Linke commode a major Melbourne auction feature
Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 8th March, 2019
A 19th century commode signed by master cabinetmaker Francois Linke is one of the more important French furniture pieces to be auctioned from noon Sunday March 17 by Christian McCann Auctions at 426 Burnley Street, Richmond as part of the company’s forthcoming antiques, fine art, porcelain and sculpture sale.
The auction will be preceded at the same venue by a fine quality jewellery sale from 4pm Saturday March 16 featuring rings, necklaces, brooches and bracelets.
Linke (1855-1946) was a leading late 19th and early 20th century Parisian cabinetmaker born in Pankraz, in what is now the Czech Republic, and did his apprenticeship with master cabinetmaker Neumann.
He arrived in 1875 in Paris, after stints in several other European cities, where he obtained work with an unknown German cabinetmaker before returning to Pankraz.
Two years later he was back in Paris for good to witness in 1878 the third great International Exhibition – a remarkable success for a country ravaged by war only seven years earlier.
Another World Fair followed in 1889 with Gustav Eiffel erecting for the exhibition what was to become Paris’s most iconic building, the Eiffel Tower.
Under such an atmosphere, Linke decided to become involved in the next exhibition, which turned out to be the 1900 Paris Fair.
One of the Fair commissioners had appealed to entrants to “create in the manner of the masters, do not copy what they have made” and Linke became determined to outshine his competition.
As such, his unique display, which included the Grand Bureau, featured the most ambitious pieces he could imagine and was more extravagant than had ever been seen before.
The items he exhibited marked a transition from historic interpretations of Louis XV and Louis XVI styles – a mainstay of his rivals – to startlingly new and vital creations.
These fused fluid Louis XV rococo with contemporary and progressive ‘art nouveau’.
Linke’s reason for investing so much in the exhibition was to expand his business and, to do so, he needed to appeal to international clients and the new emerging rich.
The plan worked because people from England, other European countries, the Americas, Egypt and Japan visited his stand.
These included the Kings of Sweden and Belgium, Prince Radziwell, Prince d”Arenberg, the Comte Alberic du Chastel, American heiress Anna May Gould and French President Emile Loubet.
So successful did Linke become that, After World War I, he undertook possibly the largest furniture commission ever conceived by furnishing Egypt’s King Fuad’s Ras al-Tin Palace in Alexandria.
The Linke commode is joined in the auction by museum quality antiques including French carved giltwood, a Rosel marble top centre table, boulle salon furniture, bureau-plats and a rare Spanish onyx top centre table.
The Le Page Royal Worcester collection is another strong attraction and features items by artists Stinton, Powell, Johnston, Baldwyn, Hawkins and Salter.
Ernest Buckmaster, Kenneth Jack, Robert Dickerson, Sidney Nolan and Rubery Bennett are among the Australian artists whose paintings are on offer, while19th century bronze and marble sculptures abound.
Clock collectors have not been forgotten with a comprehensive collection of 18th and 19th century timepieces including a 10-tube striking grandfather clock.