An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand
An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand

CHARLES-GUILLAUME DIEHL (worked 1840-1887)

An Exceptional Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand

c. 1865 France

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An Exceptional and Very Rare Napoléon III Empire Revival Oak Cigar Cabinet-on-Stand with Silvered Bronze Mounts, By Charles-Guillaume Diehl.

The design for this unusual cigar cabinet or humidor is emblematic of the celebrated Néo-Grec furniture and objects, produced by Diehl, in the second half of the 19th century.

Of martial grandeur, this remarkable cabinet-on-stand has a curved pediment surmounted by figures of resting soldiers holding a military trophy, above a plaque depicting a battle scene and centred by a roundel of Jupiter and flanked to each side by a standing figure of Athena and Ares. Below is a pair of cupboard doors set with rectangular panels depicting armoury and trophies, the angles mounted with various helmets, Greek, Roman and Persian; opening to an interior fitted with twenty-nine cigar slides. The cabinet is raised on a shaped base, the front angles flanked clasps in the form of mythological beasts or dracontes and the stand with a central frieze drawer. The tapering fluted legs are each headed by a Ionic capitals, and united by an 'X'-frame stretcher mounted to the centre with a relief carved plaque depicting the rape of the Sabines.

At the beginning of his career Diehl specialised in the creation of fine furniture of small dimensions, often inspired by historical examples and by the great ébénistes of the 18th century. By the 1860’s he had gradually developed a more individual style, combining freely inspired neoclassical motifs, such as stylized anthemion decoration, military trophies and allegorical attributes, derived from Greek and Egyptian antiquity, to original compositions that were considered at the time to be at the forefront of the avant-garde.

The design ethos, behind this neoclassical revision, was influential across the globe in the 19th century; revival-style firms, as far afield as New York, such as Pottier and Stymus and Kimbel & Cubus, creating furniture in this innovative spirit.

Diehl was praised by his contemporaries for being artistic and original. His work was favourably distinguished from the output of many rival firms who produced fashionable furniture in the 'Louis revival' style copying 18th century pieces from the Garde-Meuble Royal:

'M. Diehl n'aime pas le banal; par tempérament, par goût, par réflexion et par l'effet des études approfondies qu'il a faites de toutes les questions se rattachant à son art, la fabrication des meubles de luxe, la grande et la petite ébénisterie, M. Diehl a des préférences pour le nouveau, pour l'original’
(J. Mesnard, Les Merveilles de l'Exposition Universelle de 1867, Paris, Tome II, pp. 129-135.)

Diehl's medal-winning stand at the 1867 exhibition included a number of highly individual designs including the 'Triomphe de Mérovée' cabinet à médailles (purchased by the Louvre in 1973 and now on display in the Musée d'Orsay, OA10440, and of which there is another example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and the Coffret Impérial à bijoux for Princesse Mathilde (Château Compiègne). He also included on his stand a number of pieces shown in the genre Grec: a bijouterie cabinet (Philadelphia Museum of Art), the 'Aurora cabinet' (Musée d'Orsay Paris, OAO992) and a centre-table with chimères supports (private collection).

Like the present cigar cabinet-on-stand, these pieces were collaboration between Diehl, Kowalewski, his chief ébéniste, and the designer Jean Brandely. Described as "a bold, strange artist ... an enterprising man with spontaneity" (Auguste Luchet in L'Art Industrielle à l'Exposition Universelle de 1867: Mobilier, vêtements, aliments, Paris, 1868), Brandely provided plans for furniture and designs for both marquetry and bronze applications and would have been responsible for the distinctive Egyptian and Greek revival mounts (J. Mesnard, Les Merveilles de l'Exposition Universelle de 1867, Paris, Tome I, p. 183). Diehl also collaborated on the exhibition pieces with the renowned sculptors Emile Coriolan-Hippolyte Guillemin and Emmanuel Frémiet.

This sophisticated humidor, or cigar cabinet, was conceived with the same innovative spirit as the exhibition pieces, and belongs to a select group of furniture, which epitomises the grandeur and ambition of the period. A very small number of examples of this model are known, some unsigned and others created with subtle variations in the materials. In addition, the lower section or stand for the cabinet was interpreted by Diehl for other items. For instance, an identical base with analogous mounts was fashioned in walnut as a small occasional table and also used as the lower section of a porcelain-mounted cabinet-on-stand.

Critically-acclaimed as one of the most innovative artists of the 19th century, Diehl enlisted the partnership of designers such as Brandely and sculptors such as Guillemin and Frémiet, not only to render his vision in plastic form, but to challenge the rigid hierarchy, that relegated the decorative arts, beneath that of the major arts of architecture, painting and sculpture. The result was a series of furniture and small items of remarkable sophistication, created with a wealth of detail and of exceptional quality, of which this humidor on stand is a fine and rare example. His output was described during the 1878 Exposition Universelle as some of the most important of its time:

“Ses petits coffrets, ses boîtes à jeu et à gants représentent une industrie de grande importance à la tête de laquelle la maison Diehl s’est placée” (D. Ledeoux-Lebard, Le Mobilier Français du XIXe Siècle, (Paris), 1989; p. 165).
Dimensions
Height 152.00 cm (59.84 inches)
Width 76.00 cm (29.92 inches)
Depth 42.00 cm (16.54 inches)
Stock Code
B72650
Medium
Oak, Silvered Bronze
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