Boiserie from the Hôtel de Varengeville

ca. 1736–52, with later additions
French, Paris
Carved, painted, and gilded oak
H. 18 ft. 3-3/4 in. (5.58 m), W. 23 ft. 2-1/2 in. (7.07 m), L. 40 ft. 6-1/2 in. (12.36 m)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1963
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Superb carving, partly in high relief, constitutes the chief glory of this paneling, which comes from one of the private residences of eighteenth century Paris, the Hotel de Varengeville, which still stands, much altered, at 217, boulevard Saint-Germain. It was built by the architect Jacques Gabriel (1667–after 1742) for Charlotte-Angelique Courtin, comtesse de Varengeville, whose daughter, Jeanne-Angelique Roque de Varengeville, duchesse de Villars, inherited the house in 1732. The duchesse de Villars sold the house four years later to Marie-Marguerite d'Allegre, comtesse de Ruppelmonde, who owned the building until her death in 1752 and who is likely to have commissioned the Museum's paneling. Certain aspects of the carved ornament, such as the placement of the long-necked birds perched on the scrolling frames of the wall panels and mirrors, are related to a drawing that has been attributed to Nicolas Pineau (1648–1754 ).

    Pineau is primarily known for his highly asymmetrical and deliciously whimsical designs in the high Rococo style. That full-blown phase of the Rococo is not yet attained in the delicate and spirited decoration of the Varengeville paneling, which is still largely symmetrical. Although the boiserie is richly embellished with C-scrolls, S-scrolls, palmettes, sprigs of flowers, coiling vines, and rocaille motifs, most of the attention is lavished on a series of trophies (eleven of which are original; the remainder are copies made for installation in the Museum).In addition to representations of the four seasons, the other trophies allude to concepts and qualities ranging from military fame and princely glory, to truthfulness, commerce, gardening, music, and poetry. The paneling was transferred to a newly built residence at 31, rue du faubourg Saint-Honore, Paris, in the late nineteenth century by comte Frederic-Alexis-Louis Pillet-Will, from where it was sold in 1963.

  • Provenance

    Marie-Marguerite d'Allègre, comtesse de Ruppelmonde (possibly, 1736–d.1752) ; by inheritance from comtesse de Ruppelmonde, Guerchy family (1752–1837) ; M & Mme Jean-Martin Charcot (1884–86/91; sold to Pillet-Will) ; comte Frédéric-Alexis-Louis Pillet-Will (from 1886/91)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History