French Empire Mahogany Secretary Desk by Jean-Joseph Chapuis c. 1805
EXCEPTIONAL EMPIRE CYLINDRICAL SECRETARY DESK
Stamped twice “Chapuis” for ebenisté Jean-Joseph Chapuis (French/Belgian, 1765-1864)
Item # 510ZNP31S
Of superb quality in every regard, this most magnificent cylindrical secretairé is a work of art that commands the attention of whatever room it becomes a part of. Crafted by the Parisian workshop of Jean-Joseph Chapuis, the work is stamped above both of the lower masks “CHAPUIS”. An important ebenisté, Jean-Joseph Chapuis was a Belgian master craftsman at Rue de Borgval in Paris, France starting in 1798.
The present example is crafted in the Egyptian taste, probably c. 1805-15; the upper section is flanked on either side by ebonized male masks while the lower section features equally fine castings of a classical Egyptian female, all four resting over tapering columns, both lower columns terminating in ebonized cast bronze feet of carefully chiseled detail. The selections of mahogany employed on each surface are above reproach, the matched crotch-mahogany flaming through each of the drawers in an upward plume. The color retention is exceptional, the deep ruby of the vibrant veneers visually magnetic. Most attractive original brass edging emphasizes the rectangularity of the desk, each glass door finished in tubing that matches the waist of the case.
Each drawer retains original cast and gilded bronze lion mask pulls with original locks and untouched structure, the secondary woods being golden oak with finely hand cut dovetail pins at the front and rear corners and the bottom board set in grooves on either side. The cylinder top easily rotates to reveal the desk area, the tooled leather writing surface pulling out to provide a fuller more practical depth. A series of small drawers organize the interior and upon removing each of the upper drawers reveals hidden storage; the left and center drawer host a trio of small drawers tucked into the right, the far right drawer removed to reveal a sunk well beneath the drawer.
The back of the case in both the upper and lower show a highly organized mind, an approach to woodwork that allows for shifting and shrinking of members without compromising the strength of the case; the result is the simply outstanding condition of this fine piece after over two hundred years of service. Pinned tenon-mortise construction coupled with open dovetailing of the joints locks the entire case together with permanency.
A serious work, this is a most impressive strike point that truly roots a room in the first quarter of the 19th Century. For the collector that demands the best of connoisseurship in furnishings and decorations, this is a most fine investment grade acquisition that will certainly be cherished for a lifetime.
Measurements: 25 1/2” D x 51 3/8” W x 82 5/8” H, 29 3/16” H to writing surface; writing surface 45 1/2” W x 18 7/8” D
Veneers w/ cracking from shrinkage; minor blemishes to surfaces, including veneer chipping, loss around some drawers and drawer blades, light wear to feet and corners, etc. as expected. Early worn leather w/ cracking & stains. Frame around the leather w/ old shrink cracks. Old inactive pest damage. Shelving system a later addition. Glass replaced. Some crest molding with patching. Losses to molding beneath the left lower mask.