An Empire Mahogany Fauteuil De Bureau

Early 19th Century
Reference #: EF1683

Attributed to HENRI JACOB (MAÎTRE, 1779)
mahogany, bronze

bronzes stamped Louasse

Height: 38 inches (96.52 cm)
Depth: 20 ¾ inches (52.7 cm)
Width: 25 ½ inches (64.8 cm)

Beurdeley, 2002, page 80.

Boldly fashioned with a rounded curved tablet back, down-scrolled shoulders and a pierce trellis splat, the armrest ending with carved lion heads, the curved seat rail surmounts the saber form rear legs and baluster turned front legs, all terminating in brass caps and castors.

Henri Jacob (1753-1824) was first cousin to the famous menuisier Georges Jacob, and came from the same section of Bourgogne, however, relations seem to have been strained between the two branches. Upon receiving his maîtrise, Henri established a workshop first in the rue du Bourbon-Villeneuve, then after 1789 in the rue de l’Échiquier. His production is very close to that of his cousin, with superb proportions and fine carving. He seems to have used the similarity in names to his advantage, and on occasion copied Georges Jacob’s models directly, which no doubt contributed to the rift. In 1782, after being a master just three years, he secured an extensive commission from the Comte and Comtesse du Nord, the future Emperor Paul I of Russia and his wife Maria Feodorovna, for their palace of Pavlovsk. The imperial couple were very involved in planning their new residence; they arrived in Paris after ordering silks in Lyons, and were in constant communication with their architect Charles Cameron in Russia as to what would be needed for the new house, down to the number of chairs and consoles for each room. Maria Feodorovna had already shown herself to be a woman of exacting taste, and Henri Jacob must thus have truly impressed her. He gained an excellent reputation on his own merits. In 1785, the menuisier was called upon to deliver mahogany chairs for the court; like Georges, Henri Jacob was one of the first to experiment with the possibilities of mahogany chairs, and his designs for pierced splats are every bit as innovative as those of his cousin.

With the abolition of the old Guild rules in 1791, Henri Jacob again followed in the footsteps of Georges Jacob by expanding from menuiserie into ébénisterie. Under the Directoire, he opened a boutique on the fashionable Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle, at the corner with the rue Saint-Etienne, advertising “numerous furnishings in handsome style and good taste, in choice mahogany.”2 The sons of Georges Jacob, perhaps offended by competition in this new expanded field, in April, 1800, took out an advertisement in a Parisian paper warning the public that there had never been any connection between their shop and that of that of Henri Jacob – an expression of pique which had confused scholars of the family until recently. Henri Jacob seems to have closed his business about 1806, though he lived on until 1824.

There is an almost identical model to this chair with the stamp of Henri Jacob illustrated in Michel Beurdeley’s book “Jacob et son Temps.” The only difference being the crest rail, a scroll decoration just under the shoulders, and the bronze casters. This is clearing another interpretation of the same basic design.

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