Sideboard, Mathieu Befort Jeune, France, Third quarter of the 19th century

France, Paris

Third quarter of the 19th century

Description:

Sideboard supported by spinning top feet, on the front it has two doors, with sides moved to open. The front uprights are at 45 ° with a concave structure to contain two turning columns in gilded bronze; the uprights on the bottom are protruding and grooved in Spanish paper.

Palm wood veneer, in the base it has maple reserves, on the sides triage reserves in maple, stained maple and Indian walnut thread, on a mahogany background; on the front reserves in vernis Martin on a gold background, where two pairs of cherubs seated on clouds are depicted, intent on writing and playing the lyre respectively, while the others are painting and sculpting: they are allegorical representations of the arts.

The structure is made of oak wood, with the interiors veneered in mahogany.

Adorned with applications and frames in gilded bronze, with partly glossy and partly opaque finishes; the frames are made of a single piece, therefore specially made for this piece of furniture. The top is in marble and a purplish breccia, with an underlying bronze oval frame. Frames also delimit the reserves on the sides and on the front, while phytomorphic and floral bronze decorations are applied in the lower strip and in the lower strip.

The door lock has a brass cover, with double top and bottom locking. Present double stamp “BEFORT JEUNE” in the wood, under the marble top.

Dimensions: 107,5 x 133 x 43,5 cm ( 42,2 x 52,3 x 17,1 in )

Historical-stylistic analysis:

Mathieu Befort (1813-1880) descends from a famous family of Belgian cabinetmakers active since 1817; son of the famous Jean-Baptiste Befort (1783-1840), known for having designed the furnishings of the apartments of the Duke of Orleans. Ours had his own workshop in Paris between 1836 and 1880 and precisely to distinguish himself from his father, he began to sign the furniture of his production “Befort Jeune”. Awarded at the French Industry Exhibition, gaining the reputation of a manufacturer of high quality furniture, he became one of the suppliers for Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

His production is characterized by a personal reinterpretation of the furniture of André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732), often enriching the furnishings with vernis Martin, particular French lacquers born in competition with the more expensive Chinese lacquers, or with porcelain inserts, in the manner of Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806).

Our sideboard is an expression of Napoleon III taste and further confirms the high quality of Befort Jeune furniture, not only in the structural and cabinet-making parts, but also in the bronzes.

The two panels on the doors in vernis Martin are interesting, depicting allegories of the arts. The subject seems unique, but comparisons are possible with other furniture passed on the antique market, always signed by our cabinetmaker. In particular, another small cupboard on the door of which there is a panel made with the same technique, where a pair of cherubs is represented in front of ancient ruins. Similar playful cherubs are re-proposed in another cupboard and in a cabinet, on the door and on the sides.

Bibliography:

– Ledoux-Lebard, Denise Les Ebénistes du XIX Siècle, Paris, Editions de l’Amateur, 1984, pp. 48-50;

 – Christopher Payne, Mobili di Parigi: il mercato di lusso del XIX secolo, Château de Saint-Rémy, Éditions Monelle Hayot, 2018, pp. 253-6.

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