Wood paneling from Baron Hope’s bedroom

France, 1840
Carved, painted and gilt wood, stucco, silks
Gift of the Ville de Paris, 1935
Inv. 32425
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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In 1838 when the wealthy Anglo-Dutch banker Baron William Hope purchased the mansion at 57, Rue Saint-Dominique in Paris (now the Polish Embassy), he employed a little known architect, Achille-Jacques Fedel (1785-1860), to turn it into a splendid home in the Renaissance fashion of the time. Hope was a great collector who furnished his first-floor drawing rooms with lavish luxury and held the capital’s most dazzling receptions there. His private ground-floor apartments comprised an impressive suite of rooms: the bedroom that once contained the wood paneling presented here was accessed via an entrance hall, two antechambers, a dining room furnished in mahogany, a smoking room, a greenhouse containing rare plants, a small oak-paneled dining room, a billiard room, a drawing room furnished in ebony and a small room housing a Chinese porcelain collection.

Inspired by the châteaux furnished by François I, the room is in a class of its own and unusually luxurious for a masculine bedroom. The upper frieze contains figures evoking court life in the Renaissance, painted on a gold ground. The wall panels are covered with white and yellow damask hangings, woven to reproduce the originals commissioned in 1840 from the Grand Frères factory in Lyon. A new decorative vocabulary is apparent: the Corinthian pilasters, the arabesques and interlacing, the lavish garlands of flowers encircling young troubadour women, the naked nymphs recalling the Renaissance art of Jean Goujon that adorn the doors in the wood paneling… elements that add an erotic touch to the overall decorative scheme and create a striking contrast to the restrained style of the Charles X period.

Nothing is known of the original furniture, which is now lost. The bed displayed here is a rare example of the ornate, Renaissance-style cast iron furniture that appeared in France around 1840 under the influence of Aimé Chenavard and Henri de Triqueti. It reflects the new trend for themes of seduction in furniture decoration: the half-naked naiad and little cupids resemble those on the doors in the wood paneling. In addition to its lavish decoration, the faux-bois varnish embellished with gold suggests a luxury item whereas, like all cast iron pieces, this bed was actually mass-produced.

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