Coffer cabinet

Attributed to Pierre Gole (1620-1684)
Paris, c. 1655
Resinous wood, veneer of tortoiseshell, ivory, tinted ivory, ebony, amaranth, walnut, pearwood, yew, barberry, end-cut wood
Coffer: 23.8 x 47.7 x 34 cm
Base: 63.2 x 60 x 40 cm
Acquired with the support of Michel and Hélène David-Weill, 2002
Inv. 2002.56.1.1-2
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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This coffer was designed to be movable. It stands on four small toupie legs made of ivory; the lid and four sides are decorated with marquetry. The stand supporting the coffer has no marquetry at the back; the part hidden by the coffer is simply veneered. Slight differences in the ornamentation suggest that the stand was made later. This is a rare surviving example of a type of furniture that was relatively popular in the mid-seventeenth century. The posthumous inventory of Cardinal Mazarin, drawn up in 1661, includes (under numbers 718 and 719) “a tortoiseshell coffer, edged with ivory, covered with marquetry of flowers and birds in wood of various colors, standing on four tortoiseshell style ivory balls, one foot seven inches long [51 cm], one foot one inch wide [35 cm) and ten inches high [27 cm],” and “another small table and a coffer similar to the one mentioned above.” The use of marquetry on a tortoiseshell and ivory ground and the particular design of elements such as the six Tuscan columns supporting the stand (with astragals around the lower third of each column) suggest that this coffer and stand could be the work of Pierre Gole. A native of Holland who moved to Paris at a very early age as an apprentice in the workshop of Adriaan Garbrandt (one of the most sought-after cabinetmakers of the period), Pierre Gole built his reputation on the quality of his ebony-veneered furniture and his marquetry work, and was appointed “master ebony furniture maker-in-ordinary” to the king in 1651. He used the most precious materials and specialized in ivory veneers, with which he sometimes covered the entire surface as is illustrated by a cabinet delivered in the early 1660s to Monsieur, the king’s brother, for the prince’s “white room” at the Palais-Royal (now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London). This coffer must have been made earlier in the cabinetmaker’s career, however. The decorative scrolls on an ivory ground in the cartouches framing the marquetry resemble the ornament engravings that circulated in Paris during the reign of Louis XIII. The term cassette en cabinet probably corresponds to a piece like this; this name appears in the cabinetmaker’s posthumous inventory, drawn up on January 10, 1685; it was an isolated piece, valued (with other furniture items) at the modest sum of 33 pounds. This reference suggests that such pieces had gone out of fashion by the mid-1680s.

B. R. Theodoor Herman Lunsingh-Scheurleer, Pierre Gole, Dijon, Éditions Faton, 2005, pp. 88-89, repr. 48-49, p. 244 and repr.

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