FRANCE – PARIS, third quarter of the 19th Century
An ebony eight-pointed star and cube parquetry jewellery casket, applied overall with pierced arabesque gilt-bronze strapwork decorated with cloisonné-enamels. With a loop handle on both sides.
The lockplate engraved: ‘Alph. Giroux & Cie. a Paris’.
Alphonse Giroux (1775/76–1848): ‘Maison Alphonse Giroux’, also known as ‘Giroux & Cie’, was founded in 1799 by François-Simon-Alphonse Giroux (1775/76–1848) – an art restorer and cabinetmaker who was one of the official restorers of Notre Dame Cathedral. Initially François-Simon-Alphonse Giroux’s business, which was situated at No. 7 rue du Coq-Saint-Honoré, Paris, sold artist’s supplies, as well as the products of his cabinet making work. It soon expanded, specialising in producing luxury goods – ornate ‘objects d’art’ and small, exquisite pieces of furniture. His patrons included members of the French Royal family, including Louis XVIII, Charles X, Henri V and Napoleon III.
His sons, André (1801-1879) and Alphonse-Gustave (1810-1886) joined the business in 1834. On François-Simon-Alphonse Giroux’s retirement in 1838, the business was taken over by his eldest son, Alphonse-Gustave Giroux. Under his guidance and innovative planning, the business grew to become one of the most prestigious department stores in Paris, whilst continuing to take on important commissions. Items which were made for the department store were marked ‘Maison Giroux’. However, Alphonse-Gustave Giroux signed commissioned pieces himself: ‘Mon. Alph – Giroux Paris’. In the tradition of eighteenth-century marchands merciers, it is likely that Giroux and his sons did not make any of the offered wares themselves but commissioned them from a variety of artists.
Alphonse-Gustave Giroux was fascinated with mechanics and new technology. He received a silver medal at the 1839 Exposition des Produits de L’industrie Française and produced pieces for the World Exposition of 1855. In 1857, Alphonse-Gustave Giroux transferred his shop to No. 43, Boulevard des Capucines. He continued to do business until 1867, when he sold the company to Duvinage and Harinkouck. Some of his most unusual known creations are a mechanical clock-work horse and carriage for the crown prince; an automaton of a violin player seated on a barrel; and a lavishly detailed lifelike doll wearing a regal gown and crown of antique fabrics with seed pearls, presented at the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition to represent the glorious legacy of French Royalty.
In addition, Maison Giroux played a historically significant role, producing the first commercial camera under the direction of Mr. Daguerreotype, which forever changed visual history and revolutionised the art world.