This astonishing 16th-century dressoir, or sideboard, was crafted in Lyon during the height of the French Renaissance. It is one of just three known examples of its kind, and the only not presently held in a museum collection. It was originally one of a pair, and its mate is a prized possession of the famed Frick Collection in New York; a third smaller cabinet can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London).
Masterfully executed, the dressoir's exterior is crafted entirely of rich walnut, with a sturdy oak interior. The elaborate carvings offer a visual compendium of the decorative motifs found in the art of the French Renaissance, from satyrs and harpies to female terms and masks, as well as decorative strapwork. First emerging at the court of Francis I in the 1530s, this style became increasingly playful over the decades, as demonstrated by the charming and whimsical design of this dressoir. In terms of craftsmanship and quality, it remains in impeccable condition, considering it was crafted over 425 years ago.
Paperwork in the Frick Collection archives lends insight into the history of the sideboard, as well as its mate. The matching dressoir was purchased by the legendary Henry Clay Frick, and first reappeared in 1855 in a restorer’s workshop in Marseilles. The two sideboards were almost certainly still a pair at that time, and both likely underwent expert restoration. After restoration, the present dressoir disappeared - due to the relatively small size of homes during this era, many such pairs were split and sold as individual pieces of furniture.
The Frick’s dressoir entered a major collection in Europe, where it was later bought by famed English dealer Sir Joseph Duveen. This collection of furnishings reportedly cost Duveen $1,500,000, and his purchase was reported by every major newspaper in the Western world. The star of the collection was the “16th-century cabinet,” and Duveen brought it to New York for Mr. Frick’s approval. Frick was immediately enamored with the piece, and paid an incredible $110,000 for it in 1917. That price places the Frick dressoir among the most expensive pieces of furniture ever to sell in the history of the world.
To find the mate to such an important and spectacular piece of furniture, particularly in such excellent condition, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. This dressoir is the absolute rarest, most important piece of furniture on the market today.
71 3/4” wide x 23 1/2” deep x 65 3/8” high
The Encyclopedia of Furniture, 1965, Joseph AronsonWorld Furniture, 1988, Helena HaywardFurniture in The Frick Collection: Italian and French Renaissance, French 18th and 19th Centuries, Volume V, 1992, The Frick CollectionLe Meuble en France au XVI Siecle, 1923, Edmond Bonnaffé