Everything in this cabinet brings to mind the rigour and elegance in vogue during the reign of the French king Henri II. This Renaissance cupboard finds its direct inspirations in works from Fontainebleau, made during the second half of the 16th century. Its strong structure is conceived as an imitation of architecture as we can see through the use of Corinthian columns and with the refined pediment.
Each drawers, the pediment and the lateral sides are enriched with blackened wood and pastiglia inlays. This technique originates from Italy and so are the delicate scroll motifs.
The lower body opens with two door-leaves and two drawers and stands on a moulded plinth with four bun feet.
The Second French Renaissance and the School of Fontainebleau
During the reign of the French king Henri II appears a style of furnitures strongly influenced by architecture. This taste for balance sets the bases of a French art. The cupboard, as a model of a building’s facade, uses modillions, feather-quills, columns, cornice and curved pediment. These combinations of architecural shapes is also applied to the ornaments : within the architectural rigour the decorative effect is very much alive.
The uprights of the lower body are adorned with veneered blackened wood motifs wisely located. They evoke the carpenters activities of the first Italian artists in France, famous for their marquetry flooring.
Within moulded frames each body’s door-leaves bear low-relief carvings divided in three areas. The door-leaves are centered by female figures barely dressed with a floating drape and facing each other in a pastoral landscape.
On the left Flora, the allegory of Spring, holds a bouquet and a cornucopia full of flowers.
On the right Ceres, the allegory of Summer and fertility, holds a cornucopia full of fruits and sheaves of wheat.
Above them are lying two female figures facing each other.
On these depictions Summer and Spring appearances match their traditional iconographies, defined through time and eventually written down by the author Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia published in 1603.
The theme of the seasons is very much used by the School of Fontainebleau but by reinventing the models : undressing the female figures -except Spring the other seasons were always depicted dressed- higlighting the supple lines of the bodies perfectly inscribed in their frames.
The influence of Jean Goujon is seen as much by the panel composition than by the themes chosen (seasons, nymphs, goddesses) or by the execution ; law relief figures, elongated canon, dancing moves.
Only the central motif between the drawers of the belt brakes this logic of representation, a strong lion’s head in high relief. Located in the center of the cabinet’s facade it emphasized the modillion’s volume place at the same height.
Mythological motifs also find their source in Fontainebleau’s production. Fantastic beasts, eagles about to fly off with their wings restrained by the rectangular frame.
The cabinet’s structure, its proportions, the design of the ornamental spaces match the models defined in Fontainebleau. The architectural composition is lightened up thanks to two important columns and to the ternary division of the decor. On the lower body the uprights are enriched with cartouche centered by sphinxes.
Enigma has a name, a shape and a face inherited from antic mythologies. From Egypt to Greece the sphinx symbolizes serenity, vigilance, intelligence and voluptuousness. Beast with a female head and a lion’s body the sphinx seduced the Fontainebleau Renaissance. Indeed these artists were not imitating nature but interpreting, building on abstract rules with the pursuit of ideal beauty guiding them.
The crouched creature with its elongated neck bent backwards in an elegant curve is depicted with a regular face and large breast, attributes of open feminity, mixing erotism and preciousness.
Its decor and its division of the ornamental space are characteristic of the Second French Renaissance.
The cabinet is topped with a broken triangular pediment. In the center two columns frame a highly carved coat of arms. Above an entablature carries a pediment with volutes.
The door-leaves bear goddesses, female figures, fantastic beasts inspired by antiquity with a hint of Italian art. Female figures stand elegantly amidst their dancing drapes in a way close to Fontainebleau mannerism. This type of allegorical depictions of seasons was particularly in vogue during the second half of the 16th century. The charm of these figures seduced the patrons.
Perfect testimony of the French art with its refined decor, the rigour of its proportions and the suppleness of its crowning this cabinet can be compared with cupboards ordered to furnish royal palaces and castles. A time during which the furnishing of Chambord, Saint-Germain or Fontainebleau castles kept the worshops very busy.
This cabinet was beautifully made in the Loire Valley during the second half of the 16th century.
The earliest record of the name DODIEU dates back to 1269. This year Thomas and Guillaume Dodieu sign the Truce between the Chapter of Lyon and the citizens.
All along the line, this family keeps a certain political and religous importance with the elections of many bishops and governors.
To draw a link between our cabinet and a member of the Dodieu’s family we have to reach the year 1524 and the 8th degree.
Claude Dodieu, was lord of Rivas and second son to Jacques Dodieu, the king’s secretary. Councilor of the court in 1524 he was promoted master of requests in 1529. Claude Dodieu was also sent as ambassador in Rome and followed emperor Charles V in Austria, in Spain, in Africa, in Naples and in Rome.
Claude Dodieu’s political status allowed him to attend the consecration of the queen Catherine de’ Medici at the Basilique Saint Dénis in 1549. He stays in Paris and have a seat to the 1557 State Assemblies.
The following year Claude Dodieu died in Paris and was buried in the 4e arrondissement, inside the church of the Pères Célestin nowadays destroyed. It was the second most important royal necropolis -after Saint Dénis- where many princes had been buried attesting the prominence of Claude Dodieu.
Claude Dodieu may have been the patron of our cabinet.
Literature : Claude Le Laboureur, Les Mazures de l'abbaye royale de l'Isle-Barbe lez Lyon..., J. Couterot, Paris, 1681 nationale de France,
Catalogue : http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb30782698x
Provenance : Bibliothèque nationale de France
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