Reference #: EF1565
Stamped JACOB DR MESLÉE
Height: 29 ¼ inches (74 cm.)
Length: 23 ½ inches (59.5 cm.)
Depth: 15 ¼ inches (38.5 cm.)
By François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter
The elegant, rectangular-form table discreetly hiding a secret compartment beneath the flat top, with a central drawer atop volute supports and two inverted, wide legs joined at bottom by a rectangular traverse, all supported on four paw-form feet. Fitted with finely sculpted gilt bronze mounts in the form of palmettes, leaf borders, laurel leaf sprigs and rosettes.
François–Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841) was the son of Georges Jacob, perhaps the most celebrated and most prolific of all the menuisiers of the eighteenth century. The word Desmalter was added to the family name in memory of George Jacob’s estate in Burgundy called “Les Malterres.” Described as a “joiner and cabinet-maker, a producer of furniture and bronzes for their Imperial and Royal majesties,”1 Desmalter and his older brother, Georges II Jacob, established the Jacob Frères company in 1796. Desmalter assumed the practical duties of the firm and his brother its administration. At its height in 1803 the company owned sixteen different workshops including those for joining, turning, sculpting, inlaying, molding and gilding. Unfortunately, the death of Georges Jacob II in 1803 forced the studio’s closure which occurred at an opportune moment of economic recovery soon before Napoleon crowned himself Emperor. Desmalter, who enjoyed a special position with Bonaparte and who thrived under his patronage2, was able to reestablish his company under the name Jacob-Desmalter et Cie. The estampille JACOB D R MESLEE as observed on the present table was employed by this firm until 1813. The present model was used by Jacob until 1812.
After Desmalter’s appointment as ébéniste de l’Empereur, his company’s activities expanded enormously. In addition to numerous commissions from the Imperial Garde-Meuble for the various residences of the Bonaparte family, Desmalter counted among his clients many luminaries of the Empire and the rich bourgeoisie of Paris as well as prominent foreigners including Czar Alexander I of Russia and Charles IV of Spain. Several distinguished painters and architects provided Desmalter furniture designs including Vivant Denon, Prud’hon, David, Belanger, and Percier and Fontaine. The latter commissioned Desmalter to carry out many of their designs for the Château de Malmaison, the Palais des Tuileries, and other former royal palaces. Among the firm’s greatest surviving accomplishments are the
Imperial throne at Fontainebleau, the jewel cabinet for Marie-Louise and the display cases in the Cabinet des Antiqués at the Bibliothèque Nationale.
During the industrial crisis that followed the Peninsular War and the Russian campaign of 1812, Jacob-Desmalter et Cie became bankrupt, but rapidly revived during the Restauration period when Desmalter received many royal commissions: most notably from the Duc de Berry at the Palais de l’Elysée, from George IV at Windsor Castle, and also from the Brazilian Emperor. In 1825 he retired and handed down the company to his son Georges-Alphonse Jacob-Desmalter. Desmalter survived until 1841.