Exceptional chest of drawers, library desk, called "scriban" with curved front in yellow Saint-Martin wood from Guyana.
In the 18th century, this piece of furniture is rather called a "bureau-cabinet", it is the combination of two or even three pieces of furniture in one, as we can see here, as well as for some Bordeaux furniture: "a chest of drawers, almost always in tomb, for the lower part; a sloping secretary above, the interior step organized in the manner of a cabinet, concave recessed drawers framing a door in tabernacle; finally the whole supports possibly a cupboard, in the most complete case." M.F. Lacoue-Labarthe - Bordeaux furniture, port furniture.
Contrary to the cabaret table, the fashion for scriban chests of drawers was not born from the Parisian influence but rather from the relations that these ports had with the Northern countries. Indeed, its origin is to be seen in the Dutch cabinet or "schrifcabinet" whose lower body is strongly curved. This piece of furniture, both functional and with a strong spirit of representation, reflects the splendor of 18th century merchant societies. In Nantes as in Bordeaux, even more than the chest of drawers, the scriban is the emblematic piece of furniture of the wealthy shipowner or the rich merchant.
Yellow Saint-Martin wood, also known as Angelim Rosa, is an exotic orange-yellow wood of the Fabaceae family, of which there are three varieties (red: the most common on harbor furniture, yellow: extremely rare, and white, which is rarely used in cabinet making). It is native to the West Indies and more precisely to the Caribbean (while the wood used for furniture in Atlantic ports comes from Guyana where, in addition to this wood, gaiac, bagasse, balata, wacapou and green ebony are mainly exploited).
It is a wood as hard as decorative (which differs from amaranth and mahogany by its branched aspect known as "partridge wing") that is sometimes encountered, although quite rarely (and it is also very rarely identified), on port furniture since the 17th century. It is also listed in the Malfoy's list of exotic woods.
As far as we are concerned, we have never found it on a piece of furniture from Nantes, except in its red variety (even if it was only once, and on the most exceptional chest of drawers from Nantes that we bought in the past, which leads us to think that it was indeed considered as early as the 18th century as a very precious wood). It seems that Landerneau was to some extent a specialty in the use of red Saint-Martin since it is found (occasionally) on fine quality Mazarine chests of drawers from this city.
See the Landerneau chest of drawers in red Saint-Martin that we will present soon or in documentation of a chest of drawers from Landerneau: http://antiquites-gledel-philippe.chez-alice.fr/T-Commode-de-Landerneau-en-acajou-massif.html
The bookcase part opens with two leaves and a curved false frame following the curve of the cornice. These panels are made of one large plank of an exceptional yellow Saint-Martin, whose rare figurative aspect can be admired (this is really a very particular example whose figures have been highlighted by a flow on back). The wood sections used are thick and we will specify here the weight of the left leaf to get an idea: 14.8 kg. Four original oak shelves, placed on racks, decorate its interior while the back, entirely panelled, is in oak and walnut. We note the presence of a single lock entrance (which corresponds well to a city convention / see our sideboard by Pierre Hache), a Nantes model of flame type, four quality larder plugs, a beautiful lock with cut-out fasteners, two bolts, one of which is spring-loaded and operated by a cord. Because of its weight and size, the bookcase is fixed to the desk by two pegs at the front and two tenons pegged in mortises of the tray, so no risk of tilting when opening the doors whose weight we mentioned.
The bookcase opens with two curved leaves and a false frame that follow the curve of the cornice. These panels are made of a single wide plank of exceptional yellow Saint-Martin, whose rare figured appearance can be admired (this is a very special example whose figures have been highlighted by the use of backsplashes). The wood sections used are thick and we will specify here the weight of the left leaf to get an idea: 14.8 kg. Four original oak shelves, placed on racks, decorate its interior while the back, entirely panelled, is in oak and walnut. We note the presence of a single lock entrance (which corresponds well to a city convention / see our sideboard by Pierre Hache), a Nantes model of flame type, four quality larder plugs, a beautiful lock with cut-out fasteners, two bolts, one of which is spring-loaded and operated by a cord. Because of its weight and size, the bookcase is fixed to the desk by two pegs at the front and two tenons pegged in mortises of the tray, so no risk of tilting when opening the doors whose weight we mentioned.
The desk part opens with a hinged flap and support pulls revealing ten stepped drawers, six of which are curved and fitted with charming rosette knobs and four smaller ones with flat edges cut out in cyma, all framing a tabernacle door, itself flanked by two secret drawers (for these, our carpenter worked for more than an hour to open them). Just behind the door, a bronze rod with a leaf-shaped thumbturn blocks access to a central secret trapdoor whose cellar contains two mechanisms that block the opening of two other side cellars. Thus the desk has a total of 16 pulls and we can count up to 23 on the whole piece of furniture (pulls included). Finally, let's note that the whole desk part is entirely made of mahogany from Santo Domingo, including the drawer fronts which are made of a superb speckled mahogany while the door is made of a no less superb chenille mahogany.
The chest of drawers, curved in plan, opens with three drawers with oak inlays on three rows and we notice that the upper drawer is of a lower height. The drawers are decorated with Louis XV style locks in the spirit of those of the flap and the door-tabernacle and falling handles with rosettes called in Nantes where they are frequently found "à la marguerite". There is a low crosspiece with a nervous curving, bordered by a molding decorated with volutes also typical of Nantes furniture. Finally, the feet decorated with graceful volutes called "snail" (at the back as well as at the front) are still in the pure tradition of quality Nantes furniture.
Let's add to complete this description, six beautiful original iron locks and 5 keys to operate them all.
A piece of furniture of excellence and great luxury, with slender proportions, made of a wood of exceptional quality perfectly enhanced by the cabinetmaker, and finally in an absolutely remarkable state of original conservation sublimated by a filled-wax of a very beautiful finish.
Work from Nantes in the 18th century.
65 000 €