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This elegant bureau plat has a gilt-tooled leather writing surface with gilt-bronze encadrement and scrolling shell mount clasps. The shaped frieze has three drawers to the front and dummy drawers to the rear. The sides are centred by finely cast female masks and the cabriole legs headed by warriors with Roman armour and terminating in acanthus-cast sabots.
By repute the desk was in the collection of the ill-fated Danish art collector and financier Emil Glückstadt, referred to in his own time, as the ’Napoleon of Finance’ and Head of the Danish Landmandsbanken.
This magnificent bureau plat ‘à têtes de guerriers antiques’ is after the model by celebrated Ancien Régime cabinetmaker and sculptor, Charles Cressent (1685-1768) and the quality of its construction and gilt-bronze mounts is indicative of the very best Parisian cabinetwork of the late 19th century.
Charles Cressent is known to have made at least three examples of this desk between 1740- 1745:
One sold from the collections of the duc de Richelieu in 1788, later in the Houses of Parliament in London, and today in the collections of Grimsthorpe Castle, is illustrated in A. Pradère, French Furniture Makers, London, 1989, p. 268-9, no. 61. Another in the primary residence of the French President, the Palais de l’Elysée in Paris and a final example in the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon (inv. 2369), having formerly been in the collections of, amongst others, Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild and Baron Alphonse de Rothschild.
A leading ébéniste and sculptor of the late Régence and early rococo periods, Charles Cressent became a master sculptor in 1719. He worked as both ébéniste and sculptor to the Regent, Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans. His furniture was often decorated with plain veneers, usually of satinwood and amaranth, or veneers in patterns of parquetry.
Cressent was best known for the highly sculptural gilt bronze mounts that ornamented his furniture. In order to supervise production and guarantee the quality of his mounts, he employed master casters and gilders in his workshop. This practice broke the strict rules of the French guild system, and the guild prosecuted him for practising the two professions of cabinet making and gilding in the same workshop. In order to pay the resulting fines, Cressent was forced to hold sales of his stock. The catalogues from these auctions, which he wrote himself, provide important evidence to identify his works, as Cressent's furniture was always unsigned.
The bronze mounts of the warriors with Roman armour, which elegantly defend the corners of this desk, known as bustes des guerriers antiques, were among his most celebrated mounts, and used not only on his model for this bureau plat but on other items such as a ‘cabinet de medailles ‘ in the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (illustrated A. Pradère, op. cit., p. 128.).
Of enduring appeal, this desk has continued to be the model of choice for connoisseurs, statesmen and collectors since the late 18th century. A 19th century example, comparable to the present desk, can be found in the Salon Doré at the Elysée Palace in Paris - where it has been used by successive Presidents of France.
The model of desk was made by a number of distinguished 19th century ébénistes, including Paul Sormani, Alfred Beurdeley and François Linke. Given the quality of the present example, and in particular its fine gilt-bronze mounts, it is almost certainly the work of one of these masters.
French, Circa 1890.
By Repute from the Collection of Emil Glückstadt
Possibly acquired during the sales of his collections held by Winkel & Magnussens Kunstauktioner, 1924.
Acquired from an important Private collection in Denmark; during restoration of this desk, an old newspaper clipping was found to the underside of one drawer illustrating Glückstadt sitting at this desk. A number of further photographs showing Glückstadt in his office at the Landmandsbanken, sitting behind a desk of this ‘Cressent’ model, are in the collection of the Royal Library, Copenhagen.
Emil Glückstadt (1875 – 1923) was an important Danish financier, Councillor of State and a passionate art collector. Heir to Isaac Gluckstadt who had founded the Landmandsbanken in 1871, Emil Glückstadt took over the directorship of the bank following his father’s death 1910.
With a policy of rapid expansion, set against a backdrop of a booming world economy, Glückstadt led the bank to be Scandinavia's largest, with global interests and aspirations. He was chairman of both the Transatlantic Company and The East Asiatic Company, a member of the Bank Committee for the Faroe Bank, a board member of Copenhagen Shipyard, the Nordic Textile Companies and Greenland Mine Operating Companies. He frequently represented Denmark at international conferences and was negotiator for the Danish conferences and was the government’s chief negotiator at the League of Nations.
A philanthropist and art collector, he donated the buildings of the Royal Fredrick’s Hospital to the nation to house a Museum of Art & Design in 1919 and was awarded the Order of Dannebrog, the Grand Cross and given the title of Councillor of State.
During the economic boom following the 1st World War, Gluckstadt engaged the bank in very speculative transactions and when the bubble burst the Landmandsbanken was left exposed and catastrophically failed in 1921, he was held responsible. Accused of fraud and breaking the banking and securities law he was put on trial but died following an operation in 1923 before the judgement was rendered.
Wealthy and privileged Glückstadt had become accustomed to a regal standard of living. He lived in a mansion in the historic Fredericiagade, now the Italian Embassy and owned several properties including two town houses in Copenhagen, a mansion in the countryside north of Copenhagen, a town house in Paris, an island in the Kattegat, and a yacht. Glückstadt also owned paintings by Holbein and van Dyck as well as a large collection of decorative arts. Following the failure of the Landmandsbanken, Glückstadt was forced to surrender his assets to its creditors.
The historic Fredericiagade residence was acquired in 1924 by the Italian state, but the furnishings and art works were condisered too expensve to be acquired by the then Italian Foreign Minister Benito Mussolini. The remainder of Glückstadt’s collections were sold at a number of prominent sales held in 1924 in by V. Winkel & Magnussen Kunstauktioner, Copenhagen.
Camille Mestdagh, L'Ameublement d'art français 1850-1900, Editions de l'Armateur, Paris, 2010, pp. 96-101.
Per H. Hansen : The Napoleon of Finance and the end of Finance Capitalism, Emil Glückstadt and the collapse of Landmandsbanken in 1922 , Copenhagen Business School.
|Height||78.00 cm||(30.71 inches)|
|Width||188.00 cm||(74.02 inches)|
|Depth||105.00 cm||(41.34 inches)|