Fairs | May 2024 | Alex Johnson

17th Century Royal Commode Designed Like a Book at Firsts London

Thomas Heneage Art Books/Firsts London

The royal commode

Among the highlights at this year's Firsts London running May 16 -19 is a commode with decorative bookbinding made for the French Grand Daupin in the late 17th century.

Falling into the category of blooks (objects that look like books), it is described by Thomas Heneage Art Books who are bringing it to the book fair as "a French Royal metamorphic bookbinding" made for The Grand Dauphin son and heir of  Louis XIV, The Sun King. The binding is in full red morocco gilt with the coat of arms of the  Dauphin on the front and back boards. The title panel is inscribed "HISTOIRE NATUREL DES PAYS BAS" or "Natural history of the nether regions"...

The binding transforms into what the antiquarian book dealer politely calls a 'siège percée' with a red morocco covered seat and was built around 1685- 1695. Judging by the height and size of the construction (13 inches tall by 11 inches wide), it's likely that it was for children.

"The Grand Dauphin’s three sons, Louis born 1682, Philippe born 1683 and Charles born 1685 would have outgrown the seat well before 1700," says Thomas Heneage, "which suggests a date of manufacture in the 1680s. This presumably was for the use of Louis, the ‘Petit Dauphin’, who was also entitled to use the Dauplin's arms whereas his brothers were not. The ébéniste [cabinet maker] François Painsun who flourished in the last quarter of the XVII century is the most probable maker."