A very rare Empire gilt bronze mounted mahogany console-secrÃ©taire attributed to Jacob-Desmalter et Cie, the rectangular rouge griotte marble top above a frieze drawer centred by a beautiful gilt bronze escutcheon featuring Venus in her chariot drawn by a pair of swans, flanked either side by ribbon-tied wreaths, the sides with Apollo head mounts, the hinged frieze drawer opening to reveal a green leather writing slide below two pairs of smaller drawers flanking a central open compartment, the frieze drawer flanked by a pair of gilt bronze mounted laurel leaf wrapped caducei above columnar supports with gilt bronze Corinthian capitals and base before a mirrored back on a breakfronted rectangular base
Paris, date circa 1805-10
Height 92.5 cm, width 117 cm, depth 46 cm.
At first glance this very rare piece looks like a typical Empire console, however on closer inspection one finds that the frieze drawer has a hinged base and slides out to be transformed into a secrÃ©taire. Few craftsmen were capable of such workmanship and ingenuity as this, other than the famous Parisian Ã©bÃ©nistes Jacob-Desmalter et Cie at rue MeslÃ©e. The piece compares with a slightly later bureau by FranÃ§ois-HonorÃ©-Georges Jacob of 1821, which when closed also looks like a console. The later likewise of mahogany but without the decorative mounts and with curved legs terminating in lion paw feet was delivered to ChÃ¢teau de Rosny for the chamber de la vicomtesse de Gontaut (illustrated in Denise Ledoux-Lebard, â€œLe Mobilier FranÃ§ais du XIXe SiÃ¨cleâ€, 2000, p. 349). The quality of the mounts is of the highest standard and given their intricacy and superb craftsmanship it is very likely that they were made by the pre-eminent fondeur-ciseleur Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), who often supplied Jacob.
Jacob-Desmalter was one of the most important firms of furniture makers during the Empire and Restauration. When its founder Georges Jacob (1739-1814), the greatest menuisier of the Louis XVI period, retired in 1796, he was succeeded by his two sons Georges II (1768-1803) and FranÃ§ois-HonorÃ©-Georges Jacob (1770-1841), who worked under the name of Jacob FrÃ¨res. But when Georges II died shortly after, his brother, who added the suffix of Desmalter (named after one of his fatherâ€™s properties in Burgundy), went back into business with his father at rue de MeslÃ©e and renamed the firm Jacob-Desmalter et Cie. During the Empire FranÃ§ois-HonorÃ©-Georges was described as menuisier-Ã©bÃ©niste, fabriquant des meubles et bronzes de LL., MM., II. et RR (Leurs MajestÃ©s ImpÃ©riales et Royales), implying that he played an active role in the practical side of the firmâ€™s craftsmanship.
Following Jacob-Desmalterâ€™s appointment as Ã©bÃ©niste de lâ€™Empereur the firmâ€™s activities significantly increased. Numerous commissions came from the Garde-Meuble Imperial to supply furniture to various Bonaparte residences, especially those of the Empress JosÃ©phine. The firm was also patronised by many notable figures and rich Parisian bourgeoisie. Commissions also came from abroad, from Czar Alexander I of Russia and Charles IV of Spain.
Among the firmâ€™s most important surviving items are the Imperial throne at Fontainebleau, the jewel cabinet made for Marie-Louise and the display cases in the Cabinet des Antiques at the BibliothÃ¨que Nationale, Paris. Jacob-Desmalterâ€™s work can also be admired in numerous other collections including the ChÃ¢teaux de CompiÃ¨gne, Fontainebleau, Malmaison, Versailles and Sceaux lâ€™Ille-de-France as well as the MusÃ©es du Louvre, Marmottan, Mobile National, Grand Trianon, NapolÃ©on and Tours. The BibliothÃ¨que Marmottan, Banque de France, MinistÃ¨re des Affaires EtrangÃ¨res and the Palais dâ€™Aranjuez in Spain are among many others to own Jacob-Desmalterâ€™s work.