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An ormolu-mounted kingwood bureau plat  régence, circa 1725, by bernard
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About the object

The shaped rectangular top inset with tooled leather and with an ormolu moulded edge ornamented with foliage to the corners, with three drawers to the front, the sides adorned with palmette and maskhead mounts, raised on cabriole legs surmounted with figural mounts in the form of a maskhead with a feathered headress and terminating in foliate sabots, stamped  BVRB ( fig.1) under the rail, some later elements to the top\nDue to its perfect balance, original construction and the finesse of its gilt-bronze mounts, the present bureau plat can be considered a masterpiece of Régence period cabinet-making joining the select number of exceptional bureaux plats of the Régence period. It also presents a significant contribution to our knowledge of the celebrated ébéniste BVRB I. Attribution to BVRB I:\nThis bureau plat displays several of this great ébéniste's characteristic features, starting with its monumental design, especially the accentuated curves of the legs found on other furniture by BVRB I. including two famous commodes - one made for Louis-Charles de Machault in 1719, ( fig.3), the other now in the Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio), (fig.4) - and two other bureau plats, one in the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs, (fig. 6), the other in the Wallace Collection in London, ( fig.6).\nThe BVRB I attribution is also based on the cordiform gilt-bronze ornament to be found only in his work, as he had exclusive access to some of these bronzes. The ornament to the side of the apron can also be found on both the commodes previously cited, (fig. 7), on the bureau plat in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and on a smaller bureau plat with brass and tortoiseshell marquetry from the Suzanne Saperstein Collection, sold at Sotheby's New York on 19 April 2012 (lot 128).\nThe mounts of our bureau  plat include Indian heads whose design appears unique, and were perhaps created by BVRB I specifically for this bureau plat. Contemporary documents about BVRB I's most famous piece of furniture - the bureau plat made for Elector Maximilian 11 Emanuel of Bavaria (1662-1726), now in the Louvre - help us understand how his bronzes were conceived: some are recorded as designed by Bérain I, modelled by the sculptor Slodtz, and chased under BVRB I's supervision. Similar collaboration may have recurred for other furniture by BVRB I.\nThe other gilt-bronze lock-plate, and the handles of the side drawers, were designed by Charles Cressent. Such bronzes appear on several bureau plats made by Cressent himself, including one in the Huntington Library & Art Gallery in San Marino, California; another in the Widener Collection in the National Gallery of Art, Washington; and a third in the Mobilier National in Paris (illustrated A. Pradere,  Charles Cressent, Editions Faton, Dijon 2003, p.266). The lock-plate and handles can also be found on bureau plats of the period by Nöel Gérard, one of them from the former Ogden Phillips Collection sold at Sotheby's New York on 19 October 2002 (lot 105). Unlike with Boulle, these exuberant handles are an important decorative feature, presaging the rocaille style.\nThe BVRB stamp on our bureau was probably introduced by the son rather than the father. Its presence reinforces an attribution to BVRB I, and suggests the bureau was either sold or restored by his son, whose workshop was the obvious place for his father's furniture to be restored; the son had doubtless trained in his father's workshop, and observed or taken part in the producing various items of furniture. The savoir-faire of his father's workshop was also perpetuated within the son's workshop by Adrien Dubois, who had been head of his father's workshop and later worked for the son. Another piece of furniture by BVRB I also bears his son's stamp: a commode similar to the one supplied to Machault d'Arnouville, and now owned by the Marquess of Bath at Longleat.\nBernard I Van Risen Burgh (c.1660-1738):\nHe was born in Groningen, Holland, around 1660, and moved to Paris in 1694. He married Jacqueline Martel in 1696 and they had five children, including Bernard II, the celebrated BVRB II, and Jean-Laurent, a marchand-mercier in Lisbon. He qualified as Maître in 1722 and specialized in making Boulle marquetry clocks. His skill was recognized by his peers, who elected him one of the four jury members for the Maîtrise examination from 1728-30. He worked on Rue du Faubourg-St-Antoine and must have enjoyed an excellent reputation, attracting such prestigious clients as the Duchesse de Retz and the Prince-Elector Maximilian of Bavaria, for whom he worked for over twenty years. His furniture output has, until recently, remained little known, and was divided between the Louis XIV and Régence styles.\nHis estate inventory, drawn up on 7 January 1738, suggests his workshop was a prosperous concern: it included stock of 600 livres and silverware valued at 1,433 Iivres. His workshop is described as comprising seven work-benches, a sizable number for the time. The inventory lists mainly clock cases, some in Boulle marquetry. Most were unfinished, suggesting he sold them on to colleagues, who then completed the veneer, marquetry or varnishing. The inventory also refers to the carcase 'of a large, six-foot bureau' with brass moulding and doe-hoof sabots. Like other leading cabinet-makers of the time, he had his own moulds for some of his bronzes, described as follows in his estate inventory: 'twenty large figures both of infants and others, together weighing 64Iivres ... 35 livres of un chased casts ... eight bronze terms with palms.'\nThe inventory also names the bronzier who supplied him: Sr Blondel, owed the sum of 580 livres for 'cast merchandise supplied to the late gentleman, who had told him they were to be sent to his son in Lisbon' - either Jean-Laurent, the marchand-mercier who sold his father's works in Portugal; or BVRB II, who worked in Lisbon (mainly for the King of Portugal) from 1730-38.\nThe inventory reveals that, at the end of his life, BVRB I was producing almost nothing but clock cases, and that he continued using the same marquetry technique into the early years of Louis XV's reign. We also see that his workshop still had the wherewithal to produce sizable pieces of furniture. The present bureau plat was probably one of the last such items he made. The Indian heads on the corners are probably from a unique design and we can think of a prestigious client who would have commissioned them for his collection: Joao V, king of Portugal. The Indian heads would be a symbol of Portuguese power in South America. This is all the more plausible as two sons of BVRB I were in Lisbon in that period: Jean-Laurent who was a marchand-mercier and BVRB II who worked between 1730 and 1738 mainly for the King. The son BVRB II could have sold our desk and he could have put his stamp on such occasion. Unfortunately few archives and pieces of furniture have survived from that period because of the great fire in Lisbon in 1755.\nBVRB I worked for several dealers, including Edmé Gallery (1658-1758), François Darnault's predecessor at the sign of the Roy d'Espagne on Rue de la Monnaie, who supplied the equestrian figure by Guillielmus de Grof (with its monumental stand) to Max-Emmanuel of Bavaria in February 1715 for the considerable sum of 10,000 livres. Bernard I Van Risen Burgh's estate inventory shows that he was working with Antoine-Robert Gaudreaus before 1727 (Gaudreaus took him to court and lost), and that his clients included the dealer Thomas-Joachim Hebert.\nAll Van Risen Burgh's stock was sold at auction and some items, notably the mantel clocks (as per the Deer clock in the Wallace Collection), were bought and re-used by Jean-Pierre Latz.\nOur bureau plat is a marvellous reflection of BVRB I's talent. He was able to adapt to the taste of the late Regency period (c.1725-30), when darker brass and tortoiseshell marquetry gave way to lighter veneering in kingwood. Our bureau plat, made when the Régence style was in full cry, offers a stylistic sequel to the Machault and Longleat commodes, whose marquetry decoration remains imbued with the style of Louis XIV. It is a fascinating piece of furniture, due both to its recent rediscovery from scantily available information, and because it is one of the few examples of his great originality and beauty to have survived.
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condition

This is an exceptional piece of furniture, No other directly comparable desk is known there are no other examples on the market at present. The female heads are of a unique model. This desk is an important and significant example of the oeuvre of Bernard I van Risen Burgh, one of the greatest cabinet-makers from Louis XIV`s reign, equal to André-Charles Boulle. The piece is in overall good condition. The veneer is amaranth rather than kingwood as stated in the catalogue. The colour overall is slightly darker than it appears in the photograph. The back and sides are slightly more faded than the rest and could benefit from a re-polish according to taste. The mounts are more golden in colour and more attractive than they appear in the catalogue illustration. The top: The pine panel forming the underside to the top (only visible from inside) has been replaced.The top is removable and is attached to the desk with new wooden brackets. The leather has been replaced and is attractively worn and has dents and scratches consistent with age and normal usage. The carcass: The underneath shows few minor replacements and has been stained. Very few minor traces of wood worm, especially inside the drawers which is hardly noticeable and appears to be no longer active. The drawers have the original walnut drawer linings. The veneer: The veneers have been carefully examined. There are minor patches, chips and losses in places with some minor restorations. The losses can easily be restored. There are some horizontal shrinkage cracks on both sides, as visible in the catalogue illustrations and other minor characteristic age cracks. There are some darks stains to the dummy drawers A small lifting to the veneer on the central drawer. The left side and the back have been sun bleached. The gilt bronzes: The gilt-bronze mounts have all been carefully examined. The gilding on the rim is tarnished and rubbed and the mounts are slightly rubbed especially on the noses of the female figures and on the paw feet. On the left side, the small lower part of the codiform element is missing (pictures of this difference are available). One mount on the front lower left hand side has been replaced. The keys are missing. A full and illustrated report made by a restorer is available on request "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

78cm. high, 195cm. wide, 92cm. deep; 2ft. 6¾in., 5ft. 4¾in., 3ft. ¼in.

literature

- J.D. Augarde, J.N. Ronfort, "Le Maître du Bureau de l’Electeur", L’Estampille, January 1991 - J.N. Ronfort et al., André-Charles Boulle, un nouveau Style pour l’Europe, catalogue de l’exposition, éditions Somogy, Italy, 2009 - A. Pradère, Charles Cressent, éditions Faton, Dijon, 2003

provenance

Alan P. Good, Glympton Park, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, ( fig. 2), sold Sotheby`s London, 2 and 3rd July 1953, lot 315. Alan P. Good ( 1906-1953) was president of the Lagonda automobile company. He bought Glympton Park in 1944 from the Barnett family who had owned the house since 1846, when George Henry Barnett inherited it from his uncle, Sir Jacob Wheate, 5th Baronet. The Wheate family had owned the house since 1633. The contents were dispersed by the Barnett family in a sale at Christie`s London, 6th October 1944. Since 1992, Glympton Park has been the property of  Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabi, nephew of the King. Alan Good was an important collector of French furniture and his collection included pieces by major makers such as Riesener, Weisweiler, Heurtaut and Dubois. A rare Louis XV tortoiseshell and ebony commode, attributed to the Maitre aux Pagodes, formerly in his collection, was sold Christie`s New York, Important French Furniture from the Collection of the late Joanne Toor Cummings, 21st My 1996, lot 238. Another commode, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, (reference: 64.101.111) was also formerly in the Good collection. Good assembled his collection between 1944 and 1953 buying  at many important sales such as the Collection of 7th Earl of Wilton, Christie`s London, 2nd July 1950.


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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