The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand

Paul SORMANI (1817-1877)

Friday 18 December 2015, by Barbara Cogollos

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

Preferred materials and techniques: marquetry and veneer fruitwood.

Styles : LOUIS XV and Louis XVI

Specialities : necessary, fantasy furniture, liqueur cellar, writting boxes and précious objects (burners, sinks, ashtrays... )

End of the production in1934, at the death of his son.

At the Universal Exhibition of 1867 you could hear of his work: "Every production reveals quality of execution of the highest order"

The context

Eclecticism demonstrated by the second empire makes all its richness and specificity.

The major styles of the eighteenth give cause to sometimes very brilliant interpretations by cabinetmakers that work in the respect of tradition.

At the fall of the Second Empire, creations become more sumptuous, so we gladly copy the royal furniture.

The success of the cabinetmaker and sculptor Paul Sormani is quite exemplary in this second half of the nineteenth century and reflects the excellence and diversity of a work that rivals the fine furniture of the old regime.


Born in the kingdom of Lombardyat Venice in 1817, this renowned cabinetmaker is recognized expert in fruitwood marquetry.

He opened his first shop at the age of 30 years at number 7 of the cemetery St Nicolas in Paris in 1847 where he specialized in making necessaries and little fantasy furniture. He moved in 1854 rue du Temple, take an extension and began making Louis XV-style furniture and Louis XVI.

In 1867, the company moved rue Charlot where it becomes very important. Paul Sormani produces very high quality reproductions of some pieces of furniture in the National Guard.

His style is very appreciated by the Parisian bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century.

He is also cabinetmaker for the court and the Empress Eugenie will command him furniture to decorate his palace.


Universal Expositions of 1855 and 1857 revealed profound changes in the society of the Second Empire, because industrial growth has promoted the expansion of furniture in series . The marquetry is in danger of sinking into uniformity: it almost makes the chain of furniture sets. The traditional woodworking is therefore facing the decline of values by mobilizing and providing a furniture inspired impeccable quality of traditional and classic craftsmanship. Among its supporters include Paul Sormani whose care taken in his work is a priority of any time. His participation in various exhibitions allow it to impose in the place, showing his inventiveness and his expertise.

He participated in the 1849 exhibition, in the Universal Exhibitions of 1855 and 1867 and one in London in 1862. He will be respectively decorated of a medal of first class and a bronze medal.

His production

Note that the work is branded differently according to places of production.

So one will find furniture branded "St Nicolas Cemetery" that one will date from 1847 to 1854.

Productions covering the stamp "rue du Temple" therefore will date from 1854 to 1867.

Finally, there are the works produced in the workshop of the rue Charlot, which will date between 1867 and 1877.

After his death, his widow and his son signed "Sormani Widow Paul and Son" and stamped productions are produced from 1878.

Note when 1914, his son associates with Thiebaut Brothers, they create a shop at 134 bld Haussmann.

It is in the manufacture of small fantasy furniture that his qualities are expressed in the most obvious way. Fashionable lightweight furniture is still very present in this period, it is for a customer nostalgic of graceful works of the eighteenth century.

Paul Sormani excelled in the production of tables called tissues tables that fold out to release a game space; their ornamentation of carved and gilt bronzes emphasize elegant and classic lines inspired by the Louis XV style.

The patterns are varied: ribbons, garlands of flowers, loves friezes, musicians and water leaves.

He also produces successful small light tables.

Furniture between two period, are distinguished by their rounded amounts, their arched feet and marble tops in breach of Aleppo.

Medals are uncommon at the time, he produces for a client whose most valuable collectors are made of burr veneer.

The buffets are often of Louis XVI style mahogany.

Libraries are generally Louis XV style, they are based on spinning tops and feet often have screened doors.

Cabinets are very precious, red laquered wood and gold Chinese decorations.

Cabinets are gladly inspired by the Renaissance. Usually made of rosewood molded with their red marble and bronze effigies of fauns’ heads, masks ...

If bronzes that adorn the furniture show impeccable quality of carving, furniture items are representative of its know -how: sinkins, perfume ball ...

Sormani is not only a copy of royal furniture, he also executes cared furniture but less prestigious invoice for the petty bourgeoisie: table, office lady, dresser in half moon ...

He draws on the Riesner cabinetmakers, Pug, or A. C Boulle and uses of rosewood, violet, tulip ...

Paul Sormani, Adjudication

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Miroir de coiffeuse SORMANI
prix d’adjudication : 6500 euros
Vente aux enchères du Lundi 8 décembre 2008 PARIS
« Souvenirs de Mme Lanvin et de sa fille, la Comtesse Jean de Polignac »
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Table à jeux de forme rectangulaire, SORMANI
Prix d’adjudication : 1700 euros
Vente aux enchères du Dimanche 24 juillet 2011 à Fontainebleau
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Commode de style Louis XV SORMANI
Prix d’adjudication : 1,6 millions de dollars
Vente aux enchères de Dallas, Texas le 23/02/2012
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Petite table de salon SORMANI
Prix d’adjudication : 3500 euros
Vente aux enchères du Vendredi 8 avril 2011, Beaussant-Lefèvre – Paris
  • Table de style Louis XV estampillée P. SORMANI PARIS

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