Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century
Round table with porphyry top
© 1999 RMN
The table is composed of a large porphyry top supported on a gilded wooden leg carved with four busts of children. The top was part of the furniture belonging to Nicolas Fouquet, the king's finance minister. Aftrer the king had acquired Fouquet's collection, the leg was made by Philippe Caffiéri. Very few pieces of furniture from the reign of Louis XIV have come down to us: they were either melted down or sold in the eighteenth century, so this is a very rare example of the Sun King's furniture.
The Gobelins workshop
The Louvre table, whose top comes from the Fouquet collection, was made in the Gobelins factory in Paris, where different workshops and guilds were grouped together under the direction of the painter Charles Le Brun (1619-90). There were weavers, gold and silversmiths, a mosaic workshop, and cabinetmakers. During the reign of Louis XIV, a whole team worked together on producing monumental cabinetwork under the direction of the cabinetmaker Domenico Cucci. As well as cabinetmakers like Cucci, Pierre Gole, and André Charles Boulle, woodcarvers also made a significant contribution to creating a new style under Louis XIV, for which the tone was set mainly by Charles Le Brun.
Of Italian origin and father to a generation of woodcarvers, Philippe Caffiéri was for many years one of the most highly esteemed carvers and decorators in the service of Louis XIV. Working in collaboration with gilders, particularly La Baronnière, he supplied countless pieces of furniture in carved and gilded wood to the royal palaces. Caffiéri's activities were very extensive. In particular, he worked on the furnishing of the Trianon de Porcelaine (1670) and on the apartment of baths at the château de Versailles (1677), as well as supplying woodcarvings for Marly (1685). It was in 1669 that, on the orders of Louis XIV, who had acquired the porphyry table top four years earlier, Caffiéri made the leg out of carved and gilded wood.
A piece marked by the Louis XIV style
Nicolas Fouquet must have commissioned this table with the intention of having a support made for it, but his fall from favor meant that he did not have time to do this. The tabletop measures one meter forty-five in diameter; because it is so large and heavy, it needed a very solid means of support. The leg is made up of a central column, decorated with acanthus leaves and resting on four lion's paws, which is connected both at top and base to four half-figures of children emerging from the lion's paws. Lion's paws and acanthus leaves were recurring motifs in Louis XIV furniture, as were figures of children on plinths. They were frequently found in garden statuary, notably on the water pyramid in the gardens at Versailles. Although no sketches have been preserved, the design of this piece can be attributed to Charles Le Brun as it shows all the marks of his style. Indeed, furniture in gilded wood had become a timely solution to replace furniture in cast silver, as it still kept its sumptuous appearance but freed up funds to support the War of the League of Augsburg (1686-97).
BibliographyLusingh Scheuleer Th. H., in Mélanges Verlet : Studi sulle arti decoratio in Europa, Antologia di belle Arti, 1985, pp. 27-28.
Manufacture des Gobelins
Round table with porphyry top
D. : 1,45 m. ; H. : 1,91 m.
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