Carving attributed to Barthélemy Cabirol (1732–1786) and his workshop
ca. 1785, with later additions
Pine, painted and carved
Overall: 13 ft. 2 1/2 in. × 17 ft. 4 1/2 in. × 18 ft. 1 3/4 in. (402.6 × 529.6 × 553.1 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Herbert N. Straus, 1943
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 547
Bordeaux, an important seaport on the Garonne River in southwest France, experienced unprecedented economic and demographic growth during the second half of the eighteenth century. At that time the medieval city was beautified and modernized with new houses and streets. The British traveler Arthur Young (1741–1820) remarked on this in the late 1780s: “Much as I had read and heard of the commerce, wealth, and magnificence of this city, they greatly surpassed my expectations. . . The new houses that are building in all quarters of the town, mark, too clearly to be misunderstood,the prosperity of the place.”
The Museum’s delightful small and intimate room is believed to have come from the Hôtel de Saint-Marc on the cours d’Albret, one of the recently laid out avenues. This residence was built between 1782 and 1784 by an unknown architect for the king’s minister Joseph Dufour. It was named, however, after Jean-Paul-André des Rasins (also Razins), the marquis de Saint-Marc (1728–1818 ), who became its second owner in 1787, having purchased not only the building but also the mirrors, tapestries, and other interior decoration. Formerly an officer in the Régiment des Gardes Françaises, the marquis de Saint-Marc retired in 1762 and then devoted himself to writing scripts for opera and ballet, poetry, and educational pieces for children. The presence of a circular room to the left of the entrance facing the courtyard of his mansion makes it plausible that the Museum’s paneling was originally installed there. A dumbwaiter in the kitchen directly below suggests that the room may have been the setting for private dinner or supper parties. The walls are rhythmically divided by eight long and narrow panels flanking the double doors, wall niches, windows, and mirrors. Displaying arabesques consisting of trophies symbolic of various arts and farming and hunting, the carving on these panels—mostly in low relief—has been attributed to the local sculptor Barthélemy Cabirol and his workshop. Additional trophies are found above the lintel of the two sets of doors—one, with a compass, T-square, and basket overgrown with acanthus leaves alluding to the origin of the Corinthian capital, is emblematic of architecture. Cabirol is known to have been responsible for high-quality boiseries in a number of private residences in Bordeaux. An engraving in César Daly’s Décorations intérieures empruntées à des édifices français of 1880 depicts this room with its original mantel and parquet floor. The latter was laid out in a radiating pattern that emphasized the shape of the room. Both the mantelpiece and the floor have since been replaced by other eighteenth-century examples.
[Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, 2010]
Footnotes:  Arthur Young. Travels, during the Years 1787, 1788 and 1789; Undertaken More Particularly with a View of Ascertaining the Cultivation, Wealth, Resources, and National Prosperity, of the Kingdom of France. London, 1792, pp. 45, 47.
Joseph Dufour (1782/84–1787; sold to des Rasins) ; Jean Paul André des Rasins, marquis de Saint Marc (1787–d. 1818) ; Catherine de Ségur (until d. 1847) ; Marie de Saint-Marc (Mme. de Larose) (until 1861; sold to Hospices de Bordeaux) ; Hospices Civils de Bordeaux ; M. Albert Habib (until 1931; sold to Straus) ; Mrs. Herbert N. Straus (1931–43; to MMA)
Artist: Georges Jacob (French, 1739–1814)Date: ca. 1782–83Medium: Carved, painted and gilded walnut, pine, and linden; iron hardware; silk and wool Beauvais tapestry; modern silk damaskAccession: 23.235aOn view in:Gallery 523