A very fine Empire gilt bronze mounted mahogany console attributed to Bernard Molitor, the original rectangular brèche d’Alep marble top above a frieze drawer centred by a pair of fabulous mythological winged creatures between a pair of palmettes, above square tapering supports headed by Egyptian female caryatid busts above pendant palmetted mounts terminating in lion paw feet, the posterior angular supports flanking a mirrored glass on a breakfronted rectangular plinth
Paris, date circa 1805
Height 95 cm, width 130 cm, depth 48 cm.
Literature: Ulrich Leben, “Molitor, Ebéniste from the Ancien Régime to the Bourbon Restoration”, 1992, p. 180, pl. 19, illustrating a citronwood commode stamped Molitor of circa 1803-5 with tapering pilaster supports headed by very similar Egyptian busts above identical palmette mounts.
This very fine console incorporates several elements that are distinct to the work of Bernard Molitor (1755-1833). Firstly one can cite its quality, the combination of gilt bronze mounted mahogany with fine marble as well as the overall style. Furthermore the Egyptian female busts are placed above identical palmette mounts (as noted above). These are on tapering columnar supports that terminate in gilt bronze human feet, as can also be seen on another attributed Molitor mahogany console from the René Fribourg collection of circa 1803-05 (illustrated ibid. p. 194, pl. 90). These in turn contrast with the far plainer pure wooden posterior supports which are headed by a pair of stepped bands, comparing closely with those on another mahogany Molitor console that was probably part of the furniture that belonged to Madame Mère at Hôtel de Brienne, now at Château la Maison (illustrated ibid. p. 118, pl. 119, cat. no. 87). Furthermore Molitor often tended to include palmette mounts as well as conjoined winged griffins or mythological creatures on his frieze drawers.
Like so many artists of the period Molitor was influenced by the Egyptian style and in particular often ornamented his work with caryatid Egyptian bust capitals wearing the royal headdress or Klaft or Pschent, often inspired or directly copied from pattern books by the designer Jean-Demosthène Dugourc. As one of the finest furniture-makers from before the Revolution to the Restoration, Molitor combined originality and individuality to accord with changing fashions. He was born in Luxembourg of German parents and by 1778 had settled in Paris with his cousin Michel Molitor. He became a maître in 1787 and received several royal commissions, surviving the Revolution and was later honoured with orders from the Directoire, the Emperor Napoleon, King Jérôme of Westphalia as well as a number of important private patrons including the duc de Choiseul-Praslin.
His use of a maker’s stamp was irregular and thus authentic pieces are sometimes difficult to identify. Examples by and attributed to Molitor (listed in Leben’s monograph) can be found in Paris at the Musées du Louvre, Marmottan, des Arts the Mobilier National and Nissim de Camondo as well as the Châteaux de Malmaison, Versailles and Daubeuf in Normandy. Other works are housed in the Wallace Collection London, Cleveland Museum of Art Ohio, the Carnegie Institute Pittsburg, Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, Toledo Museum of Art Ohio, Schloss Wilhelmshöhe Kassel and in numerous private collections.
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