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A Fine Transitional Louis XIV Style Gilt-Bronze Mounted Kingwood and Parquetry Bureau Plat By François Linke with Gilt-Bronze Mounts Designed by Léon Messagé.

Linke Index No. 133.

Signed 'F.Linke' to the gilt-bronze border. Stamped 'FL' to the reverse of the bronze mounts. The lock plates stamped 'C.T. Linke'.

The gilt-bronze banded shaped rectangular top has an inset leather writing surface above a parquetry frieze set with two short drawers and a central recessed drawer. The reverse of the bureau plat has similar dummy drawers. Each side has a leather covered draw slide above a Bacchic mask and is raised on cabriole legs headed by satyr masks and put down on hoof-cast sabots.

This exceptional Transitional Louis XIV style bureau plat (index no. 133), was among Linke's most favoured models and the desk he chose for his own personal use.

A wonderful photograph survives in the Linke archive of François Linke sitting at a version of this desk in the study of his private apartment at 32 Quai Henri IV, in Paris overlooking the Seine. Produced in three sizes, the present example being one of the largest, this bureau plat proved to be one of Linke's most popular designs and remains highly sought after today.

François Linke was the most important Parisian cabinet maker of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and possibly the most sought after cabinet maker of his period. Born in Pankratz in Bohemia in 1855, at the age of 20 he arrived in Paris where he lived until he died in 1946.

The quality of his craftsmanship was unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries and reached its peak with his spectacular stand at the Paris Exhibition Universelle in 1900, where his Grand Bureau took a gold medal. He gambled his fortune and reputation on this stand, exhibiting several breath-taking items of furniture with sculptural mounts of the most exceptional quality and proportion. His gamble worked and his reputation was established to such an extent that Linke continued to be the pre-eminent house in Paris until the Second World War.

The items Linke exhibited in 1900 marked a transition from the historicist interpretation of Louis XV and Louis XVI styles, an interpretation that was the main stay of his nearest rivals, to something startlingly new and vital in its immediacy. Together with the sculptor Léon Messagé he developed a style that, whilst paying homage to the Louis XV style in the fluidity of its approach, was infused with the lively flowing lines of the 'art nouveau'. As the Art Journal reported in 1900 on Linke's stand:

The work of M. Linke ... was an example of what can be done by seeking inspiration amongst the classic examples of Louis XV and XVI without in any great sense copying these great works. M. Linke's work was original in the true sense of the word, and as such commended itself to the intelligent seeker after the really artistic things of the Exhibition. Wonderful talent was employed in producing the magnificent pieces of furniture displayed....

Linke's stand would have appeared refreshingly new to contemporary onlookers, the traditional designs of the eighteenth century melting seamlessly into an exuberant naturalism. The 'Revue Artistique & Industrielle' described Linke's style as 'entierement nouveax', and noted: 'this opinion is universally accepted. Linke's stand is the biggest show in the history of art furniture in the year 1900'.

The formation of Linke's distinctive style was made possible by his collaboration with Léon Messagé. A gifted sculptor, Messagé was responsible for much of the design and creative work for Roux et Brunet of Paris, of whom one brother, Alexandre Roux, had established a highly successful business in New York as early as 1836. Subsequently Messagé also designed for Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener and probably Frederic Schmidt but his best known collaboration is with François Linke.

The furniture Messagé designed for Linke's 1900 exhibition stand, with its exuberant allegorical figures cast in high relief, recalling the styles of Boucher and Falconet, exemplified Linke's ability to seamlessly merge the different mediums of wood carving, bronze and marquetry into a dynamic unified whole.

Today Linke is best known for the exceptionally high quality of his work, as well as his individualism and inventiveness. All of his work has the finest, most lavish mounts, very often applied to comparatively simple carcasses of quarter veneered kingwood or tulipwood, without the embellishment of too much marquetry. The technical brilliance of his work and the artistic change that it represented was never to be repeated.

Paris, Circa 1900.

Literature:

Payne, Christopher: 'François Linke, 1855 - 1946, The Belle Epoque of French Furniture', 2003; p. 438-9, pl. 516.
Meyer, Jonathan: 'Great Exhibitions', Antique Collectors club, Woodbridge, 2006, p. 298 - 300.
Denise Ledoux-Lebard, 'Les Ébénistes du XIX Siècle', pps 439-43.
'Revue Artistique & Industrielle', July-August 1900.
'The Paris Exhibition 1900', ed. D. Coral Thomsen, Art,Journal, 1901, p.341.

Product description Product description
  • Origin : UNITED KINGDOM
  • Style : Louis XIV
  • Designer : François Linke / Léon Messagé
  • Date of creation : 1900

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