It was on a school outing to Paris in the days of my youth that I made my first visit to Versailles, and there I happened upon the exquisite creations of Pierre-Benoît Marcion (1769–1840), furniture maker to Emperor Napoleon. Marcion’s stellar work, as well as all that I observed that day wandering the halls and salons of the Grand and Petit Trianon, was for me at that young age an introduction to perfection.
In seeing Marcion’s work en masse, I was astonished by the refined beauty of his designs, the subtle applied embellishments, the lack of excessive frou-frou, the simplicity of line and flow. I was awed by the gilded bronze in the form of palmettes and laurel applied to stunning mahogany case pieces, tables, chairs, and beds. This would prove to be a great influence on my own design work.
I wondered how during that period such perfection was accomplished using only the rudimentary tools available, many of which had not changed in centuries. Yet, in his finishes one could see one’s teeth reflected in the gleaming mahogany surfaces, and his painted pieces seemed to me like white-chocolate candy decorated with delicate gold-leaf rosettes waiting to be tasted.
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WRITTEN BY CHARLES SPADA
This story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of MILIEU.