Friday, March 16, 2018

The Beauty Of French Porcelain Mounted Furniture

The practice of inserting hand painted porcelain plaques from the Sèvres factory into furniture panels became popular in France as early as 1760. The original pioneer was Simon-Philippe Poirier who was considered one of the leading marchands-merciers (members of a guild of Paris merchants who played a central role in the design and circulation of luxury goods between the late Middle Ages and the French revolution) in Paris. Poirier first envisioned the use of porcelain plaques for furniture in the mid-I750's. With his partner and successor, Dominique Daguerre, he managed a shop stocked with the finest objects that French artisans of the period could produce, among them ormolu, porcelains, and furniture. He also played an important creative role, inspiring craftsmen and designers to create new forms and fashions. 

Poirier and Daguerre were the principal buyers of porcelain plaques at the Sèvres factory located in Sèvres, Hauts-de-Seine,France. Not only did they order the materials from the royal Sèvres factory, but they also selected the cabinetmaker to execute the porcelain mounted pieces, supplying him with designs in the form of detailed drawings. These high-ranking shopkeepers worked chiefly with the ébéniste Martin Carlin who made some eighty pieces of porcelain mounted furniture between 1765 and 1778. His illustrious clientéle included Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry. Madame du Barry bought luxury furnishings from Poirier for those private rooms at Versailles.

The fashion for furniture mounted with porcelain plaques experienced a dramatic drop in popularity during the revolutionary period. These expensive and exclusive pieces, which at one time were purchased by wealthy members of French society, were now regarded as a contemptible form of decoration associated with the aristocracy.

The nineteenth century, however, saw a revival of porcelain-mounted furniture, especially amongst the English upper class, who shared a fascination and appreciation of old French furniture. Also the emergence of the mobilier de curiosité (curiosity furniture), pieces without real practical use, (in this case only serving as supports for the display of beautiful porcelain plaques) helped to renew interest in porcelain mounted furniture.

These porcelain mounted pieces are not furniture you see every day and when you do find them be prepared to dig deep into your wallets. They are very beautiful pieces of art and while most of us will never have the pleasure of owning one, I still thought you would enjoy this feast for the eyes.

As porcelain mounted furniture grew in popularity, porcelain plaques were used in place of the marquetry, lacquer, or painted panels that were generally used on French furniture. Supplying the majority of the plaques was the Sèvres manufactory, which was first established around 1740, and was the finest porcelain manufactory in Europe from the mid-eighteenth century.

A circa 1783 Oak cabinet veneered with tulipwood, purplewood, mahogany and boxwood; fitted with brocatello marble and elaborate gilt bronze mounts and inset with ten soft-paste porcelain plaque. This piece is attributed to Martin Carlin.

Porcelain had the capacity for a wider range of color and finer detail than other surfaces, as well as the beautiful brilliant white ground. It could be shaped into plaques about a quarter of an inch in thickness and with any contour required.

A jewel coffer on stand by Martin Carlin with porcelain plaques by Sèvres dated 1775. Sèvres porcelain was desired for porcelain mounted furniture because it surpassed all others in the quality of its painting. The factory produced rich and extravagant wares sought after by the wealthiest of patrons.

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Another beautiful porcelain mounted desk attributed to Martin Carlin. Madame du Barry carried the taste for such furniture to the highest spheres. The inventory for her apartment at Versailles details an incredible assortment of porcelain furniture. 

Intended for a fashionable and distinguished clientele consisting mostly of aristocratic French ladies, porcelain mounted furniture has always been a costly collectors item. The combination of furniture and porcelain made a strong appeal to women in the eighteenth century

Here is a lovely oak secretary veneered with yew burl, mahogany, maple and ebony and mounted with five soft paste porcelain plaques.

Drop-front desk by Martin Carlin with six porcelain plaques from Sèvres factory with the central plaque attributed to Edme François Bouillat père ( active 1758–1800). The piece is oak veneered with tulipwood, amaranth, holly, and sycamore, with gilt-bronze mounts, marble shelves, and moiré silk. Although he made a certain number of larger pieces, secretaries, tables, and commodes, Carlin's most popular works were small, portable, and extremely elegant items such as small tables, desks, music stands, and jewel cabinets.

Louis XV/XVI style gilt bronze and Sèvres style porcelain mounted walnut and kingwood lady's writing desk.

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Eighteenth century Louis XV period porcelain mounted kingwood bureau de dame,( lady's writing desk) circa 1760.

After an angry mob stormed the palace of Versailles Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI  were forced to return to Paris, where they lived for three years under house arrest in the Château des Tuileries. A few days after their arrival, the queen consigned to the dealer Dominique Daguerre a number of her most treasured possessions for safekeeping. Among those objects was a porcelain mounted secretary, which may, in fact, have been this one and possibly was the last piece of furniture Daguerre had delivered to Marie-Antoinette for use at Versailles.

A remarkable and highly important Napoléon III 'Chambre À Coucher', comprising of a gilt bronze and Paris porcelain mounted kingwood armoire, a bed and two bedside cabinets with marble tops. To see more beautiful antique furniture from one of the world’s leading dealers in nineteenth century furniture and works of art, be sure and visit their website.

A close up of the detailing on the beautiful suite above.

Table from the collection of Madame du Barry. The table is circa 1774, and is mounted with porcelain plaques from Sèvres.

A 19th century French Sèvres porcelain mounted bronze table.

A circa 1860 Napoleon III ormolu and Sèvres style porcelain mounted kingwood and tulipwood gueridon.

A Louis XVI 19th century Sèvres porcelain mounted card table.

A French ormolu and Sèvres style porcelain mounted ebony secretary.

French gilt bronze and porcelain mounted ebony bureau plat by Levasseur Jeune, circa 1830-1840, applied with 36 hard-paste porcelain plaques painted with polychrome floral bouquets surrounded by green borders.

A very fine French 19th century Louis XVI style ormolu and Sèvres style porcelain mounted tulipwood, kingwood and mahogany Meuble d'Appui (Wall cabinet) with an onyx marble top. The door is centered with an oval shaped porcelain plaque depicting a courting scene of a seated lady, a young man, and her chambermaid. 

Commode mounted in porcelain made by Bernard van Rysen Burgh on order of merchant Simon Philippe Poirier and delivered to Mademoiselle de Sens for the Palais-Bourbon.

Heritage Auctions at

This very fine secretary cabinet is mounted with Meissen porcelain. The Meissen factory located in Germany is where Europe’s first porcelain was produced  in 1708.

Porcelain mounted tulipwood, marquetry and gilt bronze cabinet is an elaborate example of Queen Victoria’s taste for porcelain mounted furniture. The piece was ordered at the Paris Exhibition of 1855 during her state visit to the Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

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A pair of Louis XVI style porcelain mounted pedestals.

Detail of a secretary, circa 1776 attributed to Martin Carlin.

Plant stand by Martin Carlin mounted with plaques made by the Sèvres porcelain factory circa 1776-77

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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