Born in the small village of Pankraz in Sudetenland (now Jitrava in the Czech Republic), part of the vast and powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, François Linke was the second son of eleven siblings. His father was a subsistence farmer, the poor relation amongst a village full of cousins, most of who had trades that allowed them a better standard of living than Linke’s father Anton could ever hope to provide.
François, christened Franz, was apprenticed to a local cabinetmaker at the age of thirteen, travelled as a journeyman throughout the German-speaking world and eventually set his sights on Paris, the world centre for the arts.
My book François Linke 1855-1946 The Belle Epoque of French Furnituretraces his early life through to his success in Paris at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900.
François Linke, born – 17th June 1855
1868 – 1873 – Apprenticeship
1873 – 1878 – Travelled Europe as a journeyman
1875 – First visit to Paris
1878 – Settled in Paris, worked with ‘German masters’
1881 – first lease on the workshops that he occupied until his death
1881 – Married: 19th May – Julie Teutsch
(four children: Caroline: 1882, François 1884, Henriette 1894, and Charles 1897). His two sons pre-deceased him
1889 – Granted the right to reside permanently in France
1894 – Became a naturalised Frenchman
1900 – Reputation firmly established at the Exposition Universelle de Paris
1903 – Opened prestigious showrooms in the Place Vendôme
1906 – Awarded Frances’ highest accolade the Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur
Continued his exceptional international career until the German Occupation of Paris in 1940.
At the venerable age of seventy supplying over 1,000 pieces of furniture to King Fuad of Egypt.
LINKE BED one of the masterpieces by François Linke in the style and spirit of the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Linke’s price list for the bed, index number 706, is characteristically short and to the point: Grand lit Louis XV assorti violette et marqueterie 1m 65 x 2m 10 interieur. Measure exterieur 1. 95 x 2.25, hauteur dossier 2.10. Linke adds in pencil that the bed, wardrobe and night table as an ensemble should retail at 380,000 French francs ‘lit, armoire table de chevet 3.8000.000’. Intriguingly Linke also remarks that the bedroom furniture was made to go en-suite with the three-fold screen number 705 that was seemingly intended for the Gold Medal winning 1900 exhibition on which Linke gambled his reputation and then slender fortune. He writes ‘assortie avec 705 Paravant Louis XV Exposition’,noting that the screen should retail at 115,000 French francs but could be reduced to a minimum of 80,000 French francs.
An extended version of this suite in which the present lot was included, was delivered to the Patiños with a side chair, two night tables and a baldaquin for the bed. The canopy (baldaquin) had matching tapestry with the present lot centered by the initials ‘ARP” for Albina Rodriguez Patiño, wife of Simon Iturri Patiño, the Bolivian tin magnate who set up his own bank, the Banco Mercantil in 1906 with a capital equivalent to over $1,500,000. As well as exploiting his hard won tin reserves he opened up Bolivian rail and river transportation and was a supporter of many charities. After establishing his headquarters in Hamburg in Germany, Patiño purchased a house, number 32 on the fashionable Paris’s Avenue Foch and ordered some two hundred and forty items of furniture and decorations from Linke in 1913, listed in the Linke accounts as Commande 1860. Subsequent Patiño orders are dated 1916, 1918 and 1919 and through to the 1920s and ‘30s. Verbal corroboration between Simon Patiño’s daughter-in-law, Christina de Bourbon and Christopher Payne indicates that the first floor of the Avenue Foch house, was furnished by Linke in a way that confirms Linke’s order book.
There is an implication that Linke’s important client Antonio Devoto, who ordered the same bedroom suite as Patiño but with a marquetry bedhead instead of the woven silk of the present lot as seen in the invoice, dated 27th September 1913, (see Payne, plate 278) had to wait much longer for Linke to complete the work and that the main part of the suite was diverted to Patiño, despite having been ordered earlier by Devoto. The amount of changes on the Devoto invoice suggest that it was only a rough copy or draft and not the one presented to the client. The total of 295,000 French francs has been crossed out and marked ‘a reporter’ – meaning ‘to be revisited’, no doubt due to pressure from the client. The bed is more fully described than the price list description, confirming that the woods are kingwood (bois de violette) and the untranslatable ‘satiné’. Linke also underlines the quality of the bronzes on the present lot by adding in the invoice that the bronzes are chased and gilded. There is no record of the silk ordered for the present lot which is thought to be a unique commission.
The Devoto bedroom was in stock according to an estimate, dated 27th September 1913 with the marquetry version of the bed listed as70,000 francs, the armoire number 716 at 85,000, a ‘commode assortie’, 35,000 and a chaise longue at 13,500 francs, numbers 2567 and 2568 respectively. The total sale price of these four items was 203,500 francs against a cost price estimated at 86,667 francs 50 and it is imagined that the special weaving of the silk for the present lot would have been more expensive than the ‘standard’ marquetry.
The sub contracted outside sculptor, Derivry, is recorded to have carved unspecified parts of the bedroom suite but it may be presumed that these were models for the innovative three-dimensional bronze mounts after designs and original plans by Linke’s principle sculptor Léon Messagé who had died in 1901 but whose legacy underlined Linke’s success. The innovative style of this suite and more specifically the present lot, are clearly inspired by Messagé with his genius for merging traditional Louis XV rococo themes with a contemporary feel of the “belle époque’ . Apart from the sculptural, three-dimensional figures on the head and footboard, typical of Messagé, the central apron on the footboard with its asymmetric foliage and cascading water come directly from the work and designs of Messagé for Linke’s mentor, Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener.
Patiño and Devoto were two of Linke’s most important clients in the second decade of the twentieth century. Both men were wealthy entrepreneurs who, having made their fortune wanted to buy the best quality luxury furniture from the best maker, François Linke.