Style Japonism, Chinoiserie / Ref.11387
GABRIEL VIARDOT (attr. to) - Bedroom furniture composed of a wardrobe and a bed in tinted sycamore
Width: 61'' 155cm
Height: 100'' ⅜ 255cm
Depth: 88'' ⅝ 225cm
France, 19th century
This Japanese bedroom furniture is composed of a bed and a wardrobe. It was very likely made by the leader of the Japonisme in France, the furniture maker Gabriel Viardot (1830-1904), circa 1870-1880. This attribution is allowed because of the high making quality of the furniture and by stylistic comparison to other signed pieces of drawn in the archives sketchbook.
Gabriel Viardot starts his career in the Jeanselme furniture workshop, furnisher of the Napoleon III court, before starting his own as a wood sculptor in 1849. He was then already the head of a small sculptors team even though he was only 19 years old. He opens in 1853, a workshop and a wood furniture and decorative objets shop located on the 36 and 38 rue Rambuteau in Paris. At this time, Gabriel works with his brother, Alexandre-Laurent, under the company name “Viardot Frère & Cie”. Seven years later, in 1860, he creates his own workshop « G. Viardot », on the 5 rue du Grand-Chantier, and takes the direction of the family business until 1872. He decides then to dedicate his production to the Chinese-Japanese furniture that he had observed during the 1867 World Fair. His characteristic furniture production was made with lacquered panel sent directly from China or Japan, often adorned with Tonkin mother of pearl inlays. The furniture were next lightened up with decorative bronzes of which the models were created by himself.
Gabriel Viardot participates to many exhibitions that mark the artistic scenes of the second half of the 19th century. Each participation was successful, indeed, he wins in the 1878 World Fair a silver medal, then in 1855 in Antwerp and in Paris in 1889 and 1900 gold medals. He also participated to the exhibitions of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs where he is in a class of his own and jury member from 1884.
In the middle of the 1880’s, his company employed between 90 and 100 furniture makers and sculptors trained by himself. He also employs almost 20 subcontractors.
From 1890, he creates furniture models for the famous decorative arts and furniture company, l’Escalier de Cristal. Indeed, we can read on Henry Pannier’s notebooks, the Viardot name associated to the description of some furniture. Viardot organizes his succession on the 26thDecembre 1890 by creating the "G. Viardot et Cie", company in which he associates his two children. When he dies in 1906, they take the direction of the workshop.
The wardrobe is adorned on its pediment, reminding the roof of the pagoda, with a beautiful projecting sculpture of flowered cherry tree branch that we call « sakura » in Japanese. The center of the wardrobe shows a large rectangular mirror framed by two asymmetric unit shelves above cartouches adorned with branches of bamboo in slight relief. The wardrobe’s whole receive a carved and in relief decoration belonging to the Asian iconography. We find some of these typical elements on different model in the furniture maker drawings archives. Indeed, we can notice the stylized spiral feet, the branches decors on the panels and the open worked decoration on the superior right angle of the mirror.
The bed is also adorned with a very rich sculpted and carved decoration with Asian inspiration depicting plants, interlacing, flowers and fantastic animals. The foot board shows a very beautiful medallion sculpted with high relief flowers on the center and statues of Foo dogs on the mounts. The headboard is adorned with a beautiful sculpted dragon and surmounted by a canopy with geometric motifs in frieze. The presence of the canopy is quite habitual in the Viardot’s beds production as shown the archives drawings. On the model here, we can also see the presence of the dragon on the header board.
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