At Auction | Un Bureau Plat by André-Charles Boulle

Posted in Art Market by Editor on August 29, 2014


André-Charles Boulle, Bureau-plat aux têtes de satyre, ca. 1720.

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Press release from Koller Auctions for its upcoming Furniture & Sculpture Sale:

Koller Auctions presents a bureau plat by the most important French cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle to be offered at the upcoming auction for furniture and decoration in Zurich on September 18, 2014 [Sale A170, Lot 1078]. It is the discovery of a previously unknown masterpiece and the world’s first auction of a Boulle desk since 2005. The estimate for this museum piece is set at CHF 1.5 to 2.5 million (€1.25 to 2.083 million). In the early 18th century, André-Charles Boulle, first cabinetmaker at the court of the Sun King Louis XIV, delivered one of his prestigious writing tables (bureau plat) to a French aristocratic family, where it remained and was passed down over the centuries within the family until it eventually reached private castle estate in western Switzerland. Here it was rediscovered by Koller and consigned to an auction. The excellent quality of the desk, the complete provenance, and the fact that this piece of furniture has been unknown to the art market and research to date makes this current discovery a sensation.

1078_4The large, four-legged bureaux plats by André-Charles Boulle can be divided into three categories: desks with rolled corner bronzes, desks with têtes de femme, and desks with têtes de satyre. The latter made by Boulle as early as 1690 in several variations, for which reason it is his largest category. Among them is the example offered at Koller Auctions on September 18. It was created around 1720 in the style of the Regency, measures 195 x 98 x 80 cm, and is made of ebony and red and brown tortoiseshell. It offers an extremely fine brass inlay in the form of flowers, cartouches, and leaves. The desktop is covered with black leather and rests on the typical, distinctive curved legs. The desks name derives from the lush bronze fittings, designed as satyrs, gargoyles, leaves, and decorative friezes.

1078_5All known desks aux têtes de satyre can be found in the most prestigious museums of the world. The one to be offered at Koller is almost identical to the bureau plat acquired in 1985 by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Four other specimens are in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, The Wallace Collection in London, The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, and at The Frick Collection in New York. Boulle desks are very rarely found at auction. The last time a comparable bureau plat was offered for sale was on 14 December 2005 as part of the famous Wildenstein auction in London. At that time the piece achieved 2.9 million pounds [Christie’s Sale 7171, Lot 15].

The bureaux plats of André-Charles Boulle were already much desired among the most important exponents of his time. The list of original first owners therefore stretches from family members of King Louis XIV, to King Philip V of Spain, the Prince of Condé, Cardinal Prince de Rohan, the financier family Bernard to the ministers of Louis XV, such as his infamous Treasurer, Abbot Joseph Marie Terray. The early popularity of such desks is also
apparent in the numerous illustrations from the 18th century.

Click on the two smaller pictures for extraordinarily rich images.

André-Charles Boulle and His Work

André-Charles Boulle was born on November 10 1642 in Paris, where he later died, on Saturday, 1 March 1732. His long and successful career as a cabinetmaker makes him one of the most important figures in the history of art under King Louis XIV and the Regency era. This success is due, in addition to the perfect aesthetics of his furniture, in particular to an ambitious business plan, according to which Boulle as designer of exclusive furniture made from innovative materials had his designs implemented by the greatest craftsmen and artists in his workshop. Thereby Boulle controlled the production and guaranteed their uniformity. Already at the age of 29, on instruction of Louis XIV and by decree of Maria Theresa, he received one of the coveted logements under the gallery of the Louvre on May 20 1672, where he worked until old age.

Due to the high degree of organisation of work, which he introduced in his workshop after bottlenecks in production and conflicts with dealers, he could still coordinate 17 bureaux plats at the same time at the age of 78. He was able to counter the extremely time-consuming production of luxury furniture by relying on prefabrication. The furniture, especially the desks, were stored in a kind of raw state, only completed in their basic structure with partial Marquetry and not yet decorated with bronze fittings. This made it possible for Boulle’s studio to adjust and complete the furniture according to the customer requirements, despite the time pressure. Albeit his success, recurring financial difficulties, such as outstanding wage payments to his employees and tax problems, forced André-Charles Boulle to sign over his company to his four sons in 1715, without, however, giving away the reins.

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Note (added 28 September 2014 ) — From the post-sale press release:

The sensational result of 3 million Swiss francs [3.15 million USD] obtained for the writing desk by the French cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle was the highlight of the furniture auction (Lot 1078). This is the highest price ever paid for a piece of furniture at an auction in Switzerland and one of the highest prices ever paid for a piece of furniture world-wide. A private collector from London outbid three telephone bidders and an interested party in the auction hall. . . .

New Book | Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries

Posted in books by Editor on August 29, 2014

From Hart Publishing:

Wilfrid Prest, ed., Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Contexts (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2014), 221 pages, ISBN: 978-1849465380, £50 / $100.

9781849465380_p0_v1_s600This collection explores the remarkable impact and continuing influence of William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, from the work’s original publication in the 1760s down to the present. Contributions by cultural and literary scholars, and intellectual and legal historians trace the manner in which this truly seminal text has established its authority well beyond the author’s native shores or his own limited lifespan.

In the first section, ‘Words and Visions’, Kathryn Temple, Simon Stern, Cristina S. Martinez, and Michael Meehan discuss the Commentaries‘ aesthetic and literary qualities as factors contributing to the work’s unique status in Anglo-American legal culture. The second group of essays traces the nature and dimensions of Blackstone’s impact in various jurisdictions outside England, namely Quebec (Michel Morin), Louisiana, and the United States more generally (John W. Cairns and Stephen M. Sheppard), North Carolina (John V. Orth) and Australasia (Wilfrid Prest). Finally Horst Dippel, Paul Halliday, and Ruth Paley examine aspects of Blackstone’s influential constitutional and political ideas, while Jessie Allen concludes the volume with a personal account of ‘Reading Blackstone in the Twenty-First Century and the Twenty-First Century through Blackstone’. This volume is a sequel to the well-received collection Blackstone and his Commentaries: Biography, Law, History (Hart Publishing, 2009).

Wilfrid Prest is Professor Emeritus in Law and History at the University of Adelaide.

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I. Words and Visions
1. Kathryn Temple, Blackstone’s ‘Stutter’: The (Anti)Performance of the Commentaries
2. Simon Stern, William Blackstone: Courtroom Dramatist?
3. Cristina S. Martinez, Blackstone as Draughtsman: Picturing the Law
4. Blackstone’s Commentaries: England’s Legal Georgic? Michael Meehan

II. Beyond England
5. John W. Cairns, Blackstone in the Bayous: Inscribing Slavery in the Louisiana Digest of 1808
6. Stephen M. Sheppard, Legal Jambalaya
7. Michel Morin, Blackstone and the Birth of Quebec’s Distinct Legal Culture, 1765–1867
8. John V. Orth, Blackstone’s Ghost: Law and Legal Education in North Carolina
9. Wilfrid Prest, Antipodean Blackstone

III. Law and Politics
10. Paul D. Halliday, Blackstone’s King
11. Ruth Paley, Modern Blackstone: The King’s Two Bodies, the Supreme Court and the President
12. Horst Dippel, Blackstone’s Commentaries and the Origins of Modern Constitutionalism
13. Jessie Allen, Reading Blackstone in the Twenty-First Century and the Twenty-First Century through Blackstone

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