Madame Récamier, star of the Empire auction, broke a world record and has returned to the Louvre.
Joseph Chinard (1756-1813), Le Silence, white marble, c. 1798, mahogany and gilded bronze sheath by Jacob Frères after Louis-Martin Berthault, h. 108.5 cm/42.72 in.
During the Consulate, all of Parisian high society flocked to the home of Juliette Récamier (1777-1849), which contained objects and furniture of the finest quality. It is easy to imagine this green, gilded, pineapple-topped wooden torchère lighting up lively, intelligent conversations with its nine branches. Based on a drawing by Charles Percier and his most talented student, architect Louis-Martin Berthault, it has joined the Louvre’s Decorative Arts Department, which already has Madame Récamier’s mahogany bed and two small night tables purchased by the friends of the museum in 1991. The museum preempted the torchère for €86,770. It did not bid on the bed proposed during the sale. Neither did anyone else, for it is not an original but a replica commissioned by the banker who bought the hôtel particulier on la rue du Mont-Blanc from a couple that had fallen on hard times.
The most anticipated piece was Lyon-based sculptor Joseph Chinard’s Silence, a marble copy of Barbarian Woman or Thusnelda, a statue at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which fetched €918,720 (see photo), a world record for the artist (source: Artnet). Chinard carved the work c. 1798, when Juliette was 21 and entering the full bloom of her beauty. The outstanding workmanship, with admirably chiseled folds of the back, make this an exemplary work of art. A Latin inscription on a mahogany base could be translated as "She protects dreams and love, the companions of sleep". Napoleon punished Madame Récamier’s political opposition to his regime by sending her into exile. Nevertheless, it was at her home that the Empire style was born, and nobody can take that away from her.