Sunday, September 29, 2013

Her Majesty’s Furniture: The Table of the Grand Commanders, 1806-1812

Table of the Grand Commanders
French 1806-1812
A gift to King George IV while Prince Regent
from King Louis XVIII
Originally made for Napoleon
The Royal Collection

Acquired by King George IV while still Prince Regent, this table would have greatly appealed to the Prince Regent’s great love of all things French and of anything connected to Versailles. Originally, this remarkable piece of furniture was known as the Table des Grands Capitaines. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, the table was initially intended to be part of a set of four impressive and important presentation tables designed to immortalize the reign of the French Emperor.

The surface is comprised almost entirely of hard-paste Sèvres porcelain and was six years in the making due to the technically-challenging nature of the workmanship which includes an internal wooden structure to support the revolving top.

The gingerly and painstakingly painted porcelain sections are the work of the Sèvres artists Louis-Bertin Parant (active 1806-41) and Antoine Béranger (active 1808-48), with the ornate, chased gilt bronze mounts having been supplied by Pierre-Philippe Thomire.

The rotating top has been painted to imitate sardonyx, serving as a frame for the portrait heads and painted scenes in cameo style. The head of Alexander the Great takes center stage, surrounded by 12 smaller “cameos” of other historical commanders and philosophers including: Scipio Africanus, Pompey, Augustus, Septimus Severus, Constantine, Trajan, Caesar, Mithridates, Hannibal, Themistocles and Militiades.

The table was a gift from King Louis XVIII to the Prince Regent. By far, it was the most important gift given to George IV by the indebted French King, two years after the defeat of Napoleon. George IV held this piece in such high regard that he insisted that the table be employed as part of the ceremonial backdrop for all his official state portraits.

No comments: