Although a stamp is often confused with a signature, it actually has nothing to <lo with it. I’a i from being an indication of authorship of an artist proud of his work, such as the signature of a painter or sculptor, the stamp was merely an obligatory mark for every Parisian master ebeniste The statutes of 1751 stipulated precisely: ‘Each master must have his own individual mark and likewise the guild, impressions of which stamps shall be lodged at the office on a sheet of lead, and the said masters may not sujiply any work – except to the Bitiments to which this does not apply – which has not first been marked with their stamp, on pain of confiscation and a fine of 20 livres for each piece not marked.’ These statutes had been drawn up as early as 1743 but their definitive registration was carried out by the Parlcmcnt only in 1751 It may be said that the obligation to stamp work began to take force from 1744 onwards and became general practice after 1751
This regulation in fact was not a constraint to£b£nistcs. Besides being a label of quality for the body of master ebenistes. it enabled them to maintain a quasi-monopoly of production, at the same time giving them a form of rudimentary publicity Actually, as I >. Augarde has discovered ll.’Htitimpillc. June 1985). the concept of a stamp predates 1744 anti had its origins in the seventeenth century when the guild of menuisiers liad already altem|>ted to force the tapissiers (upholsterers), then the principal retailers of furniture, to sell only the work of master menuisiers A decree of 1637 stipulated that menuisiers were to mark their work At the same time the tapissiers were forbidden to retail unmarked furniture The use of lire stamp did not become widespread, however, and it was not until the years 1720 3<> that the first examples arc found. Thus the stamp of Francois Lieutaud. Mathicu Criard. I kirel ami Noel Gerard is to lx – found on pieces which may lx- dated to the 1730s at the latest It is also known that the c-benistes lXnr. it fdied 1732) and Nicolas Sageot (died 1731) generally stam|X4l their work. Bernard II Vanrisamburgh also used a stamp before 1744 the bureau at Temple Newsam (173). stamped by both F L and В. V. R В. dates from с. 1735. while the com – mode of Maria I-eszcv. yfiska. which bears his stamp, was supplied in 1737. The majority of abbreviated stamps date from this period: those of F I. (Francois Lieutaud). N (Ї (Noel Gerard), I..S. I*. (Louis Simon – Fainsun). F G (FrancoisGamier). F M. 1). (Francois Mondon). I I> F (Jean-David Fortanier). В V. K B. (Bernard Vanrisamburgh). D. F. (Delorme-Faizelot?) and M. C. (first stamp of Mathicu Criard?). In this context the obligation to use a stamp, instituted in 1743. was merely the formalization of an already established practice justified by the desire to compete with the independent craftsmen, principally, as I). Augarde has written, ‘because in an ordered society such as that of France in the eighteenth century, practice preceded rules, or itself became accepted custom.’
In theory most Parisian furniture produced after 1751 had to lx – stamped. Under these circumstances it is astonishing to find so manv pieces unstamped. This may be explained in several ways. In most cases they must have been ma<k – by independent craftsmen working in the privileged areas and sold directly to private clients; in this case the guild could not interfere. They could also have been pieces made – by independent craftsmen for tlx – marchands-mcrcierv As a result of a judgment of 1749. the latter had obtained the right to sell unstamped pieces of furniture The situation becomes more complicated in the case of pieces which are unstamped, yet are obviously the work of ebenistes who were already masters, such as В V R B.. Joseph. < – arlin or W’eisweiler The usual explanation, attributing tlx» lack of stamp to the negligence of the maker, does not hold water It may lx* that these £b£nistcs used the stamp or not. according to the wishes of the marchands-mercicrs who had commissioned the work But in the case of Carlin, it is difficult to understand the logic in his use of the stamp; all his [xircclain-mounted furniture was made for the same dealer. Poirier; however, twenty-two pieces, more than twenty-five per cent of those known, are unstamped. Why stamp some and not the others? The only possible explanation is that the dealers, wishing to avoid the publicity that the stamp represented for the: maker, and hoping to avoid the possibility of their clients going directly to him. asked their usual suppliers not to stamp their wares where possible However, the visits of the guild juries were frequent. necessitating that all the furniture present m the workshop should be stamped Only a small proportion of pieces – those masle between inspections by the juries – could avoid being stamped.
Various indications reinforce this hypothesis that the marchands – mercicrs sought to remove or disguise the stamp. Numerous examples arc recorded of stamps defaced with a punch; this almost always occurs on pieces of luxury furniture intended for the marchands-mercicrs – on several pieces by Gatlin, for example. On the table-console which belonged to the financier Beaujon (Gulbcnkiun Museum. Lisbon), the stamp, although defaces!, is still legible as that of (larlin. Another clue is tlx» fact that the stamps of the cbcnislcs who worked for the* dealers are often very small and difficult to find It is surely no coincidence that the smallest stamps are those o( Joseph, (Carlin, Schneider. Boichod and Lcvasseur. «4x’nistcs who worked mainly for dealers
Another problem is the presence of two different stamps, as evidenced on numerous pieces o( furniture. Sometimes three different stamps or more arc to lx» (bund: on а Ілхпч XV secretaire which recently passed through the art-market in Belgium, four different stamps were present, all perfectly genuine, those of LjikIhii. Garel. Ghevallier and R V L G Certain experts endeavoured to explain this mystery as evidence of successive restorations to the piece, each restorer adding his stamp at the time the work was carried out. Certainly, it can in many cases lx* proved that ebenistes stamped furniture that they restored or altered. There is the example of genuine pieces by Boulle made between HiOOand 1720 which bear the stamp o( J.-L.-F. IX-lorme. or J. Dubois or l. cvasseur or even Riesencr. cor rescinding to restorations carried out in tlx- years 1770-80. However, in many cases the two adjoining stamps are those of contemporary ebenistes. which disproves the hypothesis that one maker restored a piece made only recently by another maker In fact, the problem of double stamps is more closely related to the general practice of subcontracting by Parisian makers. As Roubo has indicated, certain ebenistes were happy to make the carcases ol furniture for other ebenistes who finished them and sold them "These were probably Stamped at each stage of the pnxiuction. At the time numerous clx?- nistes were working for tlx – ebenistes – marc hands to whom they delivered finished pieces. The inventories taken after deaths or the business records of elxnistes such as Migeon or Botxiiii give numerous examples of such sulxontracting For instance. Migeon employed Landrin who supplied him with 85.000 livres’ worth of furniture between 1742 and 1751. as well as numerous other іЧх-nistes (Topino. R V. L. C.. Mondon. Canabas. Macret. Criard. etc ) Boudin employed various makers, among them Topino, who. for example, supplies! him with forty-nine small tallies ’with chinoiscrie subjects* between 1772 and 1775. If the examples of double stamping are examined, it will lx – found for the – most j мм that the dominant stamp is of a celebrated ebeniste. almost always a dealer, alongside the less obvious stamp of the* maker, usually a levs well-known «SxSnisie. On one small table |142J Migeon s stamp is found next to Lhcrmitc’s which has been somewhat effaced’ < )n a bureau in the Louvre | I5K) Migcon’s stamp is again obvious while that of I Xilxiis has been obscured. In some cases one of the stamps lias even been punched out or concealer! beneath another more legible stamp. As in the case of the marchands-mercicrs. one senses the eWmste – marchand’s desire to erase the mark of the maker and replace it with his oil’ll, and one therefore returns to tlx – hypothesis that the stamp was resented as a mark of publicity It must not lx – forgotten that stamps now often difficult to find were more obvious in the eighteenth century, when the wood hail not yet been subjected to use and oxidization due to the passage ol time, or the tools of the restorer