François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1770–1841)

François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter was the leading French Empire furniture maker and he oversaw one of the most successful and influential furniture workshops in Paris.

One Settee and Ten Armchairs, Jacob Desmalter, about 1810

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About his life

The son of a well-known chairmaker, Georges Jacob, Jacob-Desmalter took over his father’s business with his older brother in 1796. When his brother died six years later, Jacob-Desmalter hired his father back as his partner and began to develop one of the largest furniture workshops in Paris, Jacob-Desmalter et Cie (“and Company“) in rue Meslée. By 1808 he employed 332 workmen to produce pieces worth over 700,000 francs per year. A third of this stock was destined for export; his warehouse alone held over 500,000 francs’ worth of furniture. Greatly dependent on orders from Napoleon’s household, the business went bankrupt in 1813, when the Emperor fell from power. Jacob-Desmalter, however, managed to resurrect the company and continued to run it until his son, Alphonse-George, succeeded him in 1825. He died in the rue Cadet in Paris on August 15, 1841.

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Throne for Napoleon to preside over the Senate, Jacob Desmalter, 1804

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What were his major works?

Important commissions included a magnificent cradle built for the infant Napoleon II, King of Rome, and the most expensive single item, the jewel cabinet, called the “Grand Ecrin“, for the Empress Josephine, delivered in 1809 for her state bedroom in the Tuileries (soon to be used by Marie-Louise). It was designed by the architect Charles Percier and embellished with gilt-bronze plaques: the central one, according to its original description, depicts the “Birth of the Queen of the Earth, to whom Cupids and Goddesses hasten with their Offerings” by the Empire’s most eminent bronzier, Pierre-Philippe Thomire, modelled by Antoine-Denis Chaudet.

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Jewel cabinet “Grand Ecrin”, Jacob Desmalter, 1809

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How can we identify Jacob’s style?

Furniture in the Empire style produced by Jacob-Desmalter et Cie (“and Company”) in rue Meslée, mainly employed mahogany veneers with gilt-bronze mounts. Seat furniture forms, of mahogany when they were not painted or gilded, derived inspiration from seats and thrones of Antiquity, recognizable in details from bas-reliefs and on Greek vases.

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Detail of jewel cabinet “Grand Ecrin”, Jacob Desmalter, 1809

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