Alfred Emmanuel Beurdeley, Exceptional mantel for Cornelius II Vanderbilt

Sarrancolin marble, patinated and gilt bronze

H. 247 cm; L. 1239 cm, P. 65 cm

Paris, circa 1893

Provenance : Cornelius Vanderbilt II

This Sarrancolin marble mantel adorned with gilt bronzes was made by Alfred Emmanuel Beurdeley (1847-1919) from a model by Pierre Contant d'Ivry (1698 – 1777) circa 1752-1753 for the living room of the duchesse d'Orléans in the Palais Royal and executed in bronze by François-Thomas Germain (1726 - 1791).

Engraving depicting the mantel by Pierre Contant d'Ivry for the living room of the duchesse d'Orléans in the Palais Royal, circa 1752 - 1753

Louis XV style, this Sarrancolin marble mantel depicts in addition of its Rococo decoration of gilt bronze, two putti of patinated bronze patiné sat on each corner of its slab, each one holding in their hands a candalabra with five light harms spurting from a horn of plenty.

The same model of our chimney was exhibited during the great Exhibition of Chicago in 1893, on Alfred Emmanuel Beurdeley's booth. A journalist from the Gazette des Beaux-Arts talked about it in these words: "It would be difficult not to talk (…) about the splendid exhibition of Mr. Beurdeley who sent to Chicago a real museum. It's willingly that we use this word because everything that he exhibits is a work of art". In his not complete list of present works of art, the journalist talks about a Louis XVI chimney made for a very rich American citizen.

engraving published in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1894 depicting the mantel exhibited on the Beurdeley's booth in Chicago in 1893

Portrait of Cornelius Vanderbilt I (daguerreotype)

This very rich American is Cornelius Vanderbilt II(1843 – 1899), the grandson of the famous captain of industry Cornelius Vanderbilt I (1794 – 1877) who spent some time working in the marine transport and then invested in the rapidly growing railroad industry. Born poor and having only a mediocre education, the "Commodore" was very persevering, clever and opportunistic. He became one of the richest Americans of the history. He is also famous because he created the Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street in Manhattan.

His grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, was the owner of our extraordinary concert grand piano. He received $70 millions from his father and $5 millions from his grand-father (because he was his favorite grandson). He worked for the National Shoe and Leather Bank of New York. At the age of 42, he succeeded them as head of the New York Central and related railroad lines. He because de Vanderbilts' household head. He was involved in many organisations including the YMCA, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Trinity Church, St. Bartholomew's Church, Sunday Breakfast Association, and the Newport Country Club. He married Alice Claypoole Gwynne, they had seven children among whom two died at a very young age from an childhood illness for the first one and from the typhoid fever while attending Yale University for the second one. A stroke in 1896 compelled Cornelius Vanderbilt II to reduce his active business involvement. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 12, 1899 at his home.

John Singer Sargent, Cornelius Vanderbilt II,
1890, oil on canva, 76,2 x 58,4 cm, coll. part.

His mansion, built in 1883 at 1 West 57th Street in New York City and demolished after its sale in 1926, is famous because it was the largest private residence ever built in New York City. With its extraordinary architecture and its somptuous interiors, the Vanderbilt Mansion was a perfect example of the Gilded Age. The end of the 19th century was indeed marked by the emergence of great industrial fortunes built by the captains of industry. They nonetheless spearheaded numerous philanthropic activities and had some remarkable art collections. The Vanderbilt Mansion, a veritable French Neo-Renaissance style castle, was the result of unrivalled artistic collaborations. It was built over the vestiges of three brownstone buildings at the West corner of the 57th Street acquired by Cornelius Vanderbilt I in 1877.

Photograph of the Vanderbilt mansion,
Northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City

The first phase of the home was completed in 1882, though by the early 1890s Vanderbilt launched an ambitious renovation which encompassed a massive addition to increase the size of the residence to over 130 rooms. The renovations to the interior equaled that of the exterior and Vanderbilt commissioned designs from the leading American and Parisian firms of the era. Louis Comfort Tiffany designed for him a Moorish-inspired smoking room, Jules Allard was entrusted for the Petit Salon decoration and his Parisian compatriot Gilbert Cuel designed the splendid Grand Salon where our mantel was displayed.

Photograph of the Grand Salon where was displayed our mantel


He also asked the most important Parisian furniture maker of the time Afred Emmanuel Beurdeley (1847-1919) for the creation of our mantel and the one of furniture from Mobilier National models, which became his specialty.


The Beurdeley family is one of the most important furniture makers dynasty in the 19th century. Alfred Emmanuel Louis Beurdeley (1847-1919) was Louis Auguste Alfred’s son (1808 – 1882), his partner ans then successor in 1875. He kept the store at the angle of the rue Louis-le-Grand and boulevard des Italiens – the famous Pavillon de Hanovre – and had his atelier at the 20 and 24 rue Dautancourt. Though he specialized in the production of luxury furniture copied from old models kept in the Mobilier National, he also created some original furniture.

He participated in the International Exhibition in 1878 in Paris and received the gold medal. Next, he became Chevalier de la légion d’honneur thanks to his participation in the International Exhibition of Amsterdam in 1883. He practiced until 1895 then sold his enterprise and his collection composed of more than 2000 pieces.
He kept his business until 1895 then closed it down and sold his collections constitued of more than 2000 pieces.

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