AMSTERDAM.- The Rijksmuseum
has acquired two spectacular marriage coffers on stands made by the famous cabinet-maker André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732). They are decorated with so-called Boulle marquetry of tortoiseshell and brass. These coffers were not made as useful items of furniture, but as works of art proclaiming the style of the court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Boulle probably supplied them in 1688 to a cousin of the Sun King, the Prince de Condé, who gave them as a wedding present to his daughter, Marie-Thérèse. The marriage coffers are the most expensive pieces of furniture ever bought by the Rijksmuseum.
The marriage coffers are typical of Boulles work in every respect, from the sculptured shape reminiscent of antique and renaissance styles to the copper and tortoiseshell Boulle marquetry (the technique is named after Boulle) and the magnificent gilded bronze mounts. The coffers had no specific function: they can be used as storage space, but they are above all works of art intended to impart stately lustre, beauty and majesty.
The Rijksmuseum is the only museum in the Netherlands where the public will be able to admire one of the most beautiful international collections of furniture in the world following the reopening of the museum in 2013. The marriage coffers will be one of the items in the Louis XIV gallery where the art of the court of Versailles and its influence throughout Europe will be on display.
The coffers had several other owners after the Prince de Condé. The Englishman George Byng (1764-1847) was the last to buy them - from a dealer in Paris - in 1816 or 1817.
The chests were purchased for 3,020,307 at Christies auction house in London. The acquisition was made possible by support from BankGiro Loterij, Mondriaan Stichting, Vereniging Rembrandt, SNS REAAL Fonds and a private benefactor.