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Style Japonism, Chinoiserie / Ref.12790

Gabriel Viardot, Japanese style shelf unit with mother-of-pearls inlay, second half of the 19th century

Width: 66'' ½  169cm
Height: 99'' ¼  252cm
Depth: 21'' ⅝  55cm

19th century.

This exceptional shelf unit is signed by the French cabinet maker Gabriel Viardot (1830-1906). Its asymmetrical construction and its style inspired by the Japanese art are characteristic of the creations of the Parisian cabinetmaker.

The composition alternates solid elements and empty spaces. The lower part of the furniture opens by three doors adorned with a Japanese inspired decoration in a light relief and mother-of-pearls inlay, and by three drawers decorated with geometric scrolls. The left part, is slightly set back from the rest of the furniture. We find the same decoration on the two doors on the upper part surmounted by a pediment forming a pagoda above a geometric scrolls frieze. The right part is this time set back from the rest of the upper part composition but also lower. It forms shelves pu in a random way under an architectural decoration.

Gabriel Viardot was a famous Parisian cabinetmaker specialized in the production of “Chinese-Japanese style” furniture in the last third of the 19th century. He started his wood-sculpting career in 1849, when he sent some furniture pieces in natural décor to the horticultural exhibition. He then became the head of a small team of sculptors when he was just 19 years old. In 1853, he had a factory and a store of furniture located at 36 and 38 Rambuteau Road. During this time, he worked with his brother, Louis Gustave, under the name “Viardot Brothers and Company.” In 1860, he created his own workshop, “G. Viardot” at 5 Grand-Chantier road, and became head of the family business that he kept until 1872. He decided to devote himself to “Chinese-Japanese style furniture,” which he was able to observe mainly at the 1867 World Exposition. At this same exposition, he was awarded four medals. It’s with this production that he was awarded at the 1878 World Exposition with a silver medal. Following that, he practiced consecutively at 15 Chaume road, 3 Archives road in 1878 and 36 Amelot road near the end of the century. His furniture was produced thanks to lacquered and carved panels sent directly from China or Japan and decorated with mother of pearl inlays from Tonkin. He enlivened his furniture with bronze decorations, of which he made all the designs by hand. Over the course of the years, the success only continued to grow, particularly at the expositions of Nice and the 8th exposition of the Central Union of Decorative Arts in 1884. In 1885, he participated in the World Exposition of Antwerp where he obtained a gold medal. At this time, the shop employed 90 – 100 workers, sculptors or cabinetmakers, a lot of who were educated directly by Gabriel Viardot. Following this exposition, he was promoted to the rank of Knight in the Legion of Honor (December 29 1885). In 1889, he was at the World Exposition that took place in Paris and awarded a gold medal. He obtained the same award at the 1900 World Exposition.