Jean-Pierre Latz (c. 1691 – Paris, 4 August 1754 ) was one of the handful of truly outstanding cabinetmakers (ébénistes) working in Paris in the mid-18th century. Like several of his peers in the French capital, he was of German origin. His furniture is in a fully developed rococo style, employing boldly sculptural gilt-bronze mounts complementing marquetry motifs of flowers and leafy sprays, in figured tropical veneers like tulipwood, amarante, purpleheart and rosewood, often featuring the distinctive end-grain cuts. He also produced lacquered pieces, most famously the slant-front desk in the collection of Stavros Niarchos, Paris.
The son of a certain Walter Latz, Jean-Pierre was born near Cologne, where he must have received his training, for when he settled in Paris in 1719, where he was received into the cabinetmakers' guild, he was aged twenty-six. He always retained a certain German weightiness to his designs. When the practice of stamping the carcasses of furniture was introduced in Paris, Latz was already in full career. Nevertheless, his style is individual enough that a range of unstamped case furniture, writing tables and especially clock cases, his specialty, with close stylistic connections to stamped pieces, can be attributed to his workshop. In some cases, carcases by Latz were veneered with marquetry in the shop of Jean-François Oeben, or, possibly, by Roger Vandercruse Lacroix.
In May 1736 Latz was naturalized as a French citizen. In 1741 he was appointed ébéniste privilegié du Roi, a court appointment under royal warrant that should have freed him from certain Parisian guild restrictions. Robust and sculptural gilt-bronze mounts that show technical virtuosity in casting and the chasing of their surfaces are a consistent feature of Latz' identified work, and in this vein Henry Hawley has noted that he was investigated in December 1749 by the Paris guild of workers in metal (Communauté des fondeurs), for casting and chasing mounts in his own workshop, a privilege that was normally reserved to the metalworkers' guild. In spite of his warrant as ébéniste privilegié, all his bronze-chasing tools were confiscated and, what must have been an overwhelming loss, a thousand models for bronze mounts. Some of his furniture mounts can be dated 1745-49 by the tiny "crowned c" tax stamp they bear, that was in effect only during those years; an example is Latz' commode in the Cincinnati Art Museum.
Latz specialised in clock cases. In the documentation of the 1736 raid, 236 clock cases or parts of clock cases, including sculpted models for complete clocks, mounts and dial elements, and sculptural figures in bronze were impounded.
He counted numerous foreign clients, among them Frederick II of Prussia, for whom was conceived Latz's grandest piece, a richly mounted clock, Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, Count Heinrich von Brühl and Madame Elisabeth, Louis XV's favourite daughter, married to the Duke of Parma. At the time of his marriage in 1739, most unusually, the marriage contract was witnessed by two grand personages, Sister Marie-Gabrielle-Eléanor de Bourbon-Condé, abbess of the Abbaye Royale de Saint-Antoine, a princesse du Sang, and another abbess of a distinguished family, Jeanne de Rohan. Henry Hawley has suggested that such contacts would have provided a useful entrée at court.
After his death in 1754, his widow Marie-Madeleine continued the extensive workshops, holding his desirable brevet of marchand-ébéniste privilegié du roi suivant la cour; at her death two years later (7 December 1756), their only son having died as an infant, the shop was dispersed and the warrant passed to Pierre Macret. Latz' name, never mentioned in 18th-century Parisian sale catalogues, fell into complete obscurity after his death; his career was reconstructed in the 20th century, beginning with the comte de Salverte.
- Date in Geoffrey de Bellaigue, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes II 1974:876; the inventory after his decease is dated 9 August 1754.
- "An extremely fine craftsmen... amongst the most distinguished practitioners of the early Louis XV style" according to Francis J.B. Watson, adding "It is a measure of his standing that the valuation of the contents of his workshop after his death was undertaken by Charles Cressent and Pierre Joubert... who were joined in the task by Cressent's own bronze caster, Jacques Confesseur" (Watson, The Wrightsman Collection: Furniture, Gilt Bronze and Mounted Porcelain II, 1966:551f); André Boutemy, Meubles français anonymes du xviiie siècle (1973:11ff), in reattributing to Latz the four sets of commodes paired with corner cabinets made for Madame Elisabeth for Colorno, near Parma, now at the Quirinal, of which one commode is stamped by Latz, mentions among other Latz pieces the "superbes encoignures de Madame Burat— dignes de la perfection à laquelle Oeben a porté les marqueteries de fleurs", high praise indeed.
- The standard monograph is Henry Hawley, "Jean-Pierre Latz, cabinetmaker", Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, (September-October 1970); see also Hawley, "A Reputation Revived, Jean-Pierre Latz, Cabinet- maker", Connoisseur, 203 (1979:176-82); further details are in Geoffrey de Bellaigue 1974:876f.
- Latz was born near Cologne, Bellaigue 1974:876. Other ébénistes of German origin included the royal cabinetmaker Jean Henri Riesener; Adam Weisweiler, Maurice-Bernard Evald, Martin Carlin, the Swede P.-H. Mewesen and Joseph Gegenbach, called Canabas, are also noted in this context by Sven Eriksen, Early Neo-Classicism in France, 1974:132; Jean-François Oeben, Guillaume Kemp, Guillaume Beneman, Mathieu-Guillaume Cramer and Joseph Baumhauer might be added. In the 1780s David Roentgen maintained a Parisian showroom.
- Watson 1966:552.
- Bellaigue 1974:876.
- Gillian Wilson, Clocks: French eighteenth-century clocks in the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976:41; a planisphere, formerly with works by Abraham Fortier, in a marquetry case by Latz, and two pairs of corner cabinets are in the Getty Museum collection.
- "A Germanic taste for plastic, three-dimensional forms", according to Sherman Lee (in The Cleveland Museum of Art 1973);
- A cartel clock case with its matching wall bracket at the Art Institute of Chicago (acc. no. 1975.172 ab) was attributed to Latz and dated c 1735-40 by Henry Hawley; the Cleveland Museum of Art also has a longcase clock (acc. no. 49.200) veneered with tortoiseshell and brass marquetry, stamped by Latz and dated 1744 but completed after 1745, as not all its mounts are stamped with the crowned c (Hawley 1970; Bellaigue 1974).
- Three pieces at Waddesdon Manor (Bellaigue 1974) illustrate this process, no. 11, a long case clock with a movement by a member of the Cronier family of Parisian clockmakers, ca 1750, its case stamped I·P·LATZ and mounts with the crowned c; no. 82, a mechanical table with a case of drawers rising on a spring, ca 1755, stamped by Latz or his widow using his maindron and boldly restamped in a drawer by Denis Genty, apparently acting as a dealer; no. 88, a writing table (bureau plat) ca 1745, veneered with ebony and richly mounted with gilt-bronzes recognized on stamped pieces by Latz, some of those related mounts being stamped with the crowned c, providing the approximate date.
- For example the two pairs of corner cabinets (encoignures) in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Gillian Wilson, et al. Summary Catalogue of European decorative arts in the J. Paul Getty Museum, nos 36, 37).
- Bellaigue 1974:396f notes a mechanical table with a carcass and construction identical to the stamped Latz table at Waddesdon Manor that is stamped by Oeben's brother-in-law Roger Vandercruse, called Lacroix, in the Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris (cat. no. 343).
- Comte François de Salverte, Les ébénistes parisiens du xviiie siècle (1927:197 n. 7), s.v. "Latz, Jean-Pierre".
- Wilson 1974.
- Hawley 1970:7.
- The document and Latz' inventories were analyzed by Hawley 1970.
- The Collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum, 2000:220.
- Latz's "most important piece", Watson 1966:551.
- Latz' workshop and dwelling were nearby in the Grand rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine (Bellaigue 1974:877).
- Hawley 1970:274.
- Charles Cressent, also an eminent maker of sculptural clockcases in gilt-bronze, was one of the compilers of the inventory, which comprised 170 clock cases and 48 pieces of veneered cabinetwork, as well as 63 bronze figures intended to garnish clocks and pieces of furniture. In his wife's inventory there were models in wax and lead for clocks and ornaments.(Bellaigue 1974:876f).
- Marie-Magdeleine Seignat (marriage contracted 3 May 1739) the daughter of a successful speculative builder who provided his daughter with 10,000 livres, was his second wife; his first wife had been Marguerite Gruneken (?), a native of Waltmel in the bishopric of Liège (Bellaigue 1974:876).
- Nine workbenches were recorded in 1754, seven in 1756 (Bellaigue 1974).
- Bellaigue 1974:876; Anne Odom, Liana Paredes Arend, A Taste for Splendor: Russian imperial and European treasures from the Hillwood Museum, (exhibition catalogue) 1998:190 (cat. no. 92).