A selection of hand-colored lithographs from Le Garde-meuble, an influential bimonthly interior design periodical published in Paris in the mid 19th century. It features elegant French decorative arts such as furniture, curtains and decorating accessories, and illustrations of décor as room settings. Each installment consisted of a folio of up to nine separate prints, with credits giving the names of designers and makers and intended as a practical guide for others in the field. As such they are executed with great attention to detail and color, and remain as a valuable document of 19th century decor. As the subtitle "Ancien et Moderne" implies, the designs are in various styles including those of the period -- Louis-Philippe (1830-1848) and Napoleon III (Second Empire, 1850-1871), as well as revival modes, such as Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Empire, Japonaise, Renaissance and Gothic. Some of the examples depicted were featured at international exhibitions in Paris. American and British designers and craftsmen also turned to Le Garde-meuble to stay abreast of the latest ideas in decorating, at a time when French design and décor were widely regarded as the epitome of sophistication and quality.
The Cooper Hewitt Collection (Smithsonian Institution) has an extensive number of prints from Le Garde-meuble. The widespread usage of this periodical in the 19th century, and the richness of the detail in the prints, is well described by furniture historian Cynthia Van Allen Schaffner:
Intended as a practical guide for decorators, architects, cabinetmakers, upholsterers and designers, the Le Garde-meuble lithographs contained such clear and copious detail that craftsmen could easily develop working drawings from the images. They could trace, enlarge and adapt the scaled illustrations in much the same way as they had done with earlier pattern books featuring French and British architecture and furniture. The clarity of the intricate details in Le Garde-meuble--the carving, marquetry, inlay, fabric patterns, garniture (trimmings) and passementerie (braids, tapes and tassels) is remarkable. The hand-tinting of the plates also served to convey the era's prevailing tastes in color. Dense glazes suggested furniture surface treatments such as gleaming French-polishes, ebonizing, grained-painted highlights, and the use of glistening gilt bronze mounts.
For almost 50 years, Le Garde-meuble was edited and produced by Désiré Guilmard, an author and publishing entrepreneur with close ties to the French furniture and design community. He also produced other publications related to various aspects of furniture and décor: illustrated books, supplements, albums and reports on trade fairs and expositions.
Condition: Generally very good with usual toning, wear, soft creases. Some with short tears or chipped edges to margins. Some with light foxing or soiling. Please inquire as to condition as to any specific print.
Schaffner, Cynthia Van Allen. Désiré Guilmard, Le Garde-meuble, ancien et moderne, 1839-1935. http://www.sil.si.edu/DigitalCollections/Art-Design/garde-meuble/intro.htm (30 May 2012).