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Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century
Marble and pietra dura table-top
© 2005 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
Louis XIV (1638-1715) ordered the Manufacture des Gobelins to open a hardstone mosaic workshop to compete with Florentine master mosaicists. The tabletop held in the Louvre was made in the Gobelins workshop. The mosaic forms the royal crown and coat of arms. This table, particularly the realism of the birds and landscapes, reflects the sheer quality of work being done in Paris by lapidaries (stone carvers).
The hardstone mosaic workshop in the Manufacture des Gobelins
From the end of the 16th century, hardstone mosaics produced in Florence became fashionable throughout Europe. Louis XIV decided to set up a rival center at the Manufacture des Gobelins in Paris. He enticed Florentine mosaicists to set up in the new workshops, which got underway in 1668. The workshop first was run by Ferdinando Migliorini (died 1683), then by Filippo Branchi (died 1699), before production ceased. The workshop produced both tabletops like this one and decorative mosaics for use in cabinets.
The royal crown and the birds
This tabletop was made using a wide variety of types of marble and semi-precious stones. The finished mosaic forms a picture, unlike those produced in Florence. In the center of the surface, against a background of black marble, is the royal coat of arms, inlaid in agate and lapis lazuli. Above the arms are the royal crown and laurel branches. At the corners of the tabletop, the king's monogram - two interlaced Ls - is also topped by the royal crown. Between these two symbols of royalty are six square panels, each depicting an extremely realistic-looking bird in a landscape with white clouds. This tabletop is very similar to another made for the king in the Gobelins workshops in 1671, described in the inventory of his furniture. It is also very similar to the table that appears in the tapestry The Visit of Louis XIV to the Gobelins, first woven between 1673 and 1679. All of these works bear the mark of the royal crown.
From the project stage to the Louvre
A preliminary watercolor for this tabletop is held in the collection of Robert de Cotte, architect to Louis XIV, in the Prints and Engravings Room in the French National Library. The tabletop was part of the Crown collection under the ancien régime. During the Second Empire it was in the Palais des Tuileries, propped on a wooden console carved and gilded in the Louis XIV style. When the tabletop was moved to the Louvre in 1870, the console was deemed to be in bad taste, and it was replaced in 1873 by the current base, also in gilded wood. This base was the work of two Parisian craftsmen, the sculptor Lemesle and the gilder Bascour, who copied the base of the tabletop MR 405.
BibliographyAlcouffe D., Dion-Tenenbaum A., Lefébure A., Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1993, t.1, p.334-3397 .
Manufacture des Gobelins
Marble and pietra dura table-top
Last quarter of 17th century
W. 1.73 m; D. 1.32 m
Assigned from the Mobilier National, 1870
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