REF NO : B69611

François Linke

A Belle Epoque Gilt-Bronze Mounted Mahogany Vitrine Cabinet

France, Circa 1900


Of large proportions with central arched glazed door flanked to each side by a recessed glazed door. The side panels glazed. Each with gilt-bronze rocaille...


Height: 255 cm (101 in)
Width: 220 cm (87 in)
Depth: 58 cm (23 in)
REF NO : B69611


Of large proportions with central arched glazed door flanked to each side by a recessed glazed door. The side panels glazed. Each with gilt-bronze rocaille cast frames. The interior with three glass shelves. Raised on cabriole legs with lion paw sabots.

Signed to one corner mount, ‘F. Linke’.

French, Circa 1900.

This magnificent vitrine cabinet or bibliothèque (bookcase) relates to Linke’s titled piece ‘Grand bibliothèque Louis XV 4 portes’ which was a unique commission for a client called Joseph Cordier and recorded under Index Number 909 in Linke’s register.

Watercolour design for ‘Grand bibliothèque Louis XV 4 portes’ (courtesy Christopher Payne/Linke Archive).

To give some indication of the complexity and cost of making such a cabinet, Christopher Payne notes that the cabinetmaking for Index Number 909 was carried out by Alfred Jenicek over a total of 1,331 ½ hours, at 81 centimes per hour. The bronze fitter, Alfred Couchy, was paid at the higher rate of 90 centimes per hour for exacting work which took 498 hours. The total making costs were 4,292 francs and the retail price was 9,000 francs in circa 1901. Index Number 909 although visually similar to the present cabinet, has more elaborate gilt-bronze mounts and is thought to have been a unique piece. It was sold from A Private Collection Volume I, Sotheby’s, New York, 26 October 2006, lot 18 for $144,000.

‘Grand bibliothèque Louis XV 4 portes’ which sold at Sotheby’s New York in 2006 for $144,000.

The design of this vitrine cabinet is indebted to the Louis XV, or rococo, style which Linke interpreted with the help of the sculptor Léon Messagé to create his distinctive Art Nouveau accented furniture which was awarded a gold medal at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. The magnum opus of his designs for the Paris exhibition is ‘La Grande Bibliothèque’, a much enlarged and ornamented bookcase, which is also in the collection of Adrian Alan (Ref No: B67030).



Circa 1900




Gilt-Bronze and Mahogany


Signed to one corner mount, 'F. Linke'.

François Linke

François Linke (1855 – 1946) was the most important Parisian cabinet maker of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and possibly the most sought after cabinet maker of his period.

He was born in 1855 in the small village of Pankraz, in what is now the Czech Republic. Records show that Linke served an apprenticeship with the master cabinetmaker Neumann, then in 1875 at the age of 20 he arrived in Paris where he lived until he died in 1946.

It is known that the fledgling Linke workshops were active in Paris in the Faubourg St. Antoine as early as 1881, and during this time he supplied furniture for other more established makers such as Jansen and Krieger.

The quality of Linke’s craftsmanship was unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries and reached its peak with his spectacular stand at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, where his Grand Bureau took the gold medal. He gambled his fortune and reputation on this stand, exhibiting several breathtaking items of furniture with sculptural mounts of the most exceptional quality and proportion. His gamble worked and his reputation was established to such an extent that Linke continued to be the pre-eminent furniture house in Paris until the Second World War.

As the Art Journal reported in 1900 on Linke’s stand:
‘The work of M. Linke … was an example of what can be done by seeking inspiration amongst the classic examples of Louis XV and XVI without in any great sense copying these great works. M. Linke’s work was original in the true sense of the word, and as such commended itself to the intelligent seeker after the really artistic things of the Exhibition. Wonderful talent was employed in producing the magnificent pieces of furniture displayed….’

The formation of Linke’s distinctive style was made possible by his collaboration with the sculptor Léon Messagé. Together Linke and Messagé designed furniture for Linke’s 1900 exhibition stand, with exuberant allegorical figures cast in high relief, that exemplified Linke’s ability to seamlessly merge the different mediums of wood carving, bronze and marquetry into a dynamic unified whole.

Today Linke is best known for the exceptionally high quality of his work, as well as his individualism and inventiveness. All of his work has the finest, most lavish mounts, very often applied to comparatively simple carcasses. The technical brilliance of his work and the artistic change that it represented were never to be repeated.

Payne, Christopher. François Linke, (1855 – 1946), The Belle Époque of French Furniture, Antique Collectors’ Club, (Woodbridge, UK), 2003.
Meyer, Jonathan. Great Exhibitions – London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, 1851-1900, Antique Collectors’ Club, (Woodbridge, UK), 2006; pp. 298 – 300.
Ledoux – Lebard, Denise. Les Ébénistes du XIXe siècle, Les Editions de l’Amateur, (Paris), 1984; pp. 439-43.
Revue Artistique & Industrielle, (Paris), July-August 1900.
Coral Thomsen, D. (ed), The Paris Exhibition 1900, The Art Journal, 1901; p.341.

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