Charles Cressent (1685 - 1768)


Son of François Cressent, sculptor to the King.<br><br>His works are to be found in major museums and international private collections.<br>His contemporaries held him in very high esteem, as reflected in the “Nouvelles Littéraires” of Abbé Raynal. In a review of artistic celebrities of the day, towards the middle of the year 1749, Raynal described him as an “excellent cabinetmaker” whom he praised both as craftsman, designer and sculptor, vaunting the beautiful shapes and sophisticated proportions of everything that came out of his hands, an admirable composition of ornamentation, elegance and diversity. “Cressent was the successor to the reputation of the famous Boule, whose name shall never die..." [He] must have his place among the major French artists.”<br><br>He studied as an apprentice in his hometown, with his father, until 1707. He then settled in Paris where he was awarded membership in the Académie de Saint Luc in 1714.<br>The famous sculptors Girardon and Le Lorrain made use of his talents.<br><br>In September 1719, he married Claude Chavanne, the widow of Joseph Poitou, cabinetmaker to the Duke d’Orléans.<br>His wife brought him a considerable establishment, and shortly thereafter, Charles Cressent obtained the title of cabinetmaker to the Duke d’Orleans. <br>He was very jealous of his talents, not only in cabinetmaking, but also and especially in sculpture.<br><br>In fact, he shaped the models for his bronzes himself. He would then have them melted before his eyes, and would often chisel them with his own hands, despite the guild regulations that prohibited people from practicing two crafts. <br><br>He suffered several lawsuits because of his encroachments on the privileges of the bronzes melters, founders and gilders. In addition to bronze ornamentation for furniture, he produced candelabras, mantel clocks, regulator clocks and cartel <br>clocks. He also chiseled medallions, sometimes for medals cabinets, as well as statuettes and busts.<br><br>He authored a life-size portrait of Duke Louis d’Orléans, son of the Regent, who maintained his father’s patronage of Cressent until 1743. (The bust and the medals cabinet have been kept since that time at the Bibliothèque Nationale).<br><br>Cressent used only very discreet veneers, thereby enhancing the beauty of his bronze mountings. Contrary to what has sometimes been claimed, Cressent never signed his bronzes. Nor does his cabinetmaking work bear a stamp.<br><br>Among his major customers, in addition to the Dukes d’Orléans, were some of the most enlightened aficionados of the time: the Marquis de Marigny (brother of Madame de Pompadour), the Duke of Richelieu, the high nobility and aristocracy, renowned financiers, and outside of France, King John V of Portugal and Charles Albert, Prince-elector of Bavaria.<br><br>Cressent the collector:<br><br>In his mansion, Cressent accumulated a large collection, to which he dedicated the fruit of his work for a great many years. He owned over one hundred and fifty paintings by the masters, including a study by Raphael, a Magdalene by Titian, a Virgin by Dürer, several Holbeins, Teniers as well as several large paintings by Rubens.<br>His cabinet also included medals, ivories and other precious objects.<br><br><br><br>He sometimes spent recklessly, embarking on ventures without any experience, resulting in his being forced to auction off his collections and wares, auctions for which he wrote the catalogues himself, in 1748, 1756 and 1765.<br><br>He was very exacting as to the care with which his furniture was crafted, in order to make it worthy of “being placed in the most beautiful apartments” and “satisfying the taste of the most demanding connoisseurs”.<br><br>In the 1748 auction, the advertising efforts deployed for the occasion enabled him to terminate the auction well before the end of the session, and keep the most important pieces.<br><br>Nevertheless, he still committed the same financial errors...<br><br>At the age of 82, his home was crowded with paintings, engravings, marble objects, bronzes and art furniture, in addition to a sizeable amount of silverware, and a copious wardrobe.