24 March 2015

Tuesday is drawing day - at the Wallace Collection

Amid the gilt of the furniture and the dark colours of so many of the paintings, the light and freshness of these two caught my eye -
but I wanted to tackle something a bit "different". French furniture isn't really an interest of mine - though after you've spent a chunk of time paying attention to something, it gets more interesting!

The marquetry on a Louis XVI secretaire caught my eye- 
as did those lovely leaves... The eye-slits on the helmet of the "helmeted cuirass" on the left were the deciding factor - I'd start with those.

It was interesting to see the details in the goldwork (gilt bronze) - the veins on the leaves, the ornamentation of dangling fringes, the arrows in the quiver, the groups of berries - and with the reflections off the gold itself, and the darker areas of wear, it was quite hard to figure out what was happening where, tonally ... but it certainly made you look!

And then I got to that lion - who is rather 3D, and at rather an angle, something I didn't pick up on at first -
At that point I was totally frustrated and rubbed him out. And had another go, not much more successfully (scroll down and you'll see) ... something to revisit after a bit more drawing practice?
Some of the marquetry made it into the background of my drawing, and very exquisite it all is. The gilt motif is outlined in a dark wood - which has the finest outline, less than a millimetre, too small to draw! - in a light wood. Amazing. The label reads: "Oak, veneered with panels of pictorial marquetry in holly, box, stained sycamore, pear wood, walnut, sycamore, tulipwood, gilt bronze, Carrara marble, box, amaranth and satiné". 24 details can be seen in the Images section here.

What I also enjoyed was the signature of the furniture maker - Foulet.  The maker is Pierre-Antoine Foulet (or Foullet). The Metropolitan Museum of Art has another piece by Foulet, and so does the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (here); in fact there are quite a lot of chests of drawers by Foulet scattered round the collections, including this one and that one...

And finally what I'm looking for - some biographical info on Foullet, in addition to "master 1765" or "d.1775", which refers to his father, Antoine; also, the patterns on the secretaire are based on those in a book that was published in 1776-7, hence its attribution to c.1777. Pierre-Antoine's dates, says the catalogue of the Robert Lehman collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are 1746-1809; he's an ebenist, and in the late 1760s worked in collaboration with Leonard Boudin, who made the body of the furniture and gave it to Foulet to apply the marquetry. 

In 2014 the Wallace Collection exhibited the Foulet secretaire alongside a 19th-century reproduction - "The initial impression that one piece is a literal copy of the other is soon dispelled: the marquetry, despite degradations on the magnificent and aristocratic Foullet example, is far less detailed and beautifully executed on the nineteenth-century version.  The construction of the drawer linings is not the same, nor the construction of the backboards, nor the use and type of screws, and so on." This video compares the two superb pieces of furniture.

A detail of Foulet's marquetry -
Our finished drawings -
Sue drew an enormous ceremonial sword - too long to fit on the page, so she did it in halves; aren't those gilded spheres glorious? It's an elaborate version of this -

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