on of a cobbler established in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and descended from a family from Burgundy. Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus was bom in about 1682. After an apprenticeship of three years, from 1699 to 1702. he began to work inde­pendently before gaining his mastership in 1708. In the same year he married Marie-Denise Maingot. She was provided with a dowry of 1.700 livres against his

2,0 livres. of which 800 livres was in cash and the remaining 1.200 livres was represented by five work­benches. tools and clothing. At the time of the con­tract, Gaudreaus was described as ebeniste in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine’. After his marriage he continued to live at the same address in a vast estab­lishment which served as a workshop. The success which he soon enjoyed, as well as the respect of his fel­low ebenistes, led to his election for two years, around 1720 or 1721, as book-keeper to the guild of menui – siers-ebenistes. He seems to have been close to his col­league Jean Coulon. since in 1721 he valued his furniture and in 1722 his assets on the death of his wife.

Increasingly prosperous. Gaudreaus decided to move to the centre of Paris to a large house in the rue Princesse. where he remained until his death. From 1701 onwards this house, which formerly belonged to the silversmith Nicolas de Launay, had been fitted with an ebeniste’s workshop as well as a shop under the sign ‘L’lmage Sainte-Anne’. later renamed ‘Au Cabinet d’ltalie’. Gaudreaus took it over from the ebe­niste Francois Guillemard (who had retired in 1716

(116) Medal cabinet in kingwood supplied by Gaudreaus in 1738for the Cabinet Intericur of Ijouis XV at Versailles. The

and sold his stock of furniture to another ebeniste. Pierre Quillart). Guillemard died on 8 April 1724 and initially Gaudreaus continued to use the latter’s name for commercial purposes. In actual fact, the first furni­ture made by Gaudreaus for the Garde-Meuble Royal, in 1725-26, was supplied under the name of Guillemard.

In November 1726 the name of Gaudreaus appeared for the first time in the day-book of the Garde-Meuble Royal. This was the beginning of a col­laboration which lasted twenty years, until Gaudreaus’ death in 1746, and which was prolonged for a further five years by his son until 1751. When he started working for the Crown. Gaudreaus was forty-three. He was already, no doubt, a remarkable craftsman and this was probably the reason he was chosen, rather than any patronage of Nicolas de Launay or the widow Guillemard. He succeeded Hecquet as ebeniste to the Crown. The fashion in the 1720s was for furni­ture ’in olivewood with compartments forming circles or semi-circles’. He certainly produced furniture of this type; he also produced furniture in kingwood. pal­isander and above all. numerous pieces in ‘plain wal­nut’ or cherry with fillets’. This furniture for everyday use. such as commodes, bidets, night-tables, dressing- tables and commode-chairs represented the major part of the work of the ebeniste to the Crown. Thus between 1726 and 1746 Gaudreaus supplied more than 850 pieces of furniture, of which two-thirds were in walnut or cherry. To keep pace with these large orders he had probably to subcontract to his fellow ebenistes. as his successor Joubert would often do. However, as the habit of stamping furniture only became general after 1745 and Gaudreaus died in 1746. we have almost no proof that he did so. It is only clear from the inventory on the death of Doirat that he

[117J Kingwood commode supplied in 1739 by Gaudreaus for Louis XVs Bedchamber at Versailles, with the delivery no. 1150; the mounts signed by the fondeur-ciseleur Cajfxeri. (Wallace Collection, London)

owed the latter 6(K) livres in 1732. It is therefore unwise to presume that he himself made all the furni­ture supplied by him to the Garde-Meuble Royal.

Nevertheless, this reservation being made, one may study his work through the day-book of the Garde – Meuble. It will be noticed that his consignments rose steadily between 1730 and 1745 as the royal family expanded. He supplied 380 pieces between 1740 and 1745. as opposed to 320 between 1730 and 1739. The important commissions came in 1739 when he sup­plied the commode for the King’s Bedchamber, designed by Slodtz and decorated with mounts by Cafficri, and the medal-cabinet for the King’s Cabinet Interieur at Versailles. These were his masterpieces and are among the greatest examples of French furni­ture. They are both veneered in kingwood. as are most recorded pieces by Gaudreaus. In fact, his preference for kingwood can be observed in the day-book of the Garde-Meuble from 1737 onwards: from 1730 to 1739 there are 34 pieces in kingwood as opposed to 21

(118J Kinguvod commode en Bedchamber at Fontainebleau tombeau supplied in 1745 by (delivery no. 1364). (Musee de

Gaudreaus for the Dauphine’s Versailles)

in palisander (then called ‘palissante’) and 15 in amar­anth. From 1740 to 1745 this predominance of the use of kingwood became more marked, with 88 recorded pieces as against 22 in amaranth and 17 in palisander. Ebonized pearwood was still in use up to 1744. as well as olivewood with fillets of palisander. Tulipwood. rarely used, did not make an appearance until 1745 and then only gradually (three pieces, two of them commode chairs). Finally, the absence of marquetry on Gaudreaus’ work is typical of furniture produced during the Regence. He used only plain veneer or marquetry with geometric effects in trellis, diamonds or butterfly wings. The pieces are described as ‘veneered’ or ‘with small squares or lozenges’ or ‘veneered in mosaic patterns’ or even ’with lozenge­shaped compartments’. Marquetry is first recorded in 1742. and then again in 1745 with a commode and a
table in bois saline with kingwood flowers for the Dau­phin and Dauphine at Marly. Obviously, he was no master of marquetry, and the royal family acquired this type of furniture through the marchands-merciers Hebert and Julliot from 1745 onwards.

Likewise, for furniture in oriental lacquer, the royal family went to Hebert from 1737 (or Julliot and Dar – nault) who supplied furniture made by Criard and В. V. R. B. Nevertheless, in 1744 Gaudreaus experi­mented in this new technique: he supplied a com­mode. two encoignures and a bureau ‘in Chinese lacquer with a black ground’ for the King’s apartments at Choisy, a chateau already largely furnished with lac­quer furniture supplied by Hebert. They were the only pieces he produced in lacquer, and. moreover, the bureau plat, now in the Archives Nationales. is prob­ably the work of В. V. R. B.

The gilt-bronze mounts used by Gaudreaus to embellish his furniture are often heavier than those of his fellow craftsmen. On the very best pieces slashed rocaille is found, and particularly, as with Cressent. palm motifs; good examples are found on the medal – cabinet at Versailles as well as the lacquer commode at Choisy. and they are described in several entries in the day-book of the Garde-Meuble: thus the bureau (no. 1010) supplied in August 1732 for use in the closets above the Salon de la Guerre at Versailles, or the bureau (no. 1118) supplied in 1737 for the Cabinet du Roi at Versailles, which is enriched with decoration and mouldings outlined in palm fronds’ as well as the commode ‘decorated with palms’ supplied in 1738 for the King’s Bedchamber at La Muetle (no. 1131). On
more ordinary furniture, which was the main part of his production, Gaudreaus used very few mounts: on his commodes there are only escutcheons and fixed handles and sometimes corner-mounts. Certain com­modes as well as most of the tables and bureaux are mounted with ‘chaussons de cuivre’ (bronze sabots). Finally, these mounts were not mercury gilded but varnished on all but exceptional pieces. On the ma­jority they were simply described as ‘mis en couleur d’or’ (varnished bronzes).

Commodes, a type of furniture conceived at the end of the seventeenth century, were an important part of Gaudreaus’ production. Daniel Alcouffe has counted 375 in the day-book of the Garde-Meuble. making up almost half of his consignments, of which 111 were veneered. 252 in solid walnut and 12 in solid oak. The majority of the commodes were ‘en tom – beaux’ with three rows of drawers, the uppermost drawers sometimes divided in two. Numerous other commodes were of the type called a la Regcnce’. that is raised on high legs and with two rows of drawers. Finally, some of the most exceptional commodes had encoignures-fermees’ (with cupboards on the sides) in the manner of Cressent. This applies to the commode for the King’s Bedchamber at Versailles, the one for Choisy. an example supplied in 1738 for the King’s New Bedchamber at La Muette (no. 1131). the one supplied in the following year for the King’s Bed­chamber at C^ompiegne (no. 1167) and a last one sup­plied in 1745 for the Dauphin’s Bcdcham!>er at Versailles (no. 1380).

Many pieces of furniture were made for the royal

1122J (below) Low bookcase in kingwood, exact copy by Ricsener of a piece supplied by Gaudreaus in 1744 for the Cabinet of Louis XV at Versailles, lloullc’s influence can be detected in the composition of this piece, as well as the mounts. (Ministerc dc la Marine, Paris)

garde-robes (wardrobe closets): encoignures. corner – shelves called ‘tablettes’ or ‘gradins d’encoignure’, bidets and commode chairs (some veneered in amar­anth, palisander and kingwood) and night-tables. The bureaux plats which Gaudreaus supplied rarely were prestigious pieces made for the King or Dauphin only, and never for high officials or courtesans as would be the case later under lx>uis XVI.

Similarly, it is noticeable how few secretaires (also called ‘dos d ane ) are recorded. These first appeared in 1733, made for the Queen at Marly, and became fashionable after 1738. The painstaking way in which they were entered in the day-book of the Garde – Mcuble clearly indicates a recent invention. Gau­dreaus supplied a total of six of them, all between 1738 and 1746, a sign that they were not his speciality. On the other hand, games-tables were. Games were one of the most important activities of Court life and Gau­dreaus supplied more than forty games-tables be­tween 1730 and 1746. Almost all of them were veneered in kingwood or palisander although several were in cherry with palisander stringing. They were of all kinds and shapes: rectangular ones for piquet; square ones for quadrille; pentagonal ones for brelan and triangular ones for jeu d’ombre. Finally, there was one trictrac table in ebonized pearwood.

Gaudreaus did not work exclusively for the royal

family but was patronized by an illustrious private clientele including the Marquis d’Antin. the Comte dc Clermont, the Due de Bouillon, Saint-Simon, the Prince de Chalais and the Due de Valentinois, whom he supplied with various pieces in kingwood (see Appendix) in 1730 for the sum of 500 livres.

Gaudreaus’ successor was his son Fran^ois-Antoine (c. 1715-1753) who was received master very young, before 1735. On the occasion of his marriage in 1739, he was given a third share in his father’s business. Antoine-Robert died in 1746; however, the business, directed by his son in association with his widow, con­tinued for another five years, supplying furniture to the drown until 1751. In that year Gaudreaus’ name ceases to feature in the day-book of the Garde – Meuble, being replaced by that of Joubert. It is likely that Fran^ois-Antoine fell ill. as the assets of the busi­ness were sold in July 1751 and he died in 1753.

The inventory taken after Gaudreaus’ death reveals a precarious financial situation. The ebeniste Mathieu Criard was among the creditors and was owed 3.000 livres ’for goods made and supplied by him’.


Minutier Central. СИ. 373: inventory taken after the

death of Franqois-Antoine Gaudreaus

Daniel Alcouffe: ’Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus et Frantjois-

Antoine Gaudreaus ebenistes de Louis XV’. in: Melanges

Verlet, antologia di belle arti, 1985. nos 27-28

Pierre Verlet: LeMobilier royal franqais, Paris, vol. I

(1945). pp.4-15; vol. II (1955). pp. 43-56.

Jean-Neree Ronfort: ‘Choisy et la commode du roi’.

L’Estampille, October 1988. pp. 14-29

Exh. cat. їм ruede Varenne. 1981. p. 35. no. 102 in a gold colour, for this. 2351.

— 2 gucridons in cherrywood. for this. iOL

— 2 commodes a la Regcncc of serpentine shape in kingwood in a mosaic of small squares with small fillets of bois rouge. 3 pieds I pouce long, each to the same design, price fixed at 300L Total (reduced to): 5001.

(Palace archives of the Prince ol Monaco)

/123/ Commode, с. 1740-45; the form, mounts, the use of kingwood veneer and certain details of the construction (such as the use of oak for the carcase I


Updated: September 29, 2015 — 3:48 am