Lot Essay This spectacular armoire is a rare example of early French ébénisterie incorporating Chinese lacquer on a large scale. It has the particularly unusual feature of being signed twice by the maker Louis Guignard, once in red chalk, and once through an incised inscription, and dated 1723, before the guild system imposed a strict system of stamps on cabinet-makers.
Although Louis Guignard appears to be unrecorded, it is likely that he was related to Nicolas and Pierre Guignard, who are both recorded early in the 18th Century as marchands-merciers with access to the lacquer wares of the Compagnie des Indes (see T. Wolvesperges, Le Meuble Français en Laque au XVIIIe Siècle, Paris, 1999, p. 410).
The exotic wares of the East, particularly the wondrous materials lacquer and porcelain, had long exercised a fascination on the West. In the mid-17th Century, Athanase Kirchere described how 'la beauté de l'intérieur ... semble surpasser de beaucoup la somptuosité des Européens à raison de ce beau vernis dont tous leurs meubles sont peints & embellis, & que nous estimons si fort en Europe' (see Wolvesperges op. cit, p. 13).
Although it is likely that Louis Guignard acquired the lacquer panels for this armoire, which were probably cut from a screen, from a marchand-mercier in Paris, it is interesting to note that in 1721 and 1722 large sales of lacquer wares were conducted by the Compagnie des Indes in Nantes, following the arrival of their ships there, laden with Eastern wares (see Wolvesperges, op. cit., pp. 136-7). The marchand-mercier Julliot was a significant buyer at these sales.
Wolvesperges also illustrates a panel of Chinese lacquer from Canton, with designs of foliage and birds within scrolling borders similar to those on the main doors of this armoire, citing it as typical of the type of lacquer imported from China early in the 18th century (op. cit., p. 45).