1729-1807; MASTER 1764


ean – Francois Leleu was born in Paris and was first apprenticed in the workshop of Jean-Fran<jois Oeben at the Arsenal. When the latter died in 1763. Leleu. aged thirty-four, seems to have wished to take over the workshop, but was supplanted by his younger colleague Riesener. who eventually married Oeben’s widow. Leleu thereafter held a long­standing grudge against Riesener; Salverte cites a complaint by Riesener to the police in August 1765 claiming to have been assaulted by Leleu. Leaving Oeben’s workshop. Leleu settled in the chaussee de la Contrescarpe opposite the Bastille, and became a mas­ter ebeniste on 19 September 1764.

Me soon thrived and moved to a larger workshop in the rue Royale-Saint-Antoine (now rue de Birague) near the Place des Vosges. IXiring this period he made several porcelain-mounted pieces, including two cylinder top desks (one in the Huntington Library which can lx? dated to 1767, the other formerly in the Lady Hillingdon Collection). Shortly afterwards he became official ebeniste to the Prince de Conde. to whom he supplied furniture between 1772 and 1777 for a total sum exceeding 60,000 livres (see Appen­dix). Some of these pieces are today in the Wallace Collection, others in the Petit Trianon and the Louvre. During the same period Leleu supplied fur­nishings for the Chateau du Marais and collaborated in the furnishing, in very advanced taste, of the Cha­teau de Mcreville for the Court banker, the Marquis de Laborde. He also made some furniture for the Due

(386/ Mahogany cabinet stamped Leleu, с. 1785; of in^enwus design, probably made to stand between two windows, it opens at the sides while the

d’Uzes who had his hotel in Paris altered by Ledoux c. 1769.

Leleu was elected adjudicator of his guild for two years in 1774, syndic in 1776. and continued to hold office in the guild until the Revolution. Many pieces of furniture stamped by him were in fact made by the ebeniste Charles-Antoine Stadlcr. who also lived in the house in the rue Royale, and had married his step­daughter Anne-Louise Retrou in 1767. This is con­firmed by the mention in the inventory on the latter’s death in 1776 of‘a book in which Stadler inscribes the pieces he makes for Sr. Leleu his father-in-law. the total (…) amounting to 834 livres.’

Lelcu’s style is one of strict Neo-classicism applied to imposing designs where architectural elements are often emphasized by fluted pilasters at the corners and robust feet. The commodes are strictly rectangular in form with a flat front (or occasionally slightly bombe) but without the central breakfront section so often a feature on furniture of that period. In the case of the commodes, the two lower drawers are separated from

the frieze drawer and surrounded by a heavy gilt – bronze frame. Certain details of his decorative mounts are characteristic of Leleu: the interlaced ivy frieze appears on a commode in the Louvre [398] and on the commode formerly in the Wildenstein Collection [385]. Friezes of Vitruvian scrolls are found on the Palais-Bourbon commode [399] and on the secretaire in the Wallace Collection [388]. These two pieces are mounted with feet forming robust lions’ paws similar to those found on the bureau plat made for Lalive de Jully at Chantilly (which, though not by Leleu. must have been restored by him when being resold to the Due de Chaulnes in 1770).

Leleu’s speciality was marquetry, not only mar­quetry pictures (baskets of flowers and trophies) but

13871 Bureau plat stamped lЛеи, c. 1780, bearing the mark of the Chateau de Bellevue with the monograms J. B. and M. V. in gilt bronze; marquetry of
marquetry of arabesques on a striped sycamore ground, or geometric marquetry. Its excellence and minute detail are equalled only by Riesener. Certain geometric patterns in marquetry are also character­istic of this master, such as the octagonal motifs enclosing rosettes which are found on a secretaire and commode in a private collection [391. 394]. on a piece in the Musec Nissim de Camondo and on another for­merly in the Rosebery Collection [392]. Moreover. Leleu was cited as ebeniste-marqueteur’ in the Alma – nach general des marchands du royaume of 1779 and again in subsequent years.


Arch. Nat.. Min. Cent.. LXXXIX. 715; inventory of Anne-Louise Retrou. daughter-in-law of Leleu. October

Гог furniture supplied to the Prince de Cond6 in 1772 and 1773

L’Estampille, September 1989. pp. 66-75 F. de Salverte, Les Ebcnistes. pp. 198—200 Svend Erikscn: Early Neoclassicism in France, p. 201 Pierre Verlet: їм Maison fran^aise du XVIlIc sieclc. pp. 166-67

Michel Gallet: ‘Ledoux et Paris’. Cahicrs dc la Rotonde. 3. 1979. pp. 73-76 13901 Writing-table, stamped Leleu, c 1772, the marquetry with interlaced motifs and florets; IЛеи supplied an almost identical table on 24 May 1772 for the Palais-Bourbon.

ISotheby’s Monaco, 9 December 1984, lot 1054)


/3911 (left) Secretaire d abattant attributed to Leleu, c. 1770- 75, with marquetry of florets within a pattern of hexagonal links. (Sale Galerie Petit, Paris, 26 May 1913, lot 62)

13921 Library cabinet attributed to Leleu with the date 1770 inscribed in ink. (J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu. California)
1393/ Writing-table stamped Leleu, c. 1770-75. (Sotheby’s London, 5 June 1986, lot 71)
13941 (below і c-ommode en suite with the secretaire illustrated at /391 /, stamped Ijeleu. (Sale Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 26 May 1913, lot 611




30 April 1772, Cabinet of His Serene Highness:

1> To supplying a secretaire for the Palais Bourbon, 3 piedx 2 pouces in height. 3 pieds6 pouces in width and 15 pouces in depth, all in oak from the Vosges. In the upper section there is a gradin comprising 8 drawers in solid bois saline, each one with a handle. In one of the drawers is an escritoire (with 3 compartments), well finisher! and mounted in mercury-gilded bronze In the middle is a section with 4 drawers with secret opening device, the aforesaid gradin veneered in tulipwood. The fall-front is closed with 2 gilt swing hinges, sermrc $ pignon. key chased, and decorated with black velvet. The base section comprises a gradin and two drawers and a strong-box in solid bois saline with their handles The gradin and front veneered in tulipwood and amaranth as well as the doors; the said doors arc fitted with 4 hinges, serrures 5 bascules and dcmi-basculc with rim lock, all well finished and gilded 8901. (reduced to) 730L

2) Also for fixing and fitting all the mounts and screws. 6OL

23 June, cabinet of Mgr le Due de Bourbon:

3) To supplying a secretaire en pente of 2 pieds 8 pouces long by 1 pied in height and 13 pouces in depth, fitted into panelling with strong hinges and a closing mechanism. The door is decorates! in lx>ix des Index. Inside the cupboard is fitter! with a shutter with 2 hinges. The interior of the said secretaire contains 4 drawers of which one

/395/ SrcrAuirc d abattant stamped Leleu, c. 1770- 75, unth floral marquetry and cube marquetry on the sides, the monogram M. L. C. or M. L. J. on thefall-front. (Archives Caloric Levy, Paris)
is decorated with 3 gilt-bronze feet and veneered in tulipwood The fall-front covered with morocco leather and a gold braid. 2 hinges b re|x>s and a xcrnire b pignon. The exterior is veneered in tulijiworx! and amaranth with black and white stringing, decorated with rings, escutcheons and knob gilt in or moulu. 395L (reduced to 330LI

4) To supplying a screen of 3 piedx 6 pouces in height by 20 pouces wide with 4 leaves, of double thickness at the base, in solkl tulipwood and 4 frames in oak. the edges in amaranth fitted with 6 double hinges in gilt – bronze. 250L (reduced to 200L)

5) To supplying an identical screen to the above for Chantilly. 2501. (reduced to 2201.)

6) To having widened the fall – front of the painted secretaire by 6 pouces. veneered in tulipwood. the interior re-covered in black velvet, fitted with 2 oak hinges with gilt heads, for this 55L (reduced to 381.)

30 November, the Pink Salon of His Serene Highness:

7) To supplying a cylinder desk of 2 pieds 6 pouces in length. 18 pouces deep and 3 pieds 3 pouces in height The upper section is fitted with 6 drawers in solid bois хабпё veneered in a mosaic pattern, and the slide fitted with a mechanism which operates the fall-front anti covered with black velvet. The lower section comprises 5 drawers in solid mahogany in which there is an oval fitted with a lock which locks the whole piece by means of other mechanisms; the said secretaire is on square feet with indented corners; up above are consoles in solid amaranth fluted and inlaid in brass, the legs veneered in amaranth and tulipwood with black and white stringing, the panels and fall-front in shaded mosaic patterns; 2 keys, one і I’anglaise. the other chased ant! with coats of arms. The said secretaire is decorated with 4 ball-shaped sabots and lotus leaves. The angles of the feet with 14 ends of garlands of oak leaves; above. 8 double lotus leaves, the squares made up of beads, 12 lions’ heads, a single moulding for the pilaster. 18 rods and bay florets. 6 ornamental leaves. 10 leaf
rosettes with scrolls. On the sides and front arc 5 frames in bay leaves of which one is oval, in the middle a sun; the quartчіе-rond with an acanthus-leaf moulding. On the upper section the sides decorated with 2 semi-circles in double Vitruvian scrolls. The curved part at the front and the frieze with the same ornamentation. On the top is a single moulding acting as the surround for the marble, all well – finished and in mercury-gilded bronze, for this 4.760L (reduced to 3.9401.)

Bed-chamber of His Serene Highness:

8) To su|>plying a commode 3 pieds 10 pouces in length. 32 |X)uces in height and 23 pouces in depth with cut angles, the carcase in oak from the Vosges veneered in amaranth and bois satinc with black and white stringing. ’1Ъе sides and 2 panels of the front in mosaic marquetry. In the middle is an oval of bay and a basket of flowers, all shaded. The drawers lined in blue moirl silk, fitted with a key for all 3 locks, and 2 keys, one chased. The хакі commode is decorated with 4 fluted pilasters inlaid with brass and with 4 leaves. In the frieze is a Vitruvian scroll. Above is a concave moulding with a flat border above. On the pmcls 3 decorated frames. 4 rings and rosettes. On the base a moulding and zigzag moulding; the feet in the form of 4 lions’ paws, all well-finished and in mercury – gilded bronze. 2,9501. (reduced to 2.460L) [399)

13 November:

9) To supplying a commode of 3 pieds 6 pouces in wulth. 23 pouces in depth and 32 pouces in height including the marble, veneered in tulipwood and amaranth, panels of cube – patterned marquetry, black and white stringing, fitter! with its gilt-bronze chased mounts and top of brcche d’Alep marble 5651. (reduced to 4651.)

10) Plus a commode of 3 pieds 3 pouces in width. 17 pouces in depth, 31 pouces in height, veneered in tulipwood. black and white stringing fitted with its gilt-bronze mounts and cervelas marble top. for this 380L (reduced to 3301.)
14 November:

11 > To supplying 2 adjustable fire-screens in tulipwood. 31 pouces in height and 15 pouces in width covered in crimson taffeta 521. (reduced to 44L)

12) Plus 6 fire-screens in malxsgany 30 pouces high on stands. 4 covered in green taffeta and 2 in crimson taffeta, at 101. each 601. (reduced to 541.)

13) Plus 6 other fire-screens in reddened walnut of the same proportions, of which 4 are covered in green and 2 in crimson, at 71.10s each. 45L (reduced to 39)

14) Plus 2 screens with 4 leaves in lx>is satinc. 30 pouces in height by 1 pied in width covered in green taffeta, at 52L each.

1041. (reduced to 90L)

15) Plus supplying 4 whist tables of 34 pouces. of which 3 are in walnut and one in wild cherry at 361. each. 1441. (reduced to 1281.)

16) To supplying a set of steps in walnut. 801. (reduced to 66L) 1-1

18 November:

29) To supplying two trictrac tables in walnut. 641. (reduced to 561.)

Plus two panier boxes, painted with decorative surround, for this. 30L (adjusted to 341.)

28 November:

30) To retiring a table en secretaire with opening mechanism, refitting the gold – coloured mounts, rebumishing as new. fitting screws, for this 38L (reduced to 33L) For collecting and delivering: 31.

31) To supplying a commode 5 pieds 10 pouces in width. 3 pieds in height. 2 pieds 6 pouces in depth, the carcase in oak from the Vosges. The front has 3 drawers, of which one is in the frieze with a lock fitted with a mechanism which locks the 2 large drawers Ixflow. The 2 Curved sides are fitted with 2 doors, veneered inside in bois satinc* ami amaranth with black and white stringing, and 3 drawers in each veneered in tulipwood. In the upper frieze are 2 drawers each with its own key. All the insides lined in blue moire silk. The said doors fitted with metal hinges and gilt – bronze lock. The frieze on the said commode veneered in

amaranth with black and white stringing. On the front panel is a moulded oval, with blue ground and inlaid cipher. 2 garlands of flowers. 2 olive-branches. The curved sides with 2 bouquets of flowers. The side panels veneered m varied flcurs-dc-lys patterns. I’he said commode is decorated with 6 sabots ball- shaped and water foliage, columnar legs with bronze flutes. 6 capitals. 6 interlaced circles and rosettes. 6 large ornamental leaves. Above is a large moulding with oval motifs, a fretwork frieze, a flat ribbon moulding, another moulding of fillets above capitals: 5 frames of water foliage. 4 handles: all fitted with screws. The said mounts moulded from wax. well chased and gilt in gilt-bronze and 2 keys, one chased. For this.. 10.715L (reduced to 8.970L)

1 May 1773:

32) To supplying 2 commodes of 2 pieds 9 pouces in width by 33 pouces in height and 19 pouces in depth, the carcase of oak from the Vosges with 3 drawers each, of which one in the frieze is fitted with the mechanism to lock the lower 2 and 3 keys of which one is chased, the interiors lined in moir<- silk, legs of circular section fluted with gilt bronze inlay: the said commodes veneered, the friezes with amaranth, black and white stringing, the side panels in mosaic of shaded flcurs-de-lys; the fronts in blue wood: in the centre are 2 lozenges with toothed mouldings and flcurs-de- lys motif, all shaded. Each of the said commodes fitted with 4 sabots. 4 capitals. 4 double Vitruvian scrolls on the legs, 14 pouces in height and 2 in width,

4 garlands above, flowers and fruits. On the frieze a double foliate motif, on the front 4 handles, a large decorated frame and 2 on the sides. 3 plain mouldings applied with screws, all well fitted, chased and mercury gilded, for this 7.470L (reduced to 6,0851.) |3%)

(Description of commodes in the Petit Trianon)

33) To supplying a commode chair 18 pouces in height. 18 pouces in depth and 15 pouces in width on circular legs with brackets, veneered in bois satinc. black and white stringing, solid
wooden mouldings, the top with two metal hinges gilt in gold leaf, sabots and handles mercury – gilded. the seat and back covered in crimson velvet with gold braid, with its pot. for this I88L (reduced to 15IL)

24 May:

34) To supplying a bureau 2 pieds 8 pouces in width. 18 pouces in depth and 27’/r pouces in height, with 2 drawers lined in moire silk and gold braid, and fitted with their locks in brass and key. The said bureau veneered in amaranth with black and white stringing. The frieze with interlaced circles and rosettes shaded, circular feet with flutes with inlaid brass, fitted with 4 sabots. 4 astragals. 4 cut-out fleurs-dc-lys. 2 plam mouldings.

a quadrant. 4 foliate frames, all chased and mercury-gilded, the top covered in green velvet, for this 780L (reduced to 6351.)

35) Plus supplying a night – table of 19 pouces in width. 13 pouces in depth and 32 pouces in height, with canted corners, round fluted legs, all veneered in tulipwood and amaranth, black and white stringing, and on top a wooden motif: the said table decorated with 4 sabots. 4 astragals. 2 handles. 4 rosettes and a balustrade, all chased and gilt in gilded-bronze, for this 220L (reduced to I85L)

11 September:

36) To supplying a billet of 21 pouces in width. 14 pouces in depth and 18 pouces in height, all veneered in tulipwood. black and white stringing on the false back, fitted to slide with 6 plaques in gilt metal. The top closes, and the mouldings in solid tulipwood. the top covered in red velvet and 2 wash-basins from Rouen, for this 215L (reduced to 183L)

30 September

37) To restoring a writing-table in walnut and its top for Moaseigneur le Due tie Bourbon. 3L (reduced to 2L 10s)

Total: 31,653L (reduced to 26.276L 10s)

Noted on 23 February 1776 by Bcllisard. architect of the Mouses of the Prince dc Condi at the Palais dc Bourbon
(396J Commode, one of a pair delivered by l^leu on 1 May 1773for the bed-chamber of the Duchesse dc Bourbon in Paris.

The central lozenge, originally veneered with a fleur-de-lys motif, was reveneered during the Revolution (Muu’e de Versailles)

1397J (left) Secretaire сі cylindre in tulipwood parquetry, с. 1780, stamped Leleu. (Christie’s London, 20 June 1985, lot 88)
f399] (above) Commode with trellisworb marquetry with Jlorets, stamped Leleu, delivered on 9 November 1772for the bed­chamber of the Due de Bourbon
in Paris; the rigorous lion’s paws are found on several other pieces by Leleu. (Musee du Louvre, Paris)


Updated: October 10, 2015 — 8:04 pm