FOUR CENTURIES: Monnoyer’s Mark

Still life attributed to Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery blog

We discovered this still life at the preview of a Santa Fe estate sale. It was tucked in a dark upstairs corner of the house, far from the Picasso print and treasure trove of art books on prominent display in the living room. Lawrence lingered for a while to take in the flamboyant bouquet with its rich rosy tones. There was an excited glint in his eye.

A few months later, the painting has found a home under the glowing lights of our European art room. We know a lot more about it now than when it first caught Lawrence’s fancy. It’s attributed to Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699), a 17th century Franco-Flemish painter who wielded his brush for Louis XIV. Its siblings hang in some of France and England’s most famous estates.

Our adobe art abode is a very different venue, but this 300-year-old artwork gives us the opportunity to transport gallery visitors across the sea and through the ages. Look below to chase Monnoyer through the palaces where he left his mark, and don’t miss the painting’s debut at our opening for FOUR CENTURIES: European Art from 1600 to 1950 on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 pm.

Hôtel Lambert- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

Our first stop is the Hotel Lambert on the Ile Saint-Louis, site of Monnoyer’s first Parisian commission in 1650. The artist grew up in Lille, France and trained in Antwerp, but it was the lavish estates in and around Paris that claimed his considerable interior decorating talents. Monnoyer’s floral designs in the grand mansion would delight its many owners and guests for centuries to come, from a famous Polish political salon to Voltaire, Chopin, Balzac, Delacroix and Dali. Unfortunately, the Hotel Lambert was badly damaged in a 2013 fire and is under renovation.

Chateau de Marly- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer-  Matthews Gallery Blog

 

Artist Charles Le Brun, who painted a series of renowned ceiling frescoes at the Hotel Lambert, brought Monnoyer along for a commission at Louis XIV’s Chateau de Marly. The (relatively) small country estate was the king’s escape from the more rigid world of Versailles, and aristocrats fiercely battled for a chance to stay there. Alas, the twelve pavilions that flanked the water and their intricately adorned interiors are long gone, but the commission launched Monnoyer into a new stratosphere.

Palace of Versailles- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

Monnoyer worked with Le Brun once again on the ornamentation of the Palace of Versailles. For this and other high profile royal projects, he developed a style that was far removed from his training in the subdued still life painting techniques of the Low Countries. The bold, ornamental approach is in full force in our still life, recalling the spectacular garlands of flowers he painted on the ceiling of the Queen’s pavilion at the Chateau de Vincennes. Monnoyer also made reference sketches and etchings for French tapestry workshops, greatly influencing European decorative styles for years to come.

Boughton House- Site of artwork by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer- Matthews Gallery Blog

A commission from the Montagu House in London drew Monnoyer away from Paris in 1690. He adorned dozens of panels with fruits and vegetables and painted several portraits, some of which now reside in the state rooms of Northamptonshire’s Boughton House. The artist remained in England until his death in 1699, but his distinctly French style lived on in the artwork of two of his sons.

Make sure to attend the opening of our FOUR CENTURIES exhibition on Friday, June 13 from 5-7 pm, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for daily gallery news.

THE STORYTELLER: From petroglyphs to pinewood

Roch Hart- Fine Furniture- Matthews Gallery

 Roch Hart with his pie safe “The Storytellers”

“Furniture is art,” says Roch Hart. It’s a credo the Albuquerque fine furniture maker repeats every time he brings a new creation to the gallery. In Hart’s case, it’s true: each hand-carved piece of sugar pine is as unique as a painting on our wall. This is nothing you’d find at IKEA.

Check out our blog post chronicling Roch’s journey from Spanish Colonial furniture enthusiast to bona fide sculptor, and then delight in the details of his latest creation. This pie safe, dubbed “The Storytellers“, holds quite a few tales…

SPIRAL

Roch Hart- Fine Furniture Detail- Matthews Gallery

Hart often draws inspiration from New Mexico petroglyphs.

“A spiral can mean a lot of different things depending on its context, but here it represents eternity or travel,” Hart says. In particular, this symbol refers to a journey from the depths of the earth.

FACES

Roch Hart- Fine Furniture Detail- Matthews Gallery

These symbols on the sides of the pie safe tend to appear together in glyphs. The one on the left with its mouth shut tight is the “listener”, and the one on the right is the “storyteller”. It’s the yin-yang of cultures that depend on the voice to pass down vital knowledge.

The designs surrounding the faces also have an important meaning. Just like the Zia on the New Mexico state flag, they represent the sacred, pervasive number four: four compass directions, four seasons, four stages of a person’s life.

PATTERNS

Roch Hart- Fine Furniture Detail- Matthews Gallery

“This is mimicking the Navajo rugs,” explains Hart. “I thought it would be a great border for the faces.”

Hart uses white ash to make his patterns bolder, rubbing it into the cracks by hand atop a layer of shellac. The finishing touch is a light coat of wax.

JOINTS

Roch Hart- Fine Furniture Detail- Matthews Gallery

Near the beginning of his journey to furniture mastery, Hart visited the Nicolai Fechin House in Taos. Fechin was a Russian painter and carpenter who moved to New Mexico in 1923 and purchased a small adobe home that he would greatly expand over the years. The home is now a museum, and when Hart visited to study the furniture he had a chance encounter with Fechin’s daughter Eya. She taught him about the different joints that her father used, including the sliding dovetail joint pictured here.

“That changed my life,” Hart says.  “I looked at [Fechin’s work] and said, ‘I can do anything. Nobody told him what to do.'”

WINDOW

Roch Hart- Fine Furniture Detail- Matthews Gallery

The grid Hart uses as a window for the pie safe doesn’t have an age-old legend behind it. It’s one of Hart’s signature designs that appears in many different manifestations in his work. Myriad influences come together in Hart’s exquisite furniture, but each piece is imbued with his unique sensibility.

See more of Roch’s creations on his artist page, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily gallery updates. Also, check out our upcoming exhibition FOUR CENTURIES: European Art from 1600 to 1950, opening June 13!