A spectacular 19th century cabinet-secrétaire

Wednesday, June 1st 2022

by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen

A spectacular 19th century ebony wood veneer by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen
A spectacular 19th century ebony wood veneer by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen
A spectacular 19th century ebony wood veneer by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen
A spectacular 19th century ebony wood veneer by Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen
A spectacular 19th century ebony wood veneer, Japanese lacquer cabinet-secrétaire attributed to Charles-Guillaume Winckelsen (Düsseldorf, 1812-1871, Paris), with gilded bronze ornamentations attributed to Joseph Nicolas Langlois.

Height 57.09" Width 48.03" Depth 17.71".

- Maison J. Galtier, "À l'étoile du Nord", invoice attached: "1 Bahut laque de Chine et bronzes dorés-7 500", Paris, september, 17, 1919,
- Mory collection, boulevard Henri IV, Paris,
- by family descent, Achicourt, Pas de Calais.

Winckelsen, the successor to Weisweiller and his Japanese lacquerware

"The furniture crafted by this brilliant cabinetmaker, quite scarcely found, consistently follows the highest standards of Parisian cabinetmaker craftsmanship and his bronzes are among the finest ever produced in Paris in the 19th century." This is how Christopher Payne introduces the chapter he devoted to Charles Guillaume Winckelsen in his book "Paris, la quintessence du meuble au XIXe siècle" (Monelle Hayot Editions, Saint Rémy en l'Eau, 2018, pp. 549-554).

Winckelsen was a cabinetmaker of German origin who settled in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century, first on Rue du Val Sainte Catherine, then on Rue Saint-Louis and finally at 49, rue de Turenne. The sides of the drawers of this piece of furniture are held by "exquisite" dovetails whose unusual fastening technique could almost be considered as Winckelsen’s signature (Paynes, 2018, p. 549). In 1865, he exhibited a large cabinet on loan from the Mobilier de la Couronne at the Paris Retrospective Museum, and again in 1867, at the Exposition Universelle. He counted among his customers some of the richest and most illustrious families of France, such as the Radziwills, Béhagues, Lafittes or the Marquis of Lillers.

Along with Bellangé, he is one of the few Parisian cabinetmakers who mastered the use of precious Japanese lacquers. As Adam Weisweiller (1746-1820) before him, who made a secretary for the King's cabinet in Versailles - delivered in 1784 - and a chest of drawers with lacquer panels dating back to 1640 he made for Charles V at the Spanish court, Winckelsen had access to some of the most gorgeous lacquers that had arrived in France since the reign of Louis XIV. He used them in the same elegant and spectacular manner as his illustrious compatriot and predecessor at the French Court. His columns in the round, the lattice work on his spacers and his bronze friezes are an obvious homage to the most beautiful furniture of the reign of the Sun King. Winckelsen was also granted permission to make copies of royal furniture, such as a pair of Trianon chest of drawers made by Boulle for Louis XIV’s bedroom in château de Versailles.

Winckelsen, the predecessor of Dasson and his skillful bronzes

Winckelsen’s favorite bronze-caster, Joseph Nicolas Langlois, was part of a family of Parisian chiselers: his father, who died in 1826, and his son born in 1841 were also chiselers. Together, they perfected the art of copying and revisiting the most beautiful Louis XVI period furniture. Langlois seems to have specialized in replicating his colleagues’ most beautiful bronzes, as shown by an 1844 complaint filed against him by Soyer for having overmolded door handles. In 1823, Soyer had published an essay on “The hardship of bronze casting”.

Upon Winckelsen’s death, one of his cabinetmaker collaborators who was appointed liquidator of the estate sold the entire workshop to Henri Dasson for a very small price. His eleven workbenches, his bronze master models and other execution plans definitely launched the career of his successor, who signed a great number of pieces of furniture that were in reality appropriations of Winckelsen’s work. This secretary, which can undoubtedly be attributed to the latter’s work, draws inspiration from the lacquerware of Imperial Japan’s early Edo period and is styled in the same way as the royal furniture of France’s Ancien Régime, brilliantly embodying the quintessence of Parisian furniture in the 19th century.
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