REF NO : B73633

François Linke

A Rare Belle Epoque Gilt-Bronze Mounted Parquetry Inlaid Grand Buffet

France, Circa 1910

A Rare Belle Epoque Gilt-Bronze Mounted Parquetry Inlaid Grand Buffet, By François Linke, The Mounts Designed by Léon Messagé. Signed to the right...


Height: 226 cm (89 in)
Width: 262 cm (104 in)
Depth: 79 cm (32 in)
Weight: 544 kg
REF NO : B73633


A Rare Belle Epoque Gilt-Bronze Mounted Parquetry Inlaid Grand Buffet, By François Linke, The Mounts Designed by Léon Messagé.

Signed to the right corner clasp ‘Linke’
The enamel clock dial with Roman numerals and Signed ‘F Linke A PARIS’.
The lockplate stamped ‘Ct Linke Serrurerie Paris’ and with the index number ‘2184’.

One of the rarest and most impressive of Linke’s creations this magnificent buffet cabinet is recorded as a pièce unique. Made to the exacting standards of François Linke’s production as the most prized ébéniste of the Belle Epoque, and dating to the height of his creative powers, this cabinet is a glorious flourishing of the Ebènisterie d’Art.

The ambition of the design, which is executed on grand proportions, the abundance of gilt-bronze sculptural mounts and radiating sunray Bois de Violette veneers, make it a definitive example from Linke’s great exhibition period when he was awarded a medaille d’or at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900.

The superstructure of the gallery has a sweeping serpentine shape terminating in scrolled rocaille twin-light candelabra. At the centre rises an integral clock case surmounted by cherubs holding floral garlands. The putti are floating on clouds above the clock face and their foliate trails symbolize the dawning of a new day. The top of the cabinet is a monumental slab of brèche violette marble with a moulded edge and shaped around the cabinet structure whereby the central drawer and cupboard doors protrude forward from the flanking cupboards. The doors are fronted with cuivre doré frames and the whole is replete with a wealth of rocaille ornament culminating in Linke’s idiosyncratic shell mount. The angles have large shell-shaped mounts, the right clasp is clearly signed ‘Linke’.

Christopher Payne illustrates the buffet in François Linke’s showrooms at 170 Faubourg Sainte Antoine. Payne records that it is a pièce unique made for Mme. Brodsky in 1911. The brèche violette marble top was repolished by Linke’s workshops in 1929.

“Mme. Brodsky” ?
The Linke archive records that this buffet was a pièce unique made for a Mme. Brodsky in 1911. It can be speculated this this refers to the wife or daughter of Lazar Brodsky who was a Russian Imperial businessman of Jewish origin. Known as the “Sugar King of Kiev” Lazar Brodsky was born in 1848 in Zlatopol, modern day Ukraine in the family of Jewish entrepreneur Israel Brodsky. Together with his brother, Lazar Brodsky inherited their father’s sugar production and as head of Alexandria Society of Sugar Mills controlled a quarter of the total sugar production in the Russian Empire. Brodsky went on to develop commercial interests including in the Kyiv water board, tramlines, flour mills and steamships and was as a member of the St. Petersburg International Commercial Bank. Brodsky was widely known as a philanthropist and used his wealth to finance schools, the Jewish hospital in Kyiv and the construction of the biggest synagogue in Kyiv, which was built on the family estate and later named after him. His business and charitable works were recognised by his being awarded the Order of St. Vladimir.

In 1900, at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, Brodsky received the French Legion of Honour for the high quality of the goods produced at his plants. It is possible that he visited Linke’s award winning stand at the 1900 Exhibition and ordered this buffet. Lazar Brodsky died somewhat unexpectedly in 1904, with four daughters but no sons. After his death, his brother Lev inherited the dynasty. Following the Russian revolution, Lev emigrated to Paris in 1918. Perhaps this buffet was never delivered or bought back – the Linke archives record that the the brèche violette marble top being repolished by Linke’s workshops in 1929.

France, Circa 1910.

Léon Messagé

Léon Messagé (1842-1901) had a brilliant, but short lived career. He is best known for his incredible sculptural collaboration with François Linke for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. A gifted sculptor, Messagé was also responsible for much of the design and creative work for Roux et Brunet and Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener.

Messagé enjoyed great success as a designer/sculptor before his collaboration with Linke. Indeed he was mentioned as a gold medal winner at the 1889 International Exhibition and was especially praised for his work on a cabinet by Zwiener. He came into contact with Linke in 1885 and it appears from then on Linke employed him on a regular basis.

Messagé was primarily influenced by rococo ornament but he strove to re-interpret it. He did not produce slavish copies, and his original approach can be appreciated in Linke’s celebrated Grande Bibliothèque and Grand Bureau exhibited at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle. A number of drawings by Messagé are recorded and after his success at the exhibition of 1889 he was encouraged to publish his designs.

‘Cahier de dessins & croquis, style Louis XV: bronzes, orfèvrerie, décoration, meubles’ was first published by the sculptor himself, from his Paris address of 40 rue Sedaine. There were five sections with an elaborate title page surmounted by the sculptor’s cipher or talisman of a wing, a pun on his own name as the messenger to the Gods, a motif he used many times on the handles of furniture designed for Linke.

As a sculptor Messagé was trained to produce a wax maquette or model prior to working on a piece. It is especially interesting that his maquettes were of the piece of furniture in its entirety, a rare and exacting task occasionally seen for eighteenth century French Royal commissions. For Messagé it was not just a matter of producing decorative mounts; the piece was conceived as sculpture, bronze, timber and marquetry as one.

Payne, Christopher. François Linke, 1855 – 1946, The Belle Époque of French Furniture, Antique Collectors’ Club, (Woodbridge, UK), 2003; pp. 71-95.

Mestdagh, Camille & Lécoules, Pierre. L’Ameublement d’art français: 1850-1900, Les Editions de l’Amateur, (Paris), 2010; pp. 173-176.


Circa 1910




Gilt-Bronze and Mahogany


Signed Right Hand Corner Mount 'F Linke'. The Clock Dial Also Signed 'F Linke'. The lockplate Stamped 'Ct Linke Serrurerie Paris 2184'.

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.


Pièce unique made for a Mme. Brodsky in 1911.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. William Myron Keck of Owlwood Estate, Beverly Hills, CA.


Payne, Christopher. François Linke, (1855 – 1946), The Belle Époque of French Furniture, Antique Collectors’ Club, (Woodbridge, UK), 2003. p. 463 (pl. 552)

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