"Table Des Joyes"
"Trone Salon Secret" armchair
"Trone Salon Secret" armchair detail
From an article by Michael Reynolds in Wallpaper magazine, October 2013:
As the Wehrmacht steamrolled in every conceivable direction throughout Europe during the Second World War, bringing death, destruction and misery with it wherever it went, somehow, miraculously, it found time to shop. Shopping, in this case, being a relative term - the German army feverishly plundered Europe from East to West, snatching up as many masterpieces of fine art and antiques as it could get its greedy little hands on.The pieces are available through Cote France, New York [or at least they were at the time of this article in 2013] - $269,000 for the chair; $159,000 for the table.
One great vanishing act to emerge from this sordid tale of wartime looting involves the disappearance of a fabled suite of erotic furniture belonging to its famously libidinous 18th-century daughter, Catherine the Great. The same Catherine whose lustful life was an open secret and whose reign was populated with as many as 13 lovers (her final paramour Platon Zubov being a positively geriatric 22 years of age, while she was a youthful 60).
Shortly after the siege of Leningrad in 1941, German officers raided the Czarina's summer palace, best known as the Catherine Palace, and upon entry into her private chambers stumbled across what one can only imagine would have been any healthy teenage Nazi's wet dream. Her boudoir was adorned with erotically carved wooden panels and pieces of furniture, all embellished with sexually graphic motifs. When the German forces finally retreated from Russia in 1944, they deliberately destroyed the historic palace, leaving behind only its hollow shell and no clue as to the whereabouts of its contents. The secret erotic furnishings of Russia's most renowned Empress had disappeared without trace.
Fast-forward seven decades to the present and a discovery was made, but not one that solved the mystery of the missing furniture. Instead, it was a discovery that would stimulate the imagination of illustrious French furniture factory Henryot & Cie and its manager Dominique Roitel. After procuring a copy of Bernard Gip's book The Passions and Lechery of Catherine the Great, Roitel had a brilliant idea - to create flawless, quality, hand-carved reproductions of the late Empress's missing erotic furniture. After closely referencing images from the book, as well as archival drawings and photos taken by the German military during the war (the latter made accessible to them by filmmaker Peter Woditsch, best known for his documentary The Lost Secret of Catherine the Great), Henryot embarked full throttle on its mission. The first two pieces to be reproduced are a round, phallic-based table and a coitally-encrusted armchair.
...And what of the fate of the originals? We may never know. One can only imagine that they are hidden away in some Bavarian castle, routinely oiled by some octogenarian military crow. Because old wood - as I am sure Catherine would attest, were she alive today - needs plenty of oil.
Fit for a Queen!
Eight things you didn't know about Catherine the Great.