A Set of Four Painted Louis XVI Fauteuil Arm Chairs and Side Chairs by Pierre Bernard
Circa 1766-80, nne fauteuil of slightly different design, all four stamped "P. Bernard" in a circle under the seat rail
Item # 110101PWI29
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An exceptional salon suite featuring two near pair fauteuils à la reine and two side chairs, each chair is stamped "P. Bernard" noting the hand of Pierre Bernard, maître in Paris 1766. A "menuisier" (carpenter) by trade, Bernard was distinguished as one of the best chair craftsmen of his trade, documented at length with a vast number of works owned by patrons of importance. He provided extensive works for the Marquis de Laborde (1724-1794), the fermiers généraux under King Louis XV, crafting magnificent chairs for his château in Méréville, France.
Another Pierre Bernard of note crafted works in France: the Ébéniste (cabinet-maker) Pierre Bernard (b. 1715-1770, France) operated his shop designing fine case works of the Louis XV infuence during the same period, but in light of not being the solo Pierre Bernard, he stamped his works "Pierre Bernard Ébéniste", thus clearly distinguishing himself from the menuisier. Documented works by Pierre Bernard the menuisier are identified as late as 1780 with significant holdings in museums throughout Europe.
The present set is an elaborately carved suite of two fauteuils and two side chairs, each crafted of solid beechwood with later painted surfaces. The fauteuils are near pairs, each stamped by Bernard under the apron, but each of slightly differing proportions and carving depth denoting craftmanship at differing times. The set is a pure design taking on the full influence of the Louis XVI period, clearly evolved beyond the transitional period of the shifting taste from the flowing Rococo of Louis XV into the more rigid Neoclassicism of Louis XVI, a transition Bernard is famous for handling expertly. Balancing a certain austerity and exactness of shape with the flow of the fauteuil arms and the perfect splay of the legs, the chairs have poise and presence.
The chair backs are molded with blue on cream paint highlights, framing a raised square upholstered back over fluted stiles that flow into the frame. The arms are upholstered, with a gentle swoon before curling into the handles. The supports enjoy a subtle cyma-curve, intensely carved with reed molded form before joining the seat frame. The apron is likewise molded with simple lines, flanked by square corners with carved rosettes over turned and stop-fluted legs terminating in toupie sabot feet. Intense ring turning signal the start of each leg, but it is incredible as you examine each leg how every single leg is just slightly different. The slightest difference in width, depth of rings and quickness of turn is an ever present reminder that each leg was a work of art slowly developed with the knife of a highly skilled menuisier, while also highlighting the effects of shrinking and expanding woods changing a round turning to become spherical.
Each chair boasts a fine light blue floral re-upholstery in overall excellent condition with only minor wear and subtle staining. Early repainted surfaces bring harmony to the lines with the deep patina of a soft finish mellowed and worn over the generations. Each chair is constructed with exposed peg tenon joints, some of these pegs replaced, which has allowed the frame to breathe as it expands and contracts with time.
The underside of the front rail of each chair is impressed with the stamp "P. Bernard", only a few letters legible on some chairs, the stamp quite clear on two of the chairs. The stamp is formed in a circle, a branding Bernard is recorded using in his works until some time after 1770 when he began using "P. Bernard" stamped in a single line.
This is a rare set with incredible form, raw and simply powerful lines and stance throughout. Each chair is very strong and fully functional, a testament to the care and expertise shown in the original joinery - this is an exceptional set you will truly cherish for a lifetime.
Christies Sale 7104, Lot 231 - two side chairs of similar appeal w/ giltwood surfaces, sold for $6,228
Christies Sale 5453, Lot 295 - a simple carved fruitwood fauteuil crafted by Bernard, sold for $3,210
The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, vol. II, London, 1974, pp. 608-11, no. 130
"Les Sieges" G. Janneau, Paris, 1967 p. 123
Koller Auctions (Zurich, Switzerland) Sale June 19, 2007, Lot 1221 - very similar design painted suite (canapé & five fauteuils) c. 1775-80, estimate $32,000-$52,000
Arm chairs - 22 3/4" wide at front knees, 20" deep, 17 1/2" high to seat, 35 1/2" high to crest
Side chairs - 18 1/2" wide at front knees, 17" deep, 20" high to seat, 36" high to crest
Seat dimensions 22 3/4" W x 16 1/2" D
18 1/2" H to top of seat cushion, 38" H to crest
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