The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand

Set of four armchairs «Retour d’Egypte» stamped ROOS

Friday 30 June 2017, by Barbara Cogollos

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A decorative style inspired by classical antiquity grows in France around 1750 thanks to the discoveries of the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The style called «Return from Egypt» («Retour d’Egypte») continues this trend for ancients civilizations after Napoleon’s military campaign. The publication in 1802 of the Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt and the Description of Egypt, by the french writer Vivant-Denon, gave architects, ornemanists and cabinet-makers an inexhaustible source of inspiration for their creations. This trend goes on until the 1820s and is easily recognizable thanks to some elements, such as sphinxes, palmettes, saber legs, ...

The maker of these four armchairs is the cabinetmaker CHARLES ROOS DI HOUTGARD (? -1837), whose stamp is on the front cross-member, under the chassis of each armchair. CHARLES ROOS is a former student of the famous French cabinetmaker Georges Jacob and has a workshop at 8 via Condotti in Rome in the early nineteenth century. He works for the most prestigious sponsors of his time. During the time he worked for Napoleon, Roos made majestic mahogany doors decorated with gilt bronze cornices for the Quirinal Palace in 1812. After the fall of the emperor, he delivered to Pope Gregory XVI a coffered ceiling for the Lateran palace. CHARLES ROOS innovates by introducing in Rome the use of exotic woods in marquetry as well as a technique to polish furniture without using wax. These two techniques permit him to obtain a silver medal of second class in the contest organized in 1810 in honor of Napoleon. On this occasion he exhibits a desk, an Etruscan pedestal and a traveling case.
Apart from these luxurious commissions, he also contributes to charitable works at the apostolic hospice of Saint Michel where he trains young people in cabinetmaking. He died in Rome in 1837.

Among the cabinetmakers who spread the «Return from Egypt» style, we can mention the famous Jacob family who delivered many pieces of furniture for the imperial residences. Between 1796 and 1797, the Jacob workshop produced an important salon furniture for the private mansion of Josephine and Napoleon, located in rue de la Victoire in Paris. Two of the chairs were awarded €21,000 on June 14, 2017 during the auction sale of COLLIN DU BOCAGE. The model is quite comparable to the ones we propose.
Another similar model was created by the Jacob Frères workshop for Madame Recamier’s chamber in 1799, which is now preserved in the Louvre Museum. There are also the sphinxes decorating the armrests, the rolling backrest and the saber legs.

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