39 Tottenham Ct Rd, London; cabinet maker (b.1718-d.1767)
Pierre Langlois was born in London 10 September 1718, son of Daniel and Jeanne L’Anglois, and was baptised in the French Protestant church in Soho. Lucy Wood has suggested a possible connection with Pierre Langlois who petitioned for English citizenship in 1708 and/or with ‘les sieurs Langlois’, two Parisian artisans (father and son) active in Paris in 1691. Daniel and Jeanne were closely connected to the Huguenot community in London, and so presumably was Pierre. He also had Swedish connections, and occasionally signed his name ‘Petter’ in the Swedish manner. In view of the possible association between Langlois and Sir William Chambers (born in Gothenberg) the Swedish connection acquires great potential significance.
Lucy Wood has also suggested a possible connection between Langlois and Jean-Francois Oeben, with whose work Langlois’s has many similarities. Langlois may have trained with Oeben, or possibly with Oeben’s foreman, the Swede Carl Petter Dahlstrom. These connections remain speculative, and nothing concrete is known of Langlois’ work before 1759. By that time, he was established at 39 Tottenham Court Road, where he produced a wide range of furniture in the French manner, specializing in commodes in the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles decorated with floral marquetry and gilt-bronze mounts. His trade card advertised cabinets and commodes, secretaries, corner cabinets and clock cases ‘Inscrutez de fleurs en Bois et Marqueteries garnies de Bronzes, doreez.’ It is illus. by Heal, but the text, in English (and French) reads: Peter Langlois | CABINET-MAKER | In Tottenham Court Road near Windmill Str. | Makes all Sorts of Fine Cabinets and | Commodes made & inlaid in the Politest manner | with Brass & Tortoiseshell & Likewise all rich Orna- | mental Clock Cases, and Inlaid work mended| with great Care. Branch Chandelier & Lanthorns | in Brass, at the Lowest Prices. | Pierre Langlois Ebeniste | dans Tottenham Court Road Proche Windmill St | Fait touttes sortes de Commodes …’. [Text follows in French the English text above] In the Universal Director, 1763, Thomas Mortimer noted that Langlois made ‘all sorts of curious inlaid work, particularly commodes in the foreign taste, inlaid with tortoiseshell, brass, etc.’. He shared his premises at 39 Tottenham Ct Rd with the bronze caster and gilder Dominique Jean, who probably made the elaborate mounts for his furniture.
Photograph of trade card of Peter Langlois at Tottenham Court Road, near Windmill Street, London, c. 1733-62 [Heal,28.120]. © The Trustees of the British Museum
In 1759 Langlois began to provide furniture for the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey. A pair of commodes paid for in 1767 survives at Woburn, and it has been suggested that these and two others, one at Blenheim and the other in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (the latter signed by Daniel Langlois, Pierre’s son) were designed by Sir William Chambers. Langlois’ other fashionable clientele included Lady Louisa Conolly at Castletown, the Duchess of Northumberland at Alnwick, Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill and the Earl of Coventry at Croome Ct. Surprisingly few bills and references to his work are known but two securely documented pieces of furniture survive: a commode at Woburn (1760) and a commode from Croome Court, now in the MMA, NY (1764).
Commode from Croome Court, Worcestershire, 1764 [MET accession no. 59.127]. Made available by a Creative Commons CCO .1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
P. Thornton and W. Rieder published a series of five articles on Langlois in 1971–72 in which all the bills and documents are quoted, and a body of furniture is attributed to him. They divided the furniture into twelve stylistic groups, based on repeated patterns of marquetry, gilt-bronze mounts, general shape and constructional features. Subsequently the name has been applied rather too generously in the auction rooms, and in the trade, to many pieces of English furniture in the French taste that were more likely executed by several different, still anonymous cabinetmakers.
Langlois business seems to have prospered, and his insurance cover rose from £400 in 1764 to £1,100 in 1766. He died in February 1767 and was probably the ‘John Peter Langlois’ buried at ST Pancras-In-the-Fields on 19 February. His widow Tracey continued to pay rates on the Tottenham Court Road premises until 1773, during which time there were two auctions of the firm’s stock, in 1771 and 1772. At the latter were advertised ‘Some most elegant and matchless Pieces of inlaid work, begun by that famous artist Mr. Peter Langlois, and finished since his decease. In this sale will be exhibited a pleasing variety of commodes, cabinets, dressing-tables &c. inlaid in the antique taste, finely veneered with japan; a most beautiful lady’s secretary, &c. several pieces of the or molu, in figures, candle branches, and various other ornaments, an elegant clock, inlaid with tortoiseshell, by Rimbault, models of ships &c. &c…’
Pierre Langlois’s son Daniel was apprenticed to Pierre’s brother in law, the brass founder Dominique Jean (c.1736-1812)
WOBURN ABBEY, Beds. (4th Duke of Bedford). 1759–60: 1759: 13 Apr: A japan'd fire screen £2.20. 19 May. Une table de vide poche incrusté de fleur de bois violette des indes enjolivée de ornement de bronze dorée du prix de neuf quinée £9.9.0. 1760: 10 Dec. A large inlay'd commode table. £78. 8. 0. [now Yellow Drawing Room at Woburn] ‘Received Decm 18th 1760 of his Grace the Duke of Bedford by Richd Branson, Seventy Eight pounds Eight Shillings in full for a large Inlay'd Commode Table £78: 8: 0. Witness, P. Beaumont [Signed] Pierre Langlois’. 17 Dec. Madame la Duchesse de Bettefort pour une caisse pour emballer la grande commode incrustée (sent to Woburn Abbey) £1. 10. 0. 18 Dec. An Inlay'd writing desk £41.12.0.’ This last piece may have been made for Francis Marquess of Tavistock. Langlois did make furniture for him, for after the Marquess's death in 1767 the list of payments made to his creditors includes one to ‘Veuve Langlois for two comode tables of inlaid wood — £14. 0. 0.’. This perhaps refers to the pair of rectangular commodes now in the so-called Sporting Room at Woburn. It is of interest that at the same time as the widow Langlois was paid, Sir William Chambers was paid 10 guineas for work unspecified: could he have been involved with their design? CROOME COURT, Worcs. (6th Earl of Coventry). 1764. Illus. Thornton & Rieder, pt 3, figs 1–2, p. 176.
Juliette Le 20 1764. Aux tres Honnorable Mon Segner Le Conte De Coventry. Pour une Grande Commode Pour Mettre Des Abit inscrutée de fleur du bois Natturelle des hinde et ornée de bronze Dorée du prix de£55–0–0 Plus pour La Caisse de bois de Pouce£1–5–0 pour deux botte de paille ficele et papier£0–4–4 Le Totale£56–9–4 Le meme jour recu Le Contens de ce billiet en plen et toutte Demende par moy. [Signed] Petter Langlois SHERBORNE, Dorset (7th Lord Digby). 1762: 21 May. To Peter L'Anglois’ £12. 12s. 1764: 23 June. ‘Money paid in London — L'Anglois £23’. STRAWBERRY HILL (Horace Walpole) ‘inlaid writing-box made by Langlois’ listed in Walpole’s Breakfast Room, 1774 (now in the Strawberry Hill collection at Yale). BADMINTON HOUSE (Duke of Beaufort) Bill paid to Langlois in 1763 for £6 5s 6d.
Sources: DEFM; A. Coleridge, ‘Pierre Langlois, His Oeuvre and Some Recent Discoveries’, Gazette des Beaux Arts, September 1967; R. Fastnedge, ‘An Unpublished Commode Attributed to Pierre Langlois’, Furn. Hist., 1967; N. Goodison, ‘Langlois and Dominique’, Furn. Hist., 1968; T. Dell, ‘A Langlois Commode’, V & A Bulletin, April 1968; P. Thornton and W. Rieder, ‘Pierre Langlois, Ebéniste’, pts 1–5, Conn., December 1971, February—May 1972; W. Rieder, ‘More on Pierre Langlois’, Conn., September 1974]; Wood, ‘New Light on Pierre Langlois (1718-1767), FHS Newsletter (November 2014).