Juliette Récamier (1777-1849) was a famous French socialite whose Salon in Paris was the go-to place in literary, political and artistic circles.
She was greatly admired and was portrayed by many of the best-known artists of the time.
Récamier was also a patron of the arts. She was one of the first to adopt and favour the newly fashionable classical Empire and Etruscan styles and commissioned renowned craftsman of the time to decorate her salon at her rue Mont Blanc residence.
On December 4 pieces that had furnished her bedroom featured in the Empire à Fontainebleau auction held in the French town by Osenat (27.6% buyer’s premium inc tax).
On offer were a marble statue – Le Silence – by Joseph Chinard (1756- 1813), which is based on an antique Roman statue in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, and a pineapple-topped torchère designed by Louis- Martin Berthault (1782-1823).
These pieces were placed either side of Récamier’s bed as shown in a watercolour by the English architect Robert Smirke.
Osenat was also offering a mahoganyveneered and bronze mounted neoclassical bed. This was probably made by the Maison Jacob around the same time for the Belgian banker François- Dominique Mosselman who purchased the Hotel Récamier and some of its contents in 1808. All three pieces were owned by Mosselman’s descendants.
The statue, which stands 2ft 9in (86cm) high, and dates from c.1798, is set on a 3ft 6in (1.08m) high mahogany plinth also by Berthault after Jacob Frères which carries a gilt bronze Latin inscription translating as She protects dreams and loves, accomplice of the bed.
It sold for €720,000 (£626,085) hammer against an estimate of €400,000-500,000, setting an auction record for the sculpture – the previous being the $470,000 (then £327,482) paid at Sotheby’s New York in 2002 for a terracotta bust of Récamier (according to Artprice).
The pineapple torchère and girandole was also created c.1798 after a design by Berthault and Charles Percier (1764-1838) and has a fluted and leaf entwined stand painted green and gilt set on a triform base decorated with rams’ heads and other classical motifs. It supports a light fitting composed of nine branches centred by a gilt pineapple and stands 6ft 4in (1.94m) overall.
This sold for €68,000 (£59,130) and was pre-empted by the Louvre, which already holds a number of other pieces from Recamier’s bedroom.
The bed failed to find a buyer, however.
The torchère was not the only preemption in the auction. The Musées Nationaux pre-empted for the Château de Fontainebleau a silvergilt covered cup on stand by Martin- Guillaume Biennais with a handle fashioned as a putto holding a bunch of grapes and various other classical motifs to the body.
This comes from an Empire period silver dinner service of over 1800 pieces that was made for Prince Camille Borghese and his wife Pauline, Napoleon’s sister, started by Biennais then completed by various other goldsmiths.
It took €40,000 (£34,780).
A second pre-emption for the Château de Fontainebleau at €9000 (£7825) was a canapé or pommier in black patinated and gilded wood made for Napoleon’s bedchamber at the château. Its branded marks for the château included those dating from the era of the second Empire and the Restoration as well as a label inscribed Fontainebleau chambre à coucher de SM L’Empereur.
The sale also featured several items that had belonged to the French General Jean Hardy (1762-1802) who served in the French Revolutionary wars.
His antique glaive, an elaborately mounted edged weapon made and signed by the French blade and gunsmith Nicholas Boutet, a model that was used from the revolutionary year VI (August 7, 1798) through to the year XII (September 24, 1803), sold for €55,000 (£47,825).
A rare sword harness from year VI in brown leather covered in red cloth with embroidered and sequinned decoration and applied with gilt brass lion and cockerel motifs realised €42,000 (£36,520).
£1 = €1.15