MATHIEU. c. 1689-1787; MASTER 1738 ANTOINE-MATHIEU. 1724-87; MASTER 1749

Bom c. 1689. Mathieu was the son of ‘Jean Criard, lx>urgeois from the town of Brussels’. We know nothing of his youth, his training, or when he settled in Paris. The first record of Criard is his marriage contract with Jacqueline Godelart on 7 September 1721. He is then recorded as an ebeniste living in the rue Sainte-Marguerite in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. His wife was the daughter of Francois Godelart and grand-daughter of Henry Godelart. both ebenistes in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. She was provided with a dowry of 500 livres in furniture and linen as well as 200 livres in cash. The couple had two sons. Antoine-Mathieu (1724-87) and Sebastien – Mathieu (1732-%). Criard spent his life in the Fau­bourg Saint-Antoine. In about 1723 he was first estab­lished in the rue Saint-Nicolas, moving in 1732 to a house in rue Traversiere which he rented for 500 livres a year. The house comprised two shops, back-rooms, a yard and a garden, two upper floors each with four rooms, two attics and a cellar. In 1733 Criard also rented a piece of adjoining land, probably in order to extend his workshop. He became a master in 1738 at the age of forty-nine. He must have rapidly become prosperous, as in 1748 he gave his eldest son a mar­riage portion of 6,000 livres and gave the same amount in 1761 to his younger son. Furthermore, in 1756 he paid 2,000 livres for a sixth share of the house he was leasing.

Mathieu Criard worked during the 1740s for the dealer Hebert, who at that time was supplying sump­tuous furniture to the Garde-Meuble Royal. His stamp is found on several sumptuous pieces supplied by Hebert during this period to the royal residences; the encoignure now in the Louvre (222) in blue-and – white lacquer, as well as a commode now in a private collection, the former supplied in 1742 and the latter

in 1743 for the apartments ‘furnished in blue and white silk’ at Choisy. For the same apartments Hebert also supplied a ‘writing-table with a white lacquer ground painted with flowers, plants, birds and blue decorations..its whereabouts unknown today, but also certainly by Criard.

The kingwood commode in lozenge marquetry supplied by Hebert in 1748 for the Cabinet of the Dauphin, still today at Versailles, is also stamped by Criard. The same marked indented mounts are found on other commodes in lacquer by him and it is prob­able that Hebert supplied him with many models; certain bronze motifs (corner-mounts, or flattened stems around which curl sprays of flowers) are found on work by В. V. R. B. who was also one of Hebert’s suppliers. Furthermore, he supplied furniture toGau – dreaus: a debit note drawn up between Gaudreaus’ widow and (’riard on 2 September 1731 states that the Gaudreaus owed him 3.000 livres ‘for the payment of various items of ebenisterie made by Criard and sup­plied to the widow Gaudreaus and Sieur Gaudreaus. her son. as well as in settlement of their account’. The links between the two families are also confirmed by the presence of widow Gaudreaus and her son as wit­nesses at the marriages of Mathicu Criard’s sons in 1748 and 1761.

Between 1733 and 1763 C’riard worked for Gilles Joubcrt who had succeeded НёЬеП and Gaudreaus as supplier to the Garde-Meuble Royal. Several pieces delivered by Joubert bear Criard’s stamp: a commode supplied in 1754 for the Chateau de la Muette |224] as well as a night-table supplied in 1755 for Mine de Pompadour at Choisy (Musee des Art Decoratifs), a small encoignure of 1756 for the Dauphine at (lorn – piegne (Musee de Saumur). and in 1768 a small writing-table for the Comptroller General (Ader sale. Paris. 14 June 1983. lot 200).

Criard’s wife died in August 1767. An inventory of the workshop was drawn up on 2 April 1768. Criard’s assets were estimated at 12.414 livres (of which 6.460 livres were in cash. 2.893 livres in slock and tools. 1.619 livres in furniture and linen and 773 livres in jewellery and silver). The house on the rue Traversiere included a workshop, a storehouse and a shop; in the courtyard and garden there were several wooden sheds which served as workshop and shops, (’riard employed numerous assistants: 13 work-benches are itemized (estimated with their tools at 256 livres); the stocks of wood comprised mostly pine (68 planks) but also oak (57 cords), a smaller quantity of walnut (33 pieces) and of cherry and beech (16 planks). Of the 71 pieces in stock, 46 were in French woods (10 in wal-

nut. 11 in cherrywood, 25 in walnut and beech) and 21 were veneered in exotic woods; tulipwood was always used, combined with palisander (on 11 pieces), king – wood (6 pieces) or amaranth. Criard’s production con­sisted mainly of commodes (33. forming nearly hall the stock); there were 17 tables (of which 8 were games-tables in cherrywood and 9 were dressing – tables). There were also 4 marquetry encoignures. 6 chiffonnieres, 8 armoires and 2 secretaires. On the other hand, there is only one bureau and no secretaire a abattant. The commodes arc described as being Y-shajxrd or tombeau’ or ‘with round feet’; it is probable therefore that they were all in the rococo style. The values given for the furniture were very low (between 14L and 85L) and there is no mention of any bronze mounts. Among Criard’s debtors, the name of Hericourt is mentioned (certainly the marchand – mercier Nicolas Hericourt. 1729-90) for a debt of a thousand livres and there is also a record of a list of 18 sheets of ‘items made by Sr Criard on credit for Sr Hericourt’.

Mathieu Criard was 78 years old when this inven­tory was drawn up. The inventory does not therefore reflect the workshop at the height of its success (1745-55). There is therefore no mention of lacquer commodes, although he did specialize in them earlier

I225J Commode stamped A. (Sotheby’s Monaco, 23 June M. Cnard, c. 1750. with floral 19S5, lot 744) marquetry in hois de bout.

in his career. On the commodes in imitation Chinese lacquer the same gilt motifs are found of pierced rocaillc and the same peony sprays, proof that a single hand, perhaps one of the Martin brothers, worked on them all. Another of Criard’s specialities, which the inventory of 1768 does not mention, were the com­modes in kingwood parquetry forming trellis and dia­mond patterns. Nearly all the recorded veneered commodes by Mathieu are of this type and it is prob­able that he never executed pieces in floral marquetry.

Mathieu Criard ceased production in 1770 and sold his stock of furniture and his equipment to his younger son Sebastien-Mathieu in exchange for an an­nuity of 500 livres. He lived for a while with his son. but after many disagreements between them, he moved to the house of his eldest son Antoine-Mathieu in the rue de Crenelle where he died in 1776 at the age of 87. Unlike the case of other ebenistes’ dynasties. Antoine-Mathieu did not take over the father’s work­shop but had his own business and his production should therefore be examined separately.