A Fine French 19th Century Neo-Renaissance Style Gilt-Bronze Mounted Walnut and Mahogany Two-Door Bargueno or Cabinet on Stand, attributed to Paul Sormani (1817-1877), designed Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886) and retailed by Poujol - Paris. The spreading pediment Vitruvian scrolled fitted frieze centered by a crest and flanked by cartouches, the quarter paneled doors with pierced rinceaux reserves and centered by an ormolu portrait relief roundels of King Charles VII of France 'The Victorious' (1403-1461) and Agnès Sorel (1422-1450), flanking a gilt-bronze statuette of 'The Belvedere Hermes’, the base fronted by open arches centered by a pair of columns with Corinthian capitals, above a spreading platform, all raised on bun feet. Circa: Paris, 1870.
Height: 83 inches (210.8 cm)
Width: 60 5/8 inched (154 cm)
Depth: 25 1/2 inches (64.8 cm)
Paul Sormani (1817-1877) was born in Venice, Paul Sormani set up in Paris in the middle of the 19th century. He specialized in creating furniture and works of art and was known for his high quality reproductions of Louis XV and XVI furniture with finely chased gilt-bronze mounts as well as Boulle style pieces. Sormani usually engraved the lock-plate of some of his pieces, the bronze castings bear the intials "PS" on the reverse.
He exhibited at many Universal Exhibitions, like in Paris in 1855, where he was awarded a first class medal, in London in 1862 where he received another medal and yet again in Paris in 1867.
Everyone agreed that his creations revealed the highest standards of quality; during the 1867 Universal Exhibition the catalog described his work as follows: « Toute sa production révèle une qualité d’exécution de tout première ordre ».
In 1867, he moved to 10. rue Charlot, where he met a great success until his death in 1877. His wife and son took over the business and later moved it to 134, Boulevard Haussmaun. From this date onwards pieces are normally signed “Veuve Sormani et Fils”
Born in Nancy, Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886) trained as a painter under the French academic painter Thomas Couture before turning his attention to decorative art design. His earliest important work datable with certainty is the grand vase persan designed for the Christofle firm in 1874, and exhibited by the latter at the Paris Expositions of 1878 and also in 1889 and 1900. Lièvre also designed for the illustrious bronzier Ferdinand Barbedienne. Among Lièvre's important clients were actress Sarah Bernhardt, courtesan Louise-Emilie Valtesse de la Bigne, and Albert Vieillard, director of Bordeaux's ceramics factory and an early Japonisme enthusiast. The suite of furniture designed for Vieillard included the Cabinet Japonais now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Following Lièvre's death, his estate was sold in two auctions in 1887 and 1890. These auction were commended by the press: "It has been a long time since art lovers had the opportunity to see at auction a remarkable collection such as the work of the recently deceased master. His creations will make history..." (see Connaissance des Arts, No. 228, Un créateur inspiré by Roberto Polo, p. 8). It is believed that most of the collection was sold to George and Henri Pannier, owners of the elegant shop, l'Escalier de Cristal. The Pannier brothers produced altered versions of Lièvre's designs, including seven variants of Vieillard's Cabinet Japonais, one of which was sold to Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia and is now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
This cabinet, ‘Crédence en noyer enrichie de bronzes’, is Lièvre’s defining piece in the Renaissance style. The style recalls Franco-Flemish cabinets-on-stands of the early 17th century such as the ‘Marie de Medici cabinet’ in the V & A (W.64:1 to 3-1977), which Lièvre might have seen at Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, where it was from circa 1855 in the collection of Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (d. 1874).
Part of Lièvre’s genius was his flair for combining historically accurate ornament to create new designs. As evidenced by the present cabinet, his skill was in maintaining the correct proportions and symmetry. With subtle hints and acknowledgement to past masters, Lièvre creates something both quite new, yet in homage to the antique. This historicism is evident to the crédence not just in its form, but also in the use of a statuette of Antinous, a reduction after the Belvedere Hermes. A favourite of the Emperor Hadrian, the antique original takes a prominent position in the Belvedere of the Museo Pio-Clementino (Vatican Collection). The portrait plaques depict Charles VII and his favourite mistress Agnès Sorel, chosen to represent love.
The cabinetry can be attributed to the Parisian ébéniste Paul Sormani owing to the superb quality of its construction, but more specifically with reference to a smaller, and albeit overall less accomplished, cabinet signed by Sormani and fronted with an identical single portrait plaque of Agnès Sorel (A Private Collection Volume I, Sotheby’s, New York, 26 October 2006, lot 187).
Also compare a mirror ‘Psyché de Sarah Bernhardt’ (Connaissance des Arts, N° 228, Paris, 2004, S. 28 ff. p. 4-5) and a cabinet-on- stand with identical figure of Antinous (opposed by Diana) sold Sotheby’s, New York, 16 November 2011, lot 239.
A cabient by Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886) is currently part of the collection at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris - A Two-Tier Cabinet by Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886), designer - Paris, 1870-1880. Walnut, Honduran mahogany, patinated bronze, marble - Bequest of Léon Frey, 1956.
Poujol de Molliens (Gabriel) membre de la Société des Antiquaires de Picardie (Poujol de Molliens (Gabriel) member of the Society of Antiquaries of Picardy). Répertoire Général des Collectionneurs de la France et des ses Colonies - Pairs 1908 (General Directory of Collectors from France and its Colonies - Paris 1908)
Literature & Resources
Catalogue des Meubles d’Art de la Succession de feu de M. Edouard Lièvre, 21-24 March 1887, no. 16. P. Eudel, L’Hôtel Drouot et la Curiosité en 1886-1887, Paris, 1888, p. 120: ‘Credence en noyer enrichie de bronzes’.
'Édouard Lièvre', Connaissance des Arts, N° 228, Paris 2004, S. 28 ff.
Optima propagare Edouard Lièvre: Créateur de meuble & objets d’art, Galerie Roxane Rodriguez, Paris, 2004, pp. 32-33.
A French Ormolu-Mounted Rosewood Vitrine Cabinet by Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886), Paris, Circa 1880 was sold at Christie's London - Exceptional Sale 2014 - on 10 July 2014 for £242,500
An almost identical cabient, designed by Édouard Lièvre (1828-1886) and attributed to Paul Sormani, (1817-1877) Circa 1870 - Christie's, London - Au Bord Du Lac: An interior by François-Joseph Graf.