le pensaient entièrement autographe. Ce manuscrit et les fameux objets de la succession Cléry ont été étudiés par P. Le Verdier dans la Revue des Questions historiques en 1896 (voir infra).
, En 1798, ce manuscrit servit à l'impression du célèbre journal du fidèle serviteur de Louis XVI et de sa famille. Il est de l'écriture d'un secrétaire mais porte d'importantes CORRECTIONS ET ADDITIONS AUTOGRAPHES DE CLÉRY. L'édition originale de 1798 en a tenu compte et en suit très exactement le texte, à part quelques passages restés inédits ou de légères variantes. 

CORRECTIONS AUTOGRAPHES DE CLÉRY : elles sont très nombreuses et se distinguent des corrections que le copiste a lui-même portées. Nous ne donnerons ici d'abord que quelques numéros de page où ces corrections de Cléry figurent, rétablissant le texte primitif oublié par le copiste ou ajoutant quelques mots à ce texte : pp. 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 30, 31, 37, 38, 48, 53, 66, 67, 69, 70, 80, 104, 114, 117, 124, 125, 126, 127, 131, IMPORTANTES ET PRINCIPALES ADDITIONS AUTOGRAPHES DE CLÉRY : , p. 32 : c'est la plus importante des additions, elle a trait au programme d'éducation et aux lectures des Enfants royaux. Ils ne correspondent pas à ce que la Convention souhaite. Il s'agit de deux longs béquets et d'une correction représentant PLUS DE 31 LIGNES DE TEXTE. Cléry est revenu sur le texte primitif, p. 50 : addition de 12 lignes, p. 56 : addition d'une note de bas de page, p. 75 : plusieurs lignes sur le Dauphin. Il reconnaît l'un des gendarmes qui les avait identifiés à Varennes : "c'est lui dit-il à voix basse [à la Reine], dans notre Voyage de Varennes", p. 81 : touchante anecdote INÉDITE CAR NON REPORTÉE dans l'édition originale, à propos d'une partie d'échecs entre le Roi et Madame Élisabeth : "Prenez garde, ma Sœur, lui dit sa Majesté, votre Roi va se trouver enfermé. Je n'ai pas à craindre un pareil coup de votre part, lui répondit-elle, vous êtes trop bon françois pour cela", p. 103 : quelques mots sur le procédé de correspondance secrète par les fenêtres, entre la Reine et Louis XVI , p. 133 : quelques lignes, AVEC UNE TRÈS PRÉCIEUSE ADDITION AUTOGRAPHE DE LA MAIN DU COMTE DE PROVENCE, FUTUR LOUIS XVIII, SUR LA PAGE DE TITRE : ce vers de Virgile, tiré de l'Énéide (II, 12), lorsque Énée dit à Didon : Animus meminisse horret... Virg (soit : "mon âme tremble d'horreur à ce souvenir").
Comme Michaud l'atteste dans l'article Cléry de sa Biographie universelle : "ce fut ce Prince [Louis XVIII] qui écrivit sur le manuscrit l'épigraphe : Animus meminisse horret", MENTIONS manuscrites de la chancellerie de Vienne. La première en allemand sur la page de titre datée du 9 novembre 1797. La seconde à la fin du dernier cahier, que l'on peut traduire ainsi : "L'impression de ce manuscrit ne peut être permise ni à Vienne ni dans les états héréditaires, ni même dans les endroits dépendants de ces états, où il se trouverait des imprimeries. Cependant l'auteur est libre de le faire imprimer hors les états autrichiens. Vienne, ce 30 novembre 1797. Signé : Oliva. Manu propria", NOTE manuscrite par un notaire sur la page de titre du premier cahier ATTESTANT EN 1896 LA PROVENANCE CLÉRY : "Inventaire dressé après le décès de Mme Vve Le Besnier née de Gaillard, dite Cléry de Gaillard, par Me Carré, notaire à Rouen, le treize février mil huit cent quatre vingt seize. Cote première. Pièce unique" , PIÈCE JOINTE : portait gravé de Cléry d'après le tableau de Danloux, Le manuscrit a été placé dans une chemise de papier marbré puis dans une boîte de maroquin à grain long orné d'un décor doré d'inspiration néo-classique 

PROVENANCE : Jean-Baptiste Cléry -- Mme Édouard de Gaillard, née Cléry -- Mme Le Besnier, sa fille, d'où la vente de 1896 -- acquis en 1972 par André Tissot-Dupont, Le Journal de Cléry est l'un des textes les plus foudroyants de la littérature révolutionnaire. Il met en scène avec une grande sobriété de style un moment tragique de l'histoire de France qui court de la prise des Tuileries le 10 août 1792 au 21 janvier 1793. Le Journal constitue une source irremplaçable sur le procès du Roi. Le livre connut un succès éclatant. Le tirage à 6000 exemplaires de l'édition originale fut vendu en trois jours. L'ouvrage fut sept fois réédité en français la même année, traduit en anglais et en italien.
Jean-Baptiste Cléry, après la mort du Roi le 21 janvier 1793, ne fut définitivement libéré qu'avec Thermidor, le 27 juillet 1794. Madame Royale, seule survivante, quitta la prison du Temple en décembre 1795 pour être échangée et envoyée à Vienne. C'est là que Cléry la rejoint. Il lui lut son Journal et chercha à publier dans la capitale des Habsbourg ce présent "manuscrit au net". En atteste la mention de refus du censeur impérial le 30 novembre 1797. La Cour de Vienne n'éprouvait aucune sympathie pour les Français exilés puisqu'elle signait en même temps la paix avec les révolutionnaires ; elle ne voulait pas donner écho aux malheurs d'un monarque. Cléry s'en fut alors à Blankenburg, en Allemagne, pour lire ce manuscrit et l'offrir au comte de Provence : "Étant parti de Vienne pour me rendre en Angleterre, je passai à Blankembourg dans l'intention de faire hommage au Roi de mon manuscrit". C'est la mention qui clôt l'édition originale du livre en 1798. Il le lut le 21 janvier 1798 au frère de Louis XVI qui, bouleversé, ajouta de sa main le vers de Virgile sur la page du titre du présent manuscrit, donnant ainsi à Cléry une sorte d'imprimatur royal. L'un des textes majeurs de l'histoire de France était né.
Le manuscrit demeura dans la famille jusqu'en 1896 où, à la faveur de l'extinction d'une branche des héritiers de Cléry, il passa en vente à Rouen. P. Le Verdier eut alors accès à la totalité des souvenirs familiaux et put dans un article de la Revue des Questions historiques éclaircir la genèse de ce texte majeur. , Le fidèle Cléry était enfermé avec son maître. L'usage des crayons et du papier leur fut assez vite retiré. Il ne pouvait donc rédiger que des notules. Elles constituent ce que l'on appelle le "manuscrit brouillon" (Le Verdier, p. 275).
Ce manuscrit est fragmentaire. Dès 1896, Le Verdier écrivait : "il n'en reste plus que quelques cahiers". À la fin de 1795, Cléry résidait à Strasbourg chez une certaine Mlle Kugler. Elle "lui fit passer à Vienne une copie qu'elle transcrivit sur de minces feuilles de papier" ; ce manuscrit est appelé en 1896 le "Livre-journal de Cléry". Il était tout aussi fragmentaire que sa matrice. Il servit de support au présent "manuscrit au net" que Cléry composa et acheva à Vienne. À la fin de l'automne 1796, il le soumit à la Chancellerie impériale puis au comte de Provence. Ce manuscrit et le succès du livre contribuèrent à donner aux derniers Bourbon la légitimité du malheur. 

RÉFÉRENCES : P. Le Verdier, "Les reliques de la famille royale et les descendants de Cléry", Revue des Questions historiques, Paris, juil. 1896, pp. 264-280 -- H. Becquet, Marie-Thérèse de France. L'orpheline du Temple, Paris, Perrin, 2012

·         Description du Lot 326 
[Louis XVI].
CLÉRY, Jean-Baptiste Hanet, dit, Journal de ce qui s'est passé à la Tour du Temple pendant la captivité , de Louis XVI, roi de France, Londres, de l'imprimerie de Baylis, se vend chez l'Auteur, 1798 

REMARQUABLE EXEMPLAIRE CHARGÉ D'HISTOIRE. , LE JOURNAL DE CLÉRY AVEC UN ENVOI DE L'AUTEUR AU FUTUR LOUIS XVIII. LE FRÈRE DE LOUIS XVI FUT LE PREMIER AUQUEL CLÉRY LUT SON OUVRAGE. IL AJOUTA L'ÉPIGRAPHE DE VIRGILE (VOIR LE MANUSCRIT) QUI FIGURE ICI IMPRIMÉE SUR LA PAGE DE TITRE. EXEMPLAIRE RELIÉ EN MAROQUIN PROVENANT DES ANCIENNES COLLECTIONS AUBRY VITET ET RAPHAËL ESMÉRIAN 
ÉDITION ORIGINALE, PREMIER ÉTAT à l'adresse du No. 29, Great Pulteney-Street, In-8 (228 x 138mm), avec la liste des souscripteurs 

ILLUSTRATION : vue de la Tour du Temple gravée par Audinet en frontispice, plan de la Tour et fac-similé gravé d'un billet de Marie-Antoinette, ENVOI autographe signé de Cléry : Monsieur Frère du Roi, Par son très humble et très obéissant fidèle serviteur, Londres le 31 mai 1798. 
RELIURE ANGLAISE DE L'ÉPOQUE ATTRIBUABLE À AUGUSTE-MARIE COMTE DE CAUMONT.Maroquin rouge à grain long, décor doré, roulette et filets en encadrements, dos long très orné et doré, tranches dorées. Étui

PROVENANCE : Louis XVIII, roi de France (envoi) -- Aubry Vitet (ex-libris) -- Raphaël Esmérian (ex-libris ; 1972, II, n° 164, 10000FF)
À son départ de Vienne, Cléry se rendit à Blankembourg où résidait le comte de Provence, futur Louis XVIII. C'est au frère de Louis XVI qu'il fit le premier la lecture de son manuscrit le jour anniversaire de l'exécution, soit le 21 janvier 1798. Louis XVIII lui montra les souvenirs de son frère qui lui étaient parvenus et apposa de sa main sur le manuscrit le fameux vers de Virgile qui devint l'épigraphe de l'édition originale.
On connaît plusieurs exemplaires avec envoi de Cléry, dont l'un à Madame Royale. Celui de Louis XVIII est évidemment le plus chargé d'émotion. On se souvient des paroles de Chateaubriand en 1822, dans ses Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe : "Nous assistâmes ensemble (avec Fontanes) à une scène digne de ces temps d'amertume : Cléry, dernièrement débarqué, nous lut ses Mémoires manuscrits. Qu'on juge de l'émotion d'un auditoire d'exilés, écoutant le valet de chambre de Louis XVI, raconter, témoin oculaire, les souffrances et la mort du prisonnier du Temple". La publication du Journal de Cléry eut un retentissement considérable, dans les milieux de l'Émigration comme dans toute l'Europe, et jusqu'en France puisque le Directoire en publia une édition travestie : Cléry parlait comme un "laquais" et Louis XVI comme un "portefaix" (Chateaubriand). 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Michèle Lorin, collector extraordinary!





Here is an altogether more appealing collector of 18th-century objects.  Michèle Lorin was inspired with a "passion for Marie-Antoinette" by the classic 1956 film staring Michèle Morgan and Richard Todd.   She started collecting at the age of 12 has not looked back since.  Her modest home in  the Loiret is stuffed with Marie-Antoinette memorabilia of all sorts, some of it bric-a-brac, some of it valuable and interesting pieces.  In the video, from a France 3 local news feature, she picks out a few items, notably a little miniature from the Queen's room in the Tuileries which was broken on 10th August.  

I also spot the miniature I wrote about in a previous post which shows Marie-Antoinette with flaming  red hair.  Michèle  explains that she has amassed the collection by careful budgeting and a finely developed nose for a bargain; nowadays many of her finds come from ebay!

Michèle Lorin is now an acknowledged Marie-Antoinette expert and something of a minor celebrity.  She gave her advice for the 2006 Sofia Coppola blockbuster and can be seen on YouTube at the preview of the 2015 Rothschild sale.

Bravo Michèle!  It is nice to know that worthwhile 18th-century collecting is not the exclusive preserve of millionaires and professional dealers.


References

Michèle Lorin : la passion de Marie-Antoinette,France 3 Centre-Val de Loire, 1/11/2015
http://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/centre/michele-lorin-la-passion-de-marie-antoinette-841587.html
Michèle previews the 2015 Christie's Marie-Antoinette Collection sale.
http://dai.ly/x3ca0yj

Photographs of the collection on Getty Images:
http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/photos/michele-lorin?family=editorial&phrase=michele%20lorin&excludenudity=true&sort=best#

Website of the Association Marie-Antoinette, organisation founded by Michèle Lorin
http://www.associationmarieantoinette.org/

Michèle on Marie-Antoinette Forum and Le Boudoir de Marie-Antoinette:
http://marie-antoinette.forumactif.org/t2196-michele-lorin-marie-antoinette-ma-collection-particuliere
http://maria-antonia.justgoo.com/t6785-la-collection-de-michele-lorin

Monday, 28 November 2016

Fake chairs in High Places!


The French art world has recently been rocked by a series of scandals concerning the marketing of fake 18th-century chairs.  In June 2015 the Jean Lupu, head of a respected dealership in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré and a man in his eighties, was accused of fabricating chairs using recycled wood and counterfeit stamps and fraudulently selling them to private clients. No further action against him is anticipated, but his company went into liquidation in February.  At the beginning of 2015 a judicial enquiry was opened by the high court in Pontoise, in the context of investigations by the French art fraud squad, the OCBC, said to have been ongoing since 2012. It is rumoured that the authorities are on the trail of a considerable money laundering operation.  On 7th June two high profile figures were detained for questioning: the antiques dealer Laurent Kraemer, and Bill Pallot, head of the Aaron Gallery and a specialist in 18th-century chairs.  Pallot was accused of "organised fraud" and "aggravated money laundering".  Having been held in custody for four months, he was released on 8th October pending trial in Spring 2017.  A third dealer, Guillaume Dillée was arrested later in June.  All three men involved are highly respected experts.


THE ACCUSED


Laurent Kraemer, is the fifth generation of the Kraemer dynasty. Founded in 1875, the Kraemer Gallery is the oldest dealership in Paris dedicated to furniture and decorative art.   Laurent Kraemer is a member of the prestigious Compagnie nationale des experts (CNE) and an officier in the French National Order of Merit.  He has stated publicly that he acted in good faith and has "never sold any furniture with the slightest doubt over its authenticity".



Bill Pallot has been in charge of furniture at the Galerie Aaron for thirty years. He is an internationally recognised art historian, officier of the prestigious Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and author of the standard reference work on 18th century chairs.   A "Dandy fantasque et érudit", with his trademark three-piece suits, long hair and round glasses, he is known affectionately in the trade as "le père Lachaise" .  This collector and lover of the high life is said to have spent his four-month incarceration in a nine metres square cell with three other men, forced to take take turns sleeping on a mattress on the floor.



Guillaume Dillée,  49-year-old father of five, until recently headed the Cabinet 
Dillée, a respected Parisian arts consultancy, established in 1925. He has acted as an expert adviser to French Customs and has curated some of Europe's most important auctions of decorative arts:  in 2012 he scored a major triumph when a marble bust by Edme Bouchardon which he had discovered  was bought by the Louvre for 3.7 million euro. In 2015 Dillée announced a sudden decision to emigrate to Australia and set up a new business in Melbourne. The family art collection, begun by his grandfather, was auctioned by Sotherby's in March 2015 where it sold for the massive sum of 10.2 million euros.


THE CHAIRS

Chairs at the Palace of Versailles:

Didier Rykner in La Tribune de l'Art quotes a "former conservator" to the effect that a traffic in fake "royal chairs" had been known for more than ten years but had been tolerated because state museums were not involved.  It would seem he was wrong.  Versailles has, after all, been targeted. According to an official statement by the Ministry of Culture on 11th June, the chairs at issue, purchased by Versailles between 2008 and 2012,  represent a total expenditure of 2.7 million euros!

The art press identifies the suspect furniture as follows:
  • Two ployants or folding stools from a set made for the duchess of Parma by François Ier Foliot, currently on show in the Salle du Conseil.  The dealer Charles Hooreman, a former pupil of Pallot's at the Sorbonne, claims to have examined the stools at the Galerie Aaron in May 2012  and judged them to be fakes.  He was later stunned to learn that they had been bought for Versailles  at a cost of several thousand euros. It is now thought that the two stools may be adaptations of known copies dating from the 1960s.  The pieces were withdrawn from public view over the summer but recently returned to the Salle, on the grounds that they were not directly involved in current investigations.


  •  A fauteuil en bergère  by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Séné originally commissioned by Madame Élisabeth  for the château de Montreuil.  The piece was preempted at public auction  in 2011 for 240 000 euros
  •  A chair made by the cabinet maker Georges Jacob, recently on display in the cabinet de la Méridienne, acquired in 2011 from Sotheby's for 400,000 euros.  According to Didier Rykner the workmanship is demonstrably inferior to that of a genuine Jacob chair.


  • Two medallion-back chairs made by Louis Delanois for Mme du Barry in 1769.  In 2009  four  chairs were sold by Kraemer and Pallot to Versailles for the sum of 1.7 million euros. They were officially classed as "national treasures".  It is now suspected at least two are fakes. Perhaps with deliberate irony,  Bill Pallot  posted a Youtube video (now removed).explaining how to distinguish a genuine Delanois chair from a modern reproduction. Charles Hooreman's  doubts, however,  were based on simple arithmetic.  The original set comprised twelve chairs (plus a slightly larger thirteenth chair for Louis XV, now lost).  Over the past twenty years Versailles has acquired no less than ten originals, plus an acknowledged 19th-century copy.  Hooreman is quoted in Le Monde: "I have seen them all, handled them, examined them. Versailles has ten, a Swiss collector two, and I know another one, which is impeccable, belonging  to a Parisian collector. That's a lot.” 

In addition to those owned by Versailles,  two chairs from the Belvédère suite are also under suspicion.  The two chairs mysteriously resurfaced in 2012 and found their way to into the possession of the Galerie Kraemer. One was supplied by Guillaume Dillée. The Commission consultative des Trésors nationaux refused an export licence and declared both to be “national treasures” due to their “extremely high quality” and “original gilding”. In this case Versailles declined the right of preemption. The chairs were subsequently resold (for 3.5 million euros) to a well-known London collector for his hôtel in Paris.  At the end of 2015, when doubts were raised, the Galerie Kraemer immediately took back the chairs and reimbursed him.  According to recent reports Bill Pallot has now admitted responsibility for faking both chairs.


What next?


When questioned in June 2016 Pallot admitted ordering five false lots, but denied organised fraud; his lawyer claimed that he saw his action as an "intellectual game".  He now awaits trial.  Pallot has had recourse to some of the finest craftsmen in Paris.  Bruno Desnoues, widely considered to be the best cabinetmaker and gilder of his generation, was  detained for four months.. (He is now apparently rehabilitated; Versailles has entrusted him with the highly prestigious commission of reconstructing Louis XVI's bed.)   Louis Kraemer does not face prosecution: On 22nd July the Kraemer Gallery was placed under a legal safeguarding procedure, aiming  at limiting financial liability.  Kraemer insists that the firm is not in financial difficulties and will "fulfill all of its responsibilities".  The case against  Guillaume Dillée, if any, has not yet been made public;  however, he is widely suspected of marketing the fake furniture.

We await next year's exciting instalment!

Although the individuals concerned have been widely condemned, the affair is also considered symptomatic of  the difficult position of Paris's dealers, who increasingly suffer as a result of competition from London and New York. There has also been much criticism of the Versailles administration. Charles Hooreman found it obstructive: he signalled his findings in 2012 and obtained an interview with the Palace;s director Beatrix Saule, but no action was taken; it was claimed  that  Palace experts were "satisfied" with the authenticity of the chairs.

Since a law of 2003 which provided for a 90% reduction in sums invested in "national treasures", Versailles has had vast funds of public money at its disposal; it is the biggest buyer of 18th-century furniture on the planet.  Commissioners are accused of being more interested in opportunities for new purchases than in the authenticity of the pieces concerned.  An investigation of the Palace's acquisition policy was promised by the Ministry of Culture in June but is yet to materialise.

Personally I do not think Versailles was justified in spending 2.7 euros on antique chairs in the first place, especially ones which did not even come from the Château .  The whole interior of the  modern palace is a reconstruction, so why not just have replica chairs?


References

Didier Rykner "Des faux à Versailles ? La Tribune de l'Art  8/6/2016 http://www.latribunedelart.com/des-faux-a-versailles

Various articles by Guy Boyer in Connaissances des Arts:

"L’affaire du faux mobilier XVIIIe de Versailles"  06/05/2016
https://www.connaissancedesarts.com/archi-jardin-et-patrimoine/laffaire-du-faux-mobilier-xviiie-de-versailles-1142989/
"Les détails de l’affaire des faux sièges du Belvédère de Versailles" 13/06/2016
https://www.connaissancedesarts.com/design-et-decoration/les-details-de-laffaire-des-faux-sieges-du-belvedere-de-versailles-1145608/

Emmanuel Fansten "Trafic d'art : les fausses chaises qui valaient 3 millions", La Libération 02/09/2016
http://www.liberation.fr/france/2016/09/02/trafic-d-art-les-fausses-chaises-qui-valaient-3-millions_14787

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Important chairs 5 - Marie-Antoinette's chair from the Belvédère


Yes I've finally found another one!  Not perhaps the most interesting, but certainly the most valuable....

This armchair was sold by Christie's in London in July 2015 for a staggering  £1,762,500 - not surprisingly a world record for a single 18th-century chair.   Christie's specialist Amelia Walker selected it as her object of the year.  The price was chased up by keen bidding: the successful purchaser was almost done out of their prize when their phone cut out; they reconnected to find the price had risen by a million pounds! (The original estimate was a mere £300,000-£500,000....)

The chair is the only known surviving fauteuil en bergère (ie. an armchair with filled-in sides) from a set made by the celebrated cabinetmaker François-Toussaint Folliot for the pavillon du Belvédère.  The suite, which is known to have cost 20,000 livres at the time, was the most expensive ever produced.

In 1781 Marie-Antoinette ordered  from Pierre Élisabeth de Fontanieu, intendant et contrôleur général du Garde-Meuble,   eight armchairs and eight side chairs “in the very latest taste”  Preparatory work alone took four-and-a-half months and cost 3,200 livres.From among various preliminary models, there survives a wax maquette for one of the fauteuils, made by Gilles-Francois Martin, after designs by Jacques Gondoin, dessinateur des meubles de la Couronne. The elaborately sculpted chairs were the work of the Royal Carpenter François-Toussaint Folliot (also known as François II), with the carving by his uncle Toussaint Folliot.  The chairs were finally delivered to Marie-Antoinette in July 1781 and originally featured the heavy draperies shown in the maquette. The ornate silk cushions were adorned with painted flowers and arabesques designed by Gondoin himself. (The sale notes for the fauteuil specify that “the present upholstery is an attempt to re-create to some degree the beautiful painted silk described in the original order.”)


The suite  was eventually dispersed in the Revolutionary sales.  On September 4, 1793, just five weeks before Marie-Antoinette's execution, all sixteen pieces are recorded as sold  to one “citizen Sellièr” for a mere 2530 livres. The fauteuil  last appeared at auction in Paris at Sotheby’s on June 27, 2001 when it was sold as part of the collection of the well-known antique dealer Luigi Anton Laura. The lot has been on long-term loan to the Louvre.  Christie's have not identified either the 2015 seller or the new owner.

Six of the side chairs are known to survive:, five are in the Getty Museum and a single one in Versailles, donated by Edmond de Rothschild in 1990.


References

Description of the Lot:

Sale 10670: Taste of the Royal Court: Important French Furniture and Works of Art from a Private Collection, 9 July 2015, London, King Street Lot 18:
 A ROYAL LOUIS XVI GILTWOOD FAUTEUIL EN BERGERE
BY FRANCOIS (II) FOLIOT, 1780-81, DESIGNED BY JACQUES GONDOIN, PROBABLY CARVED BY EITHER MME. PIERRE-EDME BABEL OR TOUSSAINT FOLIOT
The arched toprail carved with ribbon-tied flowerhead trails, flanked by flaming ivy-entwined torch uprights, foliate-carved arms with imbricated scroll terminals and on stop-fluted and fluted supports, the seatrails carved with myrtle wound around a reed, below bead-and-reel borders, on spirally-fluted turned tapering legs with flowerhead and bead swag collars, the front legs headed by a patera to the front and a flowerhead within a laurel-wreath to the side, the back legs headed by fluted waisted capitals, on foliate-carved feet, stencilled twice with a 19th-century inventory number 449, the padded back, arm supports and seat covered in floral-embroidered cream silk, possibly originally with two additional legs to the front rail (as seen in the Gondoin wax model), the rail therefore conceivably replaced at the end of the 18th or early 19th century, the feet reattached, originally white-painted and parcel-gilt
36 in. (91.5 cm.) high; 28 ¾ in. (73 cm.) wide; 21 ½ in. (55 cm.) deep
http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/furniture-lighting/a-royal-louis-xvi-giltwood-fauteuil-en-5917470-details.aspx

Amelia Walker,"My highlight of 2015’ — Marie Antoinette’s chair" Christie.com, post of 03/10/15
http://www.christies.com/features/Marie-Antoinette-chair-6906-1.aspx
and on You Tube:



Versailles chair:
http://collections.chateauversailles.fr/#88e17890-b051-464a-920a-3c3cfa2115c2
Catalogue of the 2014 exhibition: 18e aux sources du design (chair and the wax maquette) 

http://www.chateauversailles.fr/resources/pdf/fr/presse/dp_mobilier18.pdf

Chairs in the Getty Collection
http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/5420/jacques-gondoin-francois-toussaint-foliot-probably-carved-by-toussaint-foliot-four-side-chairs-chaises-a-la-reine-french-1780-1781/

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A portrait of Louis XVI by Kucharski (and other royal portraits)

At the end of September 2015 the sale took place at Christie's in Paris of over a thousand pieces from the collection of the author and TV producer Jean-Louis Remilleux.  In 2012 Remilleux bought the 18th-century château de Digoine in the department of Saône-et-Loire with the intention of restoring it and opening it to the public.  The sale was to finance future restoration work in the stables, gardens and outbuildings and ensure the preservation of a magnificent 19th-century private "théâtre de société”.  The most expensive lots were mostly furniture:  a settee stamped by Mathieu Bauve was estimated at €350,000-450,000.


Lot 101:  A portrait of Louis XVI by Alexander Kucharski


For me by far the most striking lot was this disconcerting portrait of Louis XVI by Alexander Kucharski. The only provenance given was the previous owner, the designer Karl Langerfeld, who had sold it in 2000.  I found the catalogue for this sale but that too contains no details; indeed it claims only that the picture was "attributed to Kucharski".  The price fetched in 2015 was comparatively modest -  (€6,250) - suggesting that provenance is indeed uncertain. 

The picture, which is clearly unfinished, is oil on canvas laid down on board. It measures 26 cms by 24 cms. Inevitably it is tempting to speculate that the portrait dates from Louis's final months at the Temple when Kucharski painted his famous studies of Marie-Antoinette and Madame Elisabeth. Or possibly it is an abandoned pendant to the (?posthumous)  portrait of  Marie-Antoinette which now belongs to Jacques Larcia?  (see  http://rodama1789.blogspot.co.uk
/2014/09/is-this-face-of-marie-antoinette.html).  

Surely an expert could tell us more? Either way, there are no other Kucharskis of the King that I know of, and it is a striking image - though  the air of startled vacancy may be an effect of the slightly awkward perspective. For comparison, here is Ducreux's Louis which is generally reckoned to be Louis last attested portrait.


The Louis XVI portrait in situ at Digoine prior to the sale


Lot 102 Marie-Antoinette by Kucharski




Lot 102 is also mysterious.  It is an example of Kucharski's famous, and oft copied,  portrait of Marie-Antoinette in the Temple. The price fetched was €7,500.  The only provenance given is again a previous sale:  "Vente Tajan, Paris, 28th October 2008, Lot 117". Strangely enough, when I tracked down the 2008 catalogue, the picture illustrated was completely different.  Hard to say what is going on here;  however, the 2015 portrait, is very similar to the lost "original" oil which once belonged to the Prince d'Arenberg, now known only from a photograph in the Bibliothèque nationale.
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b53028264m (left.)


Some other lots depicting members of the Royal Family: 



Lot 77: Entourage of Francois-Hubert Drouais, Portrait of of Marie-Antoinette
Lot 84: Hubert Robert, The Belvedere of the Petit Trianon ("Pavillon de Mique"). It is thought possible that the figure in the foreground is Marie-Antoinette herself.

Lot 88: Portrait of the Dauphin Louis-Charles in red chalk;attributed to Augustin de Saint-Aubin

Lot 117:  Workshop of Marie-Victoire Lemoine. Portrait de Marie-Thérèse de France,with the Dauphin Louis-Charles.






















Lot 90:  Louis-Charles by Houdon
Here are these lots displayed in the château.  It seems a shame to have disturbed these beautiful interiors though, to judge by the website, the intention is now to create a more consistent early 19th-century decor in line with the theatre.



References

"La vie du château:  collection Jean-Louis Remilleux" Christie's, Paris sale of 28-29 septembre 2015.
Catalogue (pdf.)
Vol. 1: http://www.christies.com/zmags/?ZmagsPublishID=0fd6b02d
Lots and prices fetched:
http://www.christies.com/salelanding/index.aspx?intsaleid=25941&sc_lang=en&saletitle=

Château de Digoine website
http://chateaudedigoine.fr/visiter-digoine/
At the moment the château is closed for the promised renovations but will reopen for the 2017 season .

Friday, 25 November 2016

St. John's Eve - pussycat auto-da-fé?


The ritual torture of cats was an element of popular festivities throughout the Medieval and Early Modern period, possibly with roots in pagan practice.  One particularly bad time for puss was the Eve of the Feast of St. John.  Here is Robert Darnton (as quoted in Wikipedia):

Cats also figured in the cycle of Saint John the Baptist, which took place on June 24, at the time of summer solstice. Crowds made bonfires, jumped over them, danced around them, and threw into them objects with magical power, hoping to avoid disaster and obtain good fortune during the rest of the year.   A favorite object was cats — cats tied up in bags, cats suspended from ropes, or cats burned at the stake. Parisians liked to incinerate cats by the sackful, while the Courimauds (or "cour à miaud" or cat chasers) of Saint Chamond preferred to chase a flaming cat through the streets. In parts of Burgundy and Lorraine they danced around a kind of burning May pole with a cat tied to it. In the Metz region they burned a dozen cats at a time in a basket on top of a bonfire. The ceremony took place with great pomp in Metz itself, until it was abolished in 1765. ... Although the practice varied from place to place, the ingredients were everywhere the same: a "feu de joie" (bonfire), cats, and an aura of hilarious witch-hunting. Wherever the scent of burning felines could be found, a smile was sure to follow.......  Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre (1984) p.87-88.

There can be no doubt that such practices did indeed persist into the Age of Enlightenment, but did 18th-century Parisians really "incinerate cats by the sackful"?

The St.John's Eve celebrations in Paris were part of the formal civic calendar: a well-informed Dictionnaire de jurisprudence published in 1818 has the following details:

The festival  of the "Fire of St. John" was held with great ceremony in Paris up until 1773. the prévôt des marchands and his échevins [ ie. the chief representatives of the municipality,], would process in their ceremonial robes to set fire to a bonfire of logs placed in the middle of the place de Grève, and surmounted by a green tree.  Several of our kings, Henri II in 1549, Charles IX in 157), Henri IV in 1598, Louis XIII in 1615 and 1620, and finally Louis XV in 1719, personally lit the bonfire with a torch presented to them by the Prévôt, and attended the firework display which took place before the bonfire had entirely died down.
Dictionnaire de jurisprudence (1818)
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=4edx8j7EU24C&pg=PA16



Hyacinthe Rigaud. Prévôt and échevins of Paris (1689)

Many accounts mention cat-burning but they all  rely on the same single piece of evidence; according to the Dictionnaire de jurisprudence, a  "singular title which proves that they once used to suspend from the green tree a cage containing various animals, most often cats" .  The  document was published by the magistrate Henri Sauval in his  Histoire et recherches des antiquités de la ville de Paris of 1724. It describes various payments for the St.John's Eve celebrations, among them one made to  "Lucas Pomereux, commissaire des quais de la ville" who had furnished cats for the fire for three years in succession, and on one occasion - for particular royal pleasure - procured a fox; he had even provided a large cloth bag to contain the hapless creatures.   Sauval's publication is also the origin of several other picturesque details:   the height of the tree -  10 toises or 19 metres -  the huge quantities of fagots, brushwood and straw required;  the music and buffet provided for the king at the Hotel de ville (dragées, confitures sèches, cornichons, tartes, massepains etc).




 Henri Sauval,  Histoire et recherches des antiquités de la ville de Paris
http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1040565b/f731.item.zoom

The only problem is that the date of the manuscript, which is 1573!  Later documentation for cat-burning is conspicuous by its absence......



Bonfires, cats and Kings

There is a tendency in modern books and websites, to suppose that the French kings personally prohibited the St John's Eve burning of cats, though there disagreement whether to credit Louis XIV or Louis XV.

The only direct reference I can find refers to Louis XIII.  The royal physician Jean Héroard in his journal for 24 July 1604 reports that the Dauphin, having been taken to the King and Queen, "obtained mercy for the cats that they wanted to put on the bûcher de Saint Jean". The child would have been not quite three years old at the time.

There is general agreement that the last Bourbon king to personally light the feu de la Saint-Jean was the nine-year old Louis XIV in 1648.  The occasion is related in Frazer's Golden Bough:
 In 1648 Louis the Fourteenth, crowned with a wreath of roses and carrying a bunch of roses in his hand, kindled the fire, danced at it and partook of the banquet afterwards in the town hall.
http://www.bartleby.com/196/164.html

The event is often given a sinister gloss:
When he was only ten years old, Louis XIV ordered all cats to be burnt alive.  He took a sadistic pleasure in dancing round the flames whilst the little victims cried out in pain.
http://www.communicationfeline.com/site_francais/saviezvous.html

In fact St John's Eve 1648 must have been a tense and trying occasion for the little boy; Paris was on the brink of revolt and a show of royal bravado was required:

On St John's Eve, the King, in a bid to win the love of his subjects, took the place of the duc de Montbazon, the Governor of Paris.    He took his place at the ceremony of the "feu de la Greve" that the Town held that day.  He lit the fire himself and the Queen kept him company during this tiresome ceremony which caused him much suffering from heat and fatigue.  To show confidence in the people, he appeared without Guards or grand entourage.
Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire d'Anne d'Autriche, vol.2 (1723), p.127

Nothing here about cats - but small wonder Louis did not care to repeat the experience.

It is Louis XV who is more commonly credited with abolishing the practice of burning cats; he is quoted as condemning the tradition as a "barbaric and primitive practice"  I have so far drawn a blank for the original source of this statement, though it is plausible enough.  

It is not quite true that Louis never attended a feu de la Saint-Jean. The Dictionnaire de jurisprudence omits Louis XIV's appearance in 1648 (perhaps because he did not preside officially)  but lists Louis XV's in 1719: By this date, the firework display had assumed prime importance and is detailed in a printed brochure:
Pierre-Augustin Le Mercier, Explication du feu d'artifice tiré en presence du Roy, la veille de Saint Jean-Baptiste 1719.
http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb30809059k

Cats thrown into the bonfire in the Place de Greve, Paris, during the night of the summer solstice. Illustration from Le Bon Roi Henri by Abel Hermant, c.1900
http://www.paintingsoncanvas.net/print-74662-1587000/cats-thrown-into-bonfire-place-de-greve-paris-during-night-summer-solstice-other


The end of the St. John's Eve celebrations

The 19th-century records do not mention royal intervention; indeed not all of them seem to know know that the civic celebration was formally abolished (in 1773). By the later 18th century the festival had become a purely popular celebration; the municipal officials lit the fire, then beat a hasty retreat.  Mercier states that there was never a public festival without disorder and accident  and this was the reason the feu de la saint-Jean was suppressed.

Dictionnaire historique de Paris, Volume 1 (1828) , p276
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OZo9AAAAcAAJ&pg=PA276#v=onepage&q&f=false  
"Cette fête  ne fut plus qu'une cérémonie toute populaire; le corps municipal venait metter le feu et se retirait."

Mercier, Tableau de Paris (1783) prt.3, chapter 223. Feux d'artifice


There is one final intriguing document which relates to a St John's Eve celebration in Paris, which this time took place in the Place de la Bastille . The document in question was among the papers from the Bastille published in the collection  La Bastille dévoilée   in 1789.  Although it is not dated, it mentions events in 1730  and  may well represent practices still in place at the outbreak of Revolution. Various formalities are imposed on the état-major   garrison  for St John's Eve.  The soldiers were required to fire ceremonial cannons and to lay a bonfire in the middle of the square.   In the evening they then stood guard whilst the officer formally lit the fire.  According to one 19th-century account, the governor of the Bastille, who was charged with procuring wood,  saw the occasion only as an opportunity to profiteer.  The locale, close to so sinister a prison, was badly chosen for a "feu de joie".

Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture (1836)  Volume 2  Fer - Fos,
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=qSNCAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA42&lpg=PA42

La Bastille dévoilee (1789)
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ba76DBlUcsQC&pg=PA23#v=onepage&q&f=false



The writers of the Enlightenment

If cats were really still officially burnt alive in 18th-century Paris, one might expect some echo in Enlightenment writers.  The one direct reference is from the Testament of Jean Meslier, who was a priest in Étrépigny, in Champagne and clearly had some experience of traditional practices.  He condemns Cartesianism and other systems which stifle human compassion for our fellow creatures:

Fools, or rather insensitive brutes, make [the cats] cruelly suffer harsh and violent tortures in their entertainments and even in public celebrations; they tie living cats to the end of a pole and light a fire at the base for the pleasure of witnessing the violent movements and the frightened cries that these poor creatures make....
ean Meslier. Testament (1864 ed), p.350
https://archive.org/stream/letestamentdeje05meslgoog#page/n359/mode/2up


Montcrif has only one allusion to St John's Eve, from Fontenelle, who remembered the popular superstitions concerning cats but not, it would seem, the fires.
M de Fontenelle avows that he was raised to believe that on St. John's Eve there remained not a single Cat in the Cities, because on that day they betook themselves to a general Sabbath.  What glory for them, Madame, & what satisfaction for us, to dream that one of M. de Fontenelle's first steps in the pathway of Philosophy might have led him to rid himself of a false prejudice against Cats, and to cherish them!  Moncrif, Les Chats, Letter 1.

Serious French academics have tried in vain to find any corresponding reference. Jean Ehrard even appealed to  Alain Niderst, Fontenelle's biographer, who placed at his disposal his "grand savoir fontenellien" - but still to no avail.  Moncrif is probably repeating something Fontenelle actually said;  still no cat-burning though.
http://www.persee.fr/doc/dhs_0070-6760_2004_num_36_1_2627