François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter was a leading furniture manufacturer in the French Empire, who ran one of the most successful and influential furniture workshops in Paris.
About his life
François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter was born in 1770 in a family of well-known chair manufacturer Georges Jacob. Jacob-Desmalter and his older brother took control of their father’s business in 1796. Six years later his brother died and Jacob-Desmalter hired back his father as a partner. The family business has grown into one of the largest furniture workshops in Paris, Jacob-Desmalter et Cie (“and Company”) on rue Meslée. In 1808, 332 workers were employed. The fabric produced products worth over 700,000 francs a year. A third of the production was exported abroad. The main buyers were Napoleon and his family. The business went bankrupt in 1813 when the emperor resigned from power. However, Jacob-Desmalter managed to restart the company. In 1825 he transferred control to his son Alphonse-George. He died on the Rue Cadet in Paris on August 15, 1841.
What were his major works?
- A magnificent cradle built for the infant Napoleon II, Prince Imperial of France and King of Rome. It was executed in elm burr veneer richly decorated with chased gilt bronze mountings.
- “Grand Ecrin”, a jewel cabinet designed for Empress Josephine by the famous architect Charles Percier. It was delivered in 1809 for her state bedroom at the Tuileries (soon to be used by Marie-Louise). It was decorated with plates of gilded bronze: the central one, depicting the “Birth of the Queen of the Earth, to whom Cupids and Goddesses hasten with their Offerings” by the most prominent bronze master of the Empire, Pierre-Philippe Thomir, created by Antoine-Denis Chaudet. It was the most expensive single item.
Image source: https://www.gazette-drouot.com
How can we identify Jacob’s style?
Jacob-Desmalter et Cie on Mesle Street made Empire-style furniture. The most commonly used veneer was mahogany with gilded bronze supports. The craftsmen drew inspiration from the seats and thrones of antiquity, the characteristic elements of which are easily recognizable in the details on the bas-reliefs and on the Greek vases.