Culture and lifestyle have always been a source of inspiration through my journey as a photographer.
Born and raised in Paris, I am fascinated by the “infamous” and “clandestine” part of French History. The Parisian Ancient Regime society reflects perfectly this exceptional capacity of secrecy as a fashionable lifestyle.
The Roentgen’s commode inspired me because of its elaborated craft and design. Its playful combination of luxury and security technology supported my work to research atypical characters involved in fairy stories and intrigues.
I discovered that Louis XV, King of France, created a network of spies, known as “Le secret du Roi” (King’s secret) involving agents such as Le Chevalier D’Eon who disguised himself as a lady for mission purposes, and lived for years dressed as a woman. He called himself Lea De Beaumont.
This unique character inspired me to display the subject’s androgyny as an ambiguous artifice. The gender is unknown due to the mixed clothing of a men’s shirt and a crinoline. The red velvet curtain, in the background, depicts a theatrical atmosphere referring to the commode’s marquetry theme: “Commedia Dell’ Arte”. This “mise en scene” evokes the hidden functions of the Roentgen commode, keeping eyes away from the locking system and its content, through distracting decoration underlining conspiracy and subterfuge.
These historical ploys led me to critically question the political and social values of that time, and eventually observe the remains and fragments in our contemporary society.
The final work is presented in a rectangular miniature frame with a small photograph inviting the viewer to look closer to create an element of intimacy and privacy.
The visual is structured to be classical and symbolic, using natural light, in a frame and composition having its roots in painting.
Decorative chest of drawers
Artist/Maker: Roentgen, David, born 1743 - died 1807 (workshop of, maker) Zick, Januarius, born 1730 - died 1797 (probably, designer) Kinzing, Peter, born 1745 - died 1816 (possibly, locksmith) Gervais, Elie, born 1721 - died 1797
Marquetry of boxwood, mahogany and walnut, with stained burr maple, holly and maple (both stained in some places) and other woods, on a carcase of oak, pine, cherry, maple and mahogany, with gilt brass and lacquered brass mounts; the slab of bleu turquin
V&A collection reference number(s):