A magnificent Louis XV gilt bronze mounted oak lined black and gold Chinese lacquer commode by Jacques Dubois, stamped I DUBOIS and stamped on the mounts with a C-couronné poinçon, the shaped rectangular serpentine-fronted moulded brèche d’Alep marble top above a bombé front with two drawers sans traverse decorated overall with Chinoiserie scenes of Oriental figures, pagodas and pavilions against a landscape setting within a shaped border, the drawers centred by an elaborate foliate scrolling rocaille cartouche mount to including C-shaped pulls continuing around the shaped apron below, each drawer with a central rocaille-shaped escutcheon, the sides decorated conformingly, the angle chutes with pierced rocaille and light foliate spray mounts continuing down cabriole legs terminating in foliate sabots
Paris, date circa 1745-49
Height 85 cm, length 110 cm, depth 60 cm.
Literature: Alexandre Pradère, “French Furniture Makers”, 1989, p. 170, pl. 147, illustrating a very closely related black and gold Chinese lacquer commode by Jacques Dubois, stamped Dubois with comparable gilt bronze mounts. “Sotheby’s Art at Auction 1990-91”, p. 285, illustrating a similar two-drawer lacquer commode of the same height by Jacques Dubois, likewise with mounts stamped with a C-couronné poinçon, sold in New York 1990. Pierre Kjellberg, “Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIe Siècle”, 1998, pp. 268-69, pls. A-G, illustrating seven Dubois Oriental lacquer pieces of furniture including two comparable commodes (pls. A and B) as well as a bureau plat decorated with Japanese lacquer panels in the Musée du Louvre. Thibaut Wolvesperges, “Le Meuble Français en Laque au XVIII Siècle”, 2000, p. 300, pl. 164, illustrating an extremely similar commode with almost identical mounts.
As one of the most important ébénistes during the Louis XV period, Jacques Dubois (1694-1763) produced sumptuous furniture for the luxury market. He worked both in marquetry, generally in a floral design but more frequently decorated his pieces in Chinese or Japanese lacquer work, of which the present piece typifies many characteristics of his oeuvre. Firstly it is of the highest quality and incorporates the most exuberant and finely chased Rococo gilt bronze mounts, a number of which were outlined with S and C-shaped scrolling borders and/or a central cartouche while others were less adorned. Interestingly another commode by Dubois (sold by Christie’s London, 7th December 1995, lot 70) is fitted with identical angle chutes, also stamped with the crowned C, indicating that this was a model he particularly favoured at that period. Again as here most of his commodes had two drawers, were only gently bombé and had a pronounced shaped apron. The presence of the C-couronné poinçon helps narrow the date of the work’s completion, the crowned C being a tax mark struck on any alloy incorporating copper, produced or offered for re-sale between March 1745 and February 1749.
In addition to commodes, Dubois produced an array of other pieces of furniture including encoignures, bureaux plats and speciality small lean-to writing desks known as bureaux de dame en pente. We also know from the inventory drawn up after his death that his large workshop at rue de Charenton, containing 127 pieces of furniture included tric-trac and other small tables, pedestals, bidets as well as two clock cases. At the end of the inventory, which included to a number of finished or almost completed lacquer pieces, was reference to a large stock of bronze mounts, both unchased mounts and models. This would indicate that Dubois was keen to protect the exclusive use of these models and stocked quantities of unchased mounts for use on his furniture and for supplying the chaser and gilder.
Jacques Dubois was born on 8th April 1694 in Pontoise and worked for many years as an ouvrier privilégié in Paris in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine but only became a maître in September 1742 at the relatively late age of 48. It is believed that he was encouraged to Paris to begin his career by his elder half-brother Noël Gérard (b. before 1690 d. 1736), who was one of the leading Paris ébénistes and dealers during the 1720s and 30s. Certainly Dubois was in Paris in 1730 when he wed Marie-Madeleine Brochet; the ceremony was witnessed Gérard. Dubois may have worked in Gérard’s workshop or failing that retailed his work through his half brother while working as an independent artisan. By the time that Dubois became a maître he was living in the rue de Charenton, opposite the Hôtel des Mousquetaires-Noirs, where his family continued to live until the Revolution. From 1752-4 he acted as a juré of his guild and then, as an indication of his standing, was asked to value the contents of J.-F. Oeben’s esteemed workshop after the latter’s death in 1763. Dubois also died suddenly that year while still at the height of his career. His workshop was continued by his widow in conjunction with their son René Dubois (1737-99), who was also an ébéniste of exceptional talent.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Dubois was not dependent upon the patronage of the powerful and influential marchands-merciers, although he did occasionally supply pieces to Léger Bertin, François Machart and Deyle-François Labrunne, as well as the marchand-ébéniste Pierre Migeon. Dubois largely cultivated his own exclusive list of aristocratic clients and delivered his furniture directly to them. Surprisingly no pieces were supplied to the king himself although it is known that Dubois and Jean-Pierre Latz collaborated on a commode (now in the Royal Palace Genoa), which was delivered to Louis XV’s daughter Madame Infante, 1750-53. Another of his clients was Count Branicki of Warsaw, for whom he made the celebrated encoignure (J. P. Getty Museum, California). Designed and ordered by Nicolas Pineau, this marquetry masterpiece, surmounted by shelves and a clock boasts exceptionally rich Rococo mounts including cupids and lions at play. The duc d’Orléans also owned a superb black and gold Japanese lacquer bureau plat by him, which was confiscated from Château du Raincy at the Revolution and is now preserved in the Musée du Louvre. Apart from the collections mentioned above, Jacques Dubois’ work can be seen in London at the Wallace Collection and Victoria and Albert Museum, Waddesdon Manor Buckinghamshire, the Parisian Musées des Arts Décoratifs and de Carnavalet as well as Cleveland Museum of Art, the Frick Collection and the Wrightsman Collection, Metropolitan Museum in New York.