Album of designs for decorative metalwork, including swords and firearms

Object Title

Album of designs for decorative metalwork, including swords and firearms

Album of designs for decorative metalwork, including swords and firearms


1770 - 1820





Scope and Content

A folio album of predominantly neo-classical French designs for decorative metalwork, including jewellery, keys and trinkets, as well as sword hilts and blades, and firearms parts. The designs are in several different hands and the album was probably kept by a workshop which supplied fine goldsmith's work to order. It seems to have been compiled between about 1770 and 1820, and then to have been used as a less specific scrap book of ornament and interior decoration for another few decades. Some of the designs can be identified with work produced by Biennais for the Bonaparte family, but there are also drawings labelled as being for the lances of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, which are annotated that they are to be signed 'Tathum & Egg'.


1 album

Physical Characteristics / Technical Requirements

110 pages, with about 930 drawings, 146 prints and 663 pulls. Bound into a 17th century binding for a religious book.

Access Conditions

Open access

Administrative / Biographical History

Martin-Guillaume Biennais received master tabletier in Paris in 1788, he moved to rue Saint-Honoré, under the sign of the purple monkey , where he will make his entire career, enjoying the proximity of the Palais des Tuileries for his orders. He expanded his activities to cabinetmaking, then under the Consulate, to goldsmithery. He became Napoleon Bonaparte's goldsmith, obtaining the exclusive supplies for the Emperor's table in 1802, and retired from business in 1821. He is buried in the Père-Lachaise Cemetery (57th Division) .

His widow, Marie-Anne Gaudin, bought a property in 1843 in Yerres, where she installed a piece of furniture created for her own use by her husband. Subsequently, this house became, with its furniture, the property of the Caillebotte family, including the painter Gustave Caillebotte . It was transformed into a museum by the municipality, but without its furniture, in the twentieth century. Luckily, the entire furniture designed by Biennais for his room was found during the sale of the Balkany collection at Sotheby's on September, and presented for the Caillebotte museum.

Source: Wikipedia. French