9924

A ROSEWOOD, BOXWOOD INLAID AND GILT-BRONZE MOUNTED SECRETAIRE OF LYRA FORM IN THE EXOTISME TASTE

Signed And Dated, Jacob Helwig ébéniste De Worms à Paris 1845.

Measurements

Height: 76" (193 cm)
Width: 42" (107 cm)
Depth: 21" (53.3 cm).

Research

Of Brazilian rosewood, boxwood inlay maple and amaranth inlaid interior with gilt-bronze mounts. The superstructure of rectangular pagoda form with undulating roof mounted with double-gourd form gilt-bronze finials. Applied to the concealed spring-loaded door are a series of boxwood demi-poles with faceted gilt-bronze bladed tips and spikes to the bottom. The superstructure rests on a chamfered platform above a long single frieze drawer with foliate inlay and restored turned handles to its extreme ends. Below is a proud fretted arcaded apron from which a series of gilt-bronze “bells” are suspended. The paneled and inlaid fall flanked by two restored turned wooden shafted gilt-bronze tipped “spears.” The fall opening to reveal a fitted interior with recessed niche and demi-tempietto within an old but replaced mirrored surround. Flanking are mirror glass-filled pagoda pattern doors concealing drawers and pigeon holes. Above are three cavetto-shaped drawers with peacock-inlaid projections. To the base are secret drawers concealed within a brickwork inlaid façade. The lower waisted section with a drawer carved and inlaid with acanthus leaves. All resting on a rectangular base fitted with a single drawer terminating in compressed double-pad feet. The sides similarly inlaid and mounted. Small repairs to chipped edges of veneer.

Marks:
Signed and dated in three places, Jacob Helwig ébéniste de Worms à Paris 1845.
Locks stamped KOLB.

Provenance:
The Taylor Family, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.This extraordinary monumental secretaire is a rare signed and dated example of a masterpiece in furniture made during the first flowering of the exotisme movement of the nineteenth century, which would really become a fully developed fashion after the 1851 Great Exhibition. For this grand event Owen Jones, one of the leading proponents of this taste, designed the interiors of the Crystal Palace in various historic non-Western styles, including Islamic and Chinese, as suitable background for the many exhibits from all over the world that furthered the same ideas.

Although the basic architecture of this piece is that of the Germanic lyra form secretaire, its creator has, with much invention and dexterity, interwoven within its complex design overt oriental-inspired themes. The secretaire is surmounted by an upperstage topped with a pagoda-form roof decorated with gilt bronze gourd-shaped finials. Further references to the pagoda are to be found in the exquisitely fitted interior behind the writing fall. A pair of mirror-filled pavilion-like “pagodas,” which function as doors, conceal drawers and pigeon holes.

Gilt bronze bells, suspended from a fretted protruding arcade design above the writing fall, are a prominent feature of the secretaire, and this oriental inspired motif is to be encountered again within the fine boxwood marquetry. Bells that chime in the wind were, and still are, placed in rows under the eaves of Buddhist devotional pagodas and are thought to be auspicious in warding off evil.

The marquetry decoration is also based on subjects derived from Chinese motifs, such as the dragon, most often associated with the Emperor. Dragons can be seen inlaid on the exterior of the writing fall and another pair of dragons circles the keyhole in the long drawer above it. Numerous lizards, known as Protector of the Palace in Chinese symbolism,1 are also present, both on the front of the fall and on the domed roof of the tempietto, which is recessed in the central niche of the interior.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.