18th Century French Cabinet Makers and Their Signatures
Considering that the period of the French Regency period is very limited, it is about 1700 to 1730, just a short period of 30 years. Therefore, those furniture that can be meticulously preserved and passed down from generation to generation after years of vicissitudes are particularly precious.
The reason is still to trace back to the people's extremely stringent attitude towards furniture and excellence. For example, when resources were alowed, seats are usually equipped with two styles, one for winter and the other for summer. At the same time, various variants of the same type of furniture have been continuously introduced to the market in order to increase sales. Women like to buy new clothes and keep changing their hairstyles, but also regard all kinds of furniture as temporary fashion items.
When this group of ladies has no social activities, they will go to furniture stores, just like people go to antique shops and galleries today, to see what is new, or to capture the latest works of popular masters at that time. As a result, the high-quality furniture market was stimulated by continued market demand, and the 18th century proved to be one of the most prosperous periods in the history of furniture manufacturers.
Therefore, we must consider the customs and habits of these furniture manufacturing companies. In France at the time, each branch of manufacturing and business activities was monopolized by a certain number of privileged experts, their work was recognized by the royal family, and the same person could not belong to two different companies; everyone must be thoughtful and meticulous To concentrate on your work. All artisans must first obtain the qualification of their furniture or master to open a workshop. This is a necessary commercial license to enable people to recognize their skills in manufacturing furniture. Sometimes, the king may directly upgrade some craftsmen to furniture manufacturers. Otherwise, he must be an apprentice under a master for many years, and then show the work to a dedicated group. These people in the group will determine his artistic maturity and his rights after joining the company and whether he can leave money on his work.
A new master craftsman can impart his craft to one of his employees, and the children and grandchildren of the craftsman can also inherit his business, and there is no limit to the number of children and grandchildren he inherits. At the same time, the right of inheritance can also be extended to his widow. So this is why the widows of many craftsmen at that time later married with employees.
In order to prevent fraud and limit competition, the company where the craftsman works creates a symbol in the form of three letters, such as the combination of the letters JME (jure maitre ebeniste, meaning "sworn senior craftsman"), and the craftsmen must be on top of their work stamp. All the furniture that needs to be stamped must be marked first in a special place, and a small amount of tax will be levied on the process. Because of the existence of taxes, in order to pay less taxes, most furniture is not marked, nor is there a craftsman's mark.
This explains why stamps are not found on furniture from all periods, especially furniture from the Regency period. Usually, we can find the stamped Regency furniture with lower prices in the hands of antique dealers, and the price is much lower than those of other furniture without stamps.
Regarding the seal, I must emphasize that whether it is a fauteuil or a commode, their value has nothing to do with the seal. In fact, when antique dealers examine a piece of work, they mainly focus on three very important factors: 1. period 2. condition 3. quality. The stamp is at most only the fourth factor, it only has relative value.
At the same time, I have to say that some famous craftsmen do not like to stamp their furniture. Like Charles Boulle and Charles Cressent, they rarely sign because their style is so unique that they can recognize their work without stamping or signing at all. Sometimes, due to the needs of foreign customers, they will stamp and sign the furniture. This also makes it easy for those foreign customers to show their furniture they bought in Paris after returning to their home country.
Finally, in some rare cases, a piece of furniture will carry the styles of two main craftsmen. The profile of the first craftsman usually indicates that he is responsible for making the frame. The second one means that he decorated it with veneer. These rare artistic marriages do not produce many masterpieces, in this case, the craftsman's knowledge only reflects the value given by time and history.
In addition, the furniture market is also supplied by another group of workers known as "crown workers". They mainly work for the courts, so they have the privilege to sell their products without having to stamp. In addition, the shelters provided by churches and universities have made them asylum seekers for many craftsmen, especially foreigners, who have introduced quality furniture to the market at a more competitive price than furniture manufacturers.
These factors mean that, regardless of the quality or rarity of the furniture, usually only some of the furniture are stamped. This tends to reduce the value of furniture seal itself. On the other hand, contrary to the above situation, sometimes the seal of furniture will also play a very important role in the evaluation of a work. For example, if a piece of furniture appeared in the 18th century famous artisans, such as Cressent, Boulle, Heurtaut, Jacob, Riesener, Roentgen, Weisweiler, Tilliard’s signature and the acronym BVRB means Bernard de Van Risen Burgh, Apart from the aesthetic effect of the work itself and its distinctive quality, its valuation will be greatly improved.
In addition, we should also mention those furniture with the famous winery logo. This means that some craftsmen have specially made furniture for these wineries for interior decoration. Usually, the family record shows the name of the supplier.