he supremacy of French furniture in our period was gener
lesser extent in Italy and England. The Faubourg Saint – Antoine exported some of its finest furniture, and advertisements by ebenistes are to be found in contemporary almanacs offering to make ‘deliveries to the country and abroad’. Some furniture found today in Britain. Russia and Germany must have arrived there before the Revolution, sent from Paris by diplomats posted abroad, by travellers or commercial agents to foreign princes. It should be added that French ambassadors were accustomed to order a sumptuous suite of furniture from Paris for their new posting, and it would usually be sold locally, when the ambassador returned home
The oldest examples of foreign purchases are Swedish, dating from the 1690s. Through Daniel Cronstrom. secretary to the Ambassador of Sweden in France, numerous pieces of furniture were ordered for the Swedish Court and for Swedish noblemen. The correspondence between Cronstrom and the architect of the King of Sweden. Nicodeme Tessin Ic Jcune. the richest source of information on the decorative arts at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, is informative about some of these orders. Since 1693 Cronstrom had been recommending Berain and Cucci:
The tables and gueridons that you want to have for the King are difficult to find ready made. If you want to have them made, it is best to order in good time but I do not know whom to choose for this. Cucci is excellent. On the other hand. Berain has admirable designs and good workers. Please decide between the two. Berain would like to do it. ILcttcr dated 22 May 1693.1
In 1695 Cronstrom purchased bureaux for Count Piper and also ordered a set of chairs for him. The following year he recommended to Tessin the purchase of a cabinet in pietra-dura. 7 to 8 pieds in width, which was coming up for sale on the death of Mile de Guise. In 1699 he suggested a long-case clock made under the direction of Berain. as well as an organ case in tortoiseshell and ebony belonging to Perrault (letter dated 5 October 1699):
Here is (.. -1 a clock that Berain has made so perfectly, the most pleasing and rich workmanship that has ever been carried out in this style. It was intended for the Petite Galerie du Roi. but there has been some kind of misunderstanding which has meant that it is still with him [Berain]. It is.
I suppose. 8 to 10 pieds in height with its base. It has cost him. I think.
5,000 livres. [There is) an organ case suitable for an apartment, which Mr Perrault wants to sell. It is of tortoiseshell, ebony and bronze, made at the time when he was at the Bailments. judge for yourself that it’s by good craftsmen (…]
In 1702 he sent a bureau to M. Walrave, then in 1707 a commode to Mme Hermelin, which he hailed as the very latest in furniture:’! am very impatient to know how and if the bureau of Mme Hermelin has been received. [… J For the rest, you have told me nothing of this latest design, they are called commodes. I don’t know if you like them’ (letter of 16 October 1707).
Of all the European countries. Germany was the most attracted by French art. The collections of French furniture still to be seen in the Munich Resident. Schloss Moritzburg near Dresden, in Cassel. Ansbach, Bamberg and Berlin, are the remains of collections made by German princes in the eighteenth century. The rhythm of their purchases was influenced by the unsettled diplomatic relations between the two countries and it is notable that the two finest collections of French furniture, in Munich and Dresden, belonged to Catholic princes who were allied to France on several occasions. During the seventeenth century the constant warring between Louis XIV and the Empire hindered trade relations. After the treaty of Baden in 1714. which brought the War of the Spanish Succession to an end. foreigners returned to Paris. We have the account in Le Mcrcure dc France of the visit made by the princes of Bavaria to Boulle’s workshop in 1723. This was certainly not an isolated occurrence. For their part, various French architects in the service of German princes ordered furnishings from Paris for new apartments. We know that Robert de Cotte ordered two commodes from Boulle for the Elector of Cologne in 1718. The Munich Residenz has a fine
collection of furniture by Cressent, Care! and other Parisian ebe – nistes of the Regence. which it seems that the Elector Charles – Albert had bought in Paris between 1730 and 1737 (according to Feulner, 1926. p. 286). In Dresden the furnishings date rather from the years 1740-50; apart from a pair of coffers by Boulle. the collection mainly comprises commodes by Б. V. R. B. and clocks by Latz of the rococo period. Most of the furniture was bought in Paris by the agent of the Elector of Saxony. M. Leleux, whose name is mentioned in an inventory after Latz’s death in 1754. In Berlin the taste of the King of Prussia, in keeping with that of his neighbour the Elector of Saxony, also led him to order furniture from Latz. mainly long-case clocks through his agent M. Petit. The Seven Years War interrupted these purchases and Frederick II was forced to have his furniture made in Berlin by German cabinet-makers and bronze – workers such as Spindler and Kambly. However, the influence of Latz is still strongly noticeable in their work.
In Italy, where local traditions of furniture-making were strong, fondness for French furniture was found only in a few princely courts related to the French royal family. The chief collection of such furniture, now at the Quirinal in Rome, consists of pieces ordered in Paris in about 1748 by the daughter of I^ouis XV. Madame Infante, for her palace at Parma. These are pieces in rococo style by B. V.R. B.. Latz and Dubois. In Naples. Queen Maria-Carolina. perhaps following the example of her sister Marie* Antoinette, ordered lavish lacquer furniture from Daguerre, today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art [477J. as well as a table with porcelain plaques by Carlin which had formerly belonged to Mme du Barry (401J.
In Spain, the Bourbon kings adhered closely to the French taste. In 1715 Philip V. through the offices of Robert de Cotte. ordered a bureau and a commode from Boulle for the Alcazar Palace. Madrid (see p. 70). Charles III later made the purchase, no doubt through his French clock-maker Godon. of several pieces of furniture in Paris. This explains the presence in the Oriente Palace. Madrid of several important pieces by Carlin. Levasseur and Benneman. In 1799 the departure to Madrid of Dugourc. the former designer of the Garde-Meuble Royal, increased the influence of the French taste in Spain at the end of the century.
During the 1730s in Portugal. King Jao V ordered sumptuous furniture from Paris for his palace in Lisbon. Everything disappeared during the earthquake of 1755. and the only traces left of these orders are in archival documents. It is known that Cressent received an order for a cartel clock representing ‘Love conquering Time’ in 1733. From an unpublished document (Arch. Nat. Y 12398) we learn that the following year a Parisian caster and chaser. Pierre Lourdet. had a commode and two encoignures in his workshop. intended for the King of Portugal, valued at 7.000 livres. Finally, it is known that В. V. R. B. was working in Lisbon before 1738 (seep. 184).
In England, where there was a prosperous furniture-making trade and where there was a greater desire for comfort than for ostentation, the taste for French furniture developed very slowly. French furniture sent to England during the eighteenth century was often acquired by ambassadors in Paris or by travellers making the Grand Tour. The bureau plat by В. V. R. B. at Temple Newsam, Leeds (173] was acquired by Richard Arundale before 1746. Towards the end of the century interest deepened. The fame of the great dealer Poirier, and then of his successor Daguerre, won them many orders. In 1765 Lord Coventry bought a ‘bureau ё la grcc’. probably by Rene Dubois, from Poirier, which inspired a series of English tables made in 1772 for Osterley Park. At the same time Horace Walpole bought various pieces from Poirier, including a clock, a secretaire, a coffer and a table with porcelain plaques, no doubt by В. V. R. B. or R. V. L. C. (181. 312]. which were listed in an inventory of the contents of Strawberry Hill in 1798. Two bonheurs – du-jour with porcelain plaques by Carlin, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. came from Lord Spencer who very probably bought them from Poirier during a visit to Paris in 1773 or 1777. Later Daguerre also supplied numerous lacquer pieces to Lord Spencer which are today at Althorp. A consignment in 1791 comprised two commodes and two encoignures in lacquer by Saunier, as well as two secretaires en cabinet by Weisweiler. Other English clients bought furniture from Daguerre. Baroness d’Oberkirch mentioned in her memoirs in 1784 ‘a sumptuous buffet’ ordered by the Duke of Northumberland, which everyone was admiring at Daguerre’s. Daguerre played an important part in the furnishing of Carlton House for the Prince Regent. Daguerre’s English clientfcle became so important after the Revolution that he decided to send some of his stock to London in 1791, and he opened a shop in Sloane Street in 1793.
Russia was interested in French furniture from the beginning of the eighteenth century. Shortly after the death of Louis XIV on 30 I>ecember 1715, the Tsar was offered the furniture from the King’s bedchamber, the bed and chairs, by the First Gentleman of the Bedchamber who had been granted it according to prerogative. Rather than buy furniture from Paris. Peter the Great preferred to bring the decorator. Nicolas Pineau. to St Petersburg, together with a score of Parisian craftsmen. For their part, some Russian noblemen brought home sumptuous furniture from Paris. On return from his embassy to Paris in 1721. Baron deScheulnitz brought back‘three commodes with marquetry in Japanese wood, one bureau in ebony, two large gu^ridons in gilt wood and two pairs of bellows with marquetry’. Royal gifts also fostered this taste. In 1745 Louis XV sent ‘a bureau in kingwood with compartments decorated with bronze ornaments with serre-papiers and a clock in the middle’ to the Empress Elizabeth. This piece was ordered from НёЬеп; it was in a ‘new and dignified style’. Denis Roche described it thus:
1). Л bureau de cabinet 6 pieds in length and 3 in width, of kingwood.
with compartments, cabriole legs, quart-de-rond, and other ornaments in gilt-bronze. 2). Л small matching armoire. 3 pieds 4 polices in width, to be placed at one end of the bureau. 3). Л serre-papiers of about 3 pieds in height which is placed on the small armoire. 4). A clock treated in the same style to complete the serre-papiers. The ensemble belonging to the King and costing His Majesty the sum of 7.(XX) livres.
The registers of the Prtsens du Roy record this gift on 22 May 1745 and price it at 7,255 livres.
Other bureaux plats were ordered in Paris for Marshal Bestuzhev and Chancellor Vorontsov. ‘The latter made a collection of fine furniture in his house at St Petersburg. In 1758 Louis XV presented him with several pieces, amongst which was ‘a very fine commode of Japanese lacquer in relief decorated with its double cartel motif on the front and the sides with blue turquin marble, of 4*/i pieds in length. . .1.230L’ and ‘two very fine encoignures in Japanese lacquer. decorated with gilt mounts of a new shape, and bleu turquin marble. . .1.250L’.
The French ambassadors’ sale of fine furniture in St Petersburg at the end of their postings enriched Russian collections. Soon the Russian enthusiasm for French furniture became so great, and imports so numerous, that the French commercial agent wrote in 1772: ’(The Russians have decided toj engage workers in bronze and marquetry to make furniture which they are already copying very well and all kinds of other work in bronze in order to prevent the large consignments of this nature which are being sent from France.’ This protectionist practice was instigated by Catherine II who seems to have preferred the furniture of Roentgen to that of the French ebenistes. The Tsarevich Paul and his wife Maria Fyodorovna, however, were passionately keen on Parisian objets dart, and during their visit to Paris in 1782 under the names of the Comte and Comtesse du Nord, they placed orders with the marchands – merciers Daguerre and Granchez. Thus top-quality furniture with porcelain plaques by Carlin and Weisweiler was sent to Pavlovsk where it embellished the boudoir of Maria Fyodorovna.
It is evident that the popularity of French furniture abroad dates from well before the Revolution. And this explains the massive export of furniture to England. Germany and Russia that followed the sales after the Revolution and the fall of the Empire.