If you think you've seen this piece before, that's not surprising: it was in the sale of the famous Paul-Louis Weiller collection.
Commode with veneering in rosewood, kingwood, ebony and Karelian birch with silver fillets, inlaid with quatre-foils in ivory latticework, repoussé, cast chased silver, top inlaid with a medallion with the ornate monogram of Catherine II of Russia and at the corners of the reserves with the Siberian arms, Russian craftsmanship from c. 1762-1765, 77 x 103 x 54 cm (30.3 x 40.5 x 21.3 in).
Nicknamed "Paul-Louis XIV" by Greta Garbo, Paul-Louis Weiller, who died at 100 years old in 1993, was a pioneer in aviation, a hero of the Great War, a well-informed bibliophile, and a lover of antique art with the means to match his ambitions and fancies. "To be surrounded by everything that consoles, without restriction" was the credo of the man who unhesitatingly invested part of his huge fortune in renovating the Palace of Versailles. In his Hotel des Ambassadeurs in the Marais district of Paris, he entertained Richard Nixon, Britain's Prince Charles, Sophia Loren and Maurice Béjart. The sale of part of his collections at the Hôtel Drouot from April 5 to 8, 2011 (Gros & Delettrez) caused a sensation when it garnered €23,773,469 and five bids of over a million.
Despite its rich marquetry of precious woods, ivory and metal, its chased bronzes and its originality and impressive provenance, this chest of drawers found no takers at the time. It had belonged to Catherine II and then Princess Aurora Pavlovna Demidoff (1873-1904) before being sold (Sotheby's, April 21 to 24, 1969) with the contents of the Demidoff villa in Pratolino, near Florence. In 1973, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia (1893-1976), Princess Demidoff's son and heir, sold it to Commandant Weiller. Although Russian furniture sometimes turns up in the French market, mainly by David Roentgen (who supplied the courts of Frederick William II of Prussia and the Tsarina), and generally from after 1770, Russian Louis XV-style pieces are extremely rare. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has a similar chest of drawers with identical marquetry, featuring the monogram of Catherine II and the Siberian coat of arms, but with gilt metal legs and swags decorated with branches, not coats of arms. This version is sure to stir up a fine battle between international bidders.