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Jean Baptiste Courte (20 September 1749 - 28 April 1843)

Jean-Baptiste Courte, alternatively known as Kurt, was born on September 20, 1749, and departed this world on April 28, 1843. Esteemed as a master cabinetmaker, Courte’s craftsmanship reached its pinnacle in Dijon, where he was officially recognized on September 20, 1777. His creations bear a notable resemblance to those of his contemporary, Jean Demoulin, with a particular emphasis on Louis XVI style commodes and secretaire desks.

Originating from Meidelsen, Germany, Courte’s early life was shaped by his father’s trade as a carpenter, a vocation steeped in the Protestant tradition. The transformation of his surname from Kurt to Courte marked a significant milestone in his journey.

Upon earning his master’s degree in 1777, Courte embarked on his professional journey, which was inaugurated by a payment of 15 livres for the rights to practice and establish his trade. His workshop found its home in Dijon, initially on Rue Charrue before relocating to Rue Piron. His marriage to Philippe Sesseley’s daughter, a fellow cabinetmaker, further honed his expertise.

Courte’s legacy is carried forward by his two sons, Pierre and Antoine, and his nephews, Jean and Nicolas, although they did not achieve the dynastic stature of the Demoulin family.

Catherine Gras notes that Courte’s furniture shares aesthetic affinities with that of Jean Demoulin, yet it remains unclear if their creations were the result of collaboration. Courte’s signature mark, “COURTE,” can be found on the base of commode legs or near the locks on drawer exteriors, signifying his mastery over Louis XVI marquetry, particularly in commodes and commode desks.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon houses exemplary pieces of Courte’s work, including a Louis XVI chest of drawers characterized by three tiers of drawers adorned with simple marquetry fillets and another chest with two leaves mimicking drawers, featuring a concealed crosspiece and a butterfly-wing frieze veneer.

For further reading on this topic, the following sources are invaluable:

  • “L’ébénisterie provinciale en France au XVIIIe siècle et Abraham Nicolas Couleru” by Bernard Deloche and Jean-Yves Mornand, Éditions Faton, 2011.
  • “Le Mobilier Français du XVIIIème Siècle” by Pierre Kjellberg, Les Éditions de l’Amateur, 2002.
  • “Demoulin et Courte, Ébénistes Dijonnais” by Catherine Gras, L’Estampille, June 1980.

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