Surfacing on the market: Armchair fit for a queen

Christie’s, London, Taste of the Royal Court: Important French Furniture and Works of Art from a Private Collection, 9 July


This armchair is the only known survivor of a suite of eight that once decorated Marie Antoinette’s music room, the Belvedere, in the English-style garden of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. The giltwood fauteuil en bergère (1780-81), which has an estimate of £300,000 to £500,000, was the work of many hands. The French court’s furniture designer, Jacques Gondoin, produced several drafts on paper that were then translated into a scale model in wax. Approved by the queen after more than four months of refinements, the commission was sent to the Foliot family of royal chair-makers. The exquisitely carved result, featuring foliate arms and spirally fluted legs, was upholstered in painted silk (a design since recreated using floral embroidery). Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was the most expensive suite of seat furniture ever made for the queen, costing 20,000 livres. The set sold as a single lot in the Revolutionary sales of 1793 for a mere 2,530 livres. 


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