Antique Henri II Style French Oak Bibliothèque circa 1880
A handsome antique French Henri II style oak bibliotheque bookcase display cabinet circa 1880. Please take a moment to examine the lavish carving seen across the facade and sides of this bookcase and enlarge the photographs to see the details in closeup. The motifs used to embellish this cabinet refer back to those developed during the reign of Henri II who ruled France from 1547-1559. Many of these may also be seen on furniture created in Italy at the same time. First, notice the beautiful sense of balance and proportion visible across the front. The crown has a handsome frieze with a curved profile and a pattern of repetitive and symmetrical carving that extends along both sides. Dividing the area into equal sections are three fierce animal heads the outer two of which are holding circular rings in their mouth. This is a direct reference to beasts seen in classical antiquity and always signified royal power by association. Directly beneath each of these three heads and continuing down the front of the bibliotheque are three additional portrait busts of men atop pilasters that taper toward the base of each glazed cabinet door. Again this is a refernece to decoration from ancient Greece as each is a "herm" after the original depictions of the god Hermes. The head and torso are set upon a square tapered column and were originally used as boundary markers before their widespread adoption as decorative pieces. The decorative carving seen across the tapered shape is known as "guilloche" because of the overlapping disks. Both of the cabinet doors retain the original glass panels and open to allow access to two adjustable shelves. The carved detail on each of the doors is symmetrical in both pattern and placement and reinforces the overall sense of luxuriousness. The base of the cabinet repeats the curved profile of the crown and also extends along each side. The three animal heads also have brass rings within their jaws and flank a pair of drawers decorated with the same pattern of carving as seen in the crown above. Again beneath each of the three heads of the ferocious beasts are three herms that taper to the base where a large animal paw provides support. The two closed cabinet doors are covered with a wonderfully architectural presentation of carving. The square panels enclose a large raised floral medallion with four sections of moulding seen in both floors and ceilings in ancient buildings. Above each are arched fans with a grand scroll surrounded on the four outer edges with bands of stylized guilloche carving. Below the cabinet doors runs another frieze with a chain of ovals that extend around both sides. The moulding along the base has an attractive profile that cascades forward with the three sections under the herms pushing forward to provide a sense of movement. This style was particularly popular at the close of the nineteenth century where its allusion to the powerful royals of the past was understood by educated owners who had studied art and architecture as well as history. Originally this bibliotheeque was finished with a dark stain to the wood as was all furniture. Now the finish has been removed and the cabinet has a brightness and fresh quality so desirable in todays interiors. The contrast between the carved decoration and the pale finish enables a tremendously intriguing appearance to the entire piece while it remains its useful attributes of both display and storage.
53.00" w x 19.50" d x 97.00" h
134.62cm w x 49.53cm d x 246.38cm h