The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand

Charles Guillaume DIEHL (1811-1885)

Friday 18 December 2015, by Barbara Cogollos

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]


The period furniture of Napoleon III style oscillates between heaviness and gracefulness, ostentatious wealth and banality, rare materials and mass production. It is a contrast of style while oppositions and diversity, as the period of his appearance.

After the 1848 revolution and the horrors made thereunder, France want to shine in all areas and tries to regain on furnishings, inventiveness and wealth that characterized it so much. The court sets the tone with the massive development of its palaces: the Tuileries, St Cloud, Compiegne, Fontainebleau and their luxurious receptions.

France is the banker of Europe and the development of industries to develop new social classes, one sees a small bourgeoisie who demand its share of luxury. Hence the rise of paper mache and less precious materials such as shell or blackened pear. We say that the style under Napoleon III is "a style made of all styles."


Born in Steinbach in Germany in 1811, married in France to Vavaseur Zoe Philip, Diehl settled in Paris in 1840 and will be naturalized French in 1872.

He began his career as a cabinetmaker at 170 rue Saint Martin. His shop is at number 16 of the rue Michel le Comte then finally at number 21 and 19 of the same street. His workshops are located at 39 rue St Sébastien and in 1870 they will count 600 employees.

Diehl is listed for the first time in the almanac of trade in 1850.

This cabinetmaker wins various awards, in 1855 he wins the bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition and again in 1867. In 1869 he wins the medal of honor at the exhibition of the Central Union, and in 1873 he wins the medal of progress in Vienna.

His production

Champion of antique styles brought back into fashion , Diehl adds to his exceptional know-how a science of the pushing decor and does not hesitate to use the most expensive elements of the epoch: rare woods, finely chiseled bronzes on tapestries of large factories. His work is representative of the significant role of sculpture in period furniture include crowd patterns carved in wood or modeled in bronze : lions claws, loves, water nymphs...

His historical research is pushed, it will prevent it from falling into the trap of pastiche style. Of his production is said that "his little boxes, game boxes and gloves represent an important industry at the head of which the house Diehl was placed."

In living rooms, he presents small furniture "rich and graceful" and other monumental in the style of Boulle.

The division of labor lost cabinetmakers all individual initiatives but remains some craftsmen who, lacking ensure full production of their furniture, are still very attentive to the production and rendering of these two, it is the case for Diehl .

The diversity of Napoleon III style causes distasteful work where imagination and inventiveness have stalled, but the cabinetmakers as Diehl stay away from clichés.

At the 1855 Universal Exhibition is said that his imagination allows him to "take his property wherever it is found, to the benefit of all acquired ideas, all known forms and group harmony."

We must also remember that his Diehl cabinetmaker leader Kowallewski, was the best cabinetmaker of that time.


We often associate the work of Diehl with that of Boulle as he is inspired by the work of his predecessor.

Diehl particularly fond of rosewood, thuya and burr wood veneer or solid.

Marquetry is less present than the bronze application, at least it is the subject of real care. We regularly find clear floral marquetry on dark furniture, romantic decorations particularly appreciated by the bourgeoisie of the time.

The art of bronze of great interest in the 19th century, Diehl furniture are mostly adorned but also likes porcelain plates, these are usually decorated with floral motifs.

The multiplicity of models of inspiration ends up forming his own style to the second empire that represent particularly Diehl, technical factors allow it to homogenize disparate styles.


Diehl furniture are often stamped but not often dated. We remarks that the stamped address is his shop and not his workshop.

Charles Guillaume Diehl in auctions

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Bonheur du jour en placage de loupe et citronnier
Vente aux enchères du Vendredi 24 octobre 2003 chez TAJAN
Adjudication à 3000 euros
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Petit meuble à hauteur d’appuis
Vente aux enchères du Dimanche 14 décembre 2008 chez Mercier et Cie
Estimé à 18 000 euros
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Secrétaire de pente de style Louis XV en placage de bois de rose
Vente aux enchères du Samedi 30 octobre 2010 chez ArtCurial de Deauville
Estimé à 3200 euros
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Guéridon violoné en placage de bois noirci et marqueterie "Boulle" sur fond d’écailles rouges
Vente aux enchères du Samedi 25 juin 2011 à Boulogne sur Mer
Estimé à 700 euros

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