Jean-François Leleu, maître in 1764.
This elegant bureau plat, with its subtle chevron parquetry inlay to the drawers and sides and the trompe l’oeil fluting to the legs, is related to a number of similar pieces by or attributed to Leleu. Both of these types of parquetry decoration appear on a bureau plat sold Christie’s, London, 4 July 2017, lot 11, while the chevron pattern on a grand scale is seen on a pair of encoignures sold Sotheby’s, New York, 21 May 2004, lot 116. Leleu used the imitation fluting on a cylinder desk from the Wildenstein Collection, sold Christie’s, London, 14-15 December 2005, lot 307, and on a bureau sold Christie’s, London, 13 June 2002, lot 250. Although the acanthus-cast square ormolu mounts are common on furniture produced during the Louis XVI period, we can find a number of works by Leleu whose mounts are almost identical to those found on the present lot, including a commode sold Sotheby’s, Paris, 31 March 2017, lot 95, on a bureau plat sold Christie’s, New York, 24 October 2012, lot 121, and the abovementioned desk sold Christie’s, London, 13 June 2002, lot 250.
Jean-François Leleu was one of the favored assistants in the workshop of the great ébéniste Jean-François Oeben (1721-1763). After the early death of his master, he hoped to be entrusted with the running of the workshop, but was superseded by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806), another of Oeben's assistants. Riesener married Oeben's widow and went on to become the court ébéniste of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. Leleu left the workshop, became maître-ébéniste in 1764 and set up on his own. He attracted a grand and fastidious clientele, notably the Duc d'Uzés, Baron d'Ivry, and Ange-Laurent Lalive de Jully. By the early 1770s Leleu was known as the most important proponent of the avantgarde goût grec. Between 1772 and 1777 his most important patron was the prince de Condé, who commissioned a number of pieces from Leleu, including commodes for his daughter-in-law the duchesse de Bourbon, to furnish the Palais de Bourbon. Pieces from these and other important commissions are in the Wallace Collection, London, the Petit Trianon, and the Louvre.