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Table-top inlaid with marble and pietra dura mosaic

© 2005 RMN / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Decorative Arts
17th century

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

Hardstone mosaic was very fashionable during the seventeenth century. Mosaic table-tops were purchased by the Crown collection as well as by the Cardinal de Richelieu (1581-1642) for his own collection. This table, composed of a large number of different types of stone and marble, comes from the Château de Richelieu in Indre-et-Loire. The design of the mosaic, with no flowers or animals, indicates that it is an Italian work.

A non-figurative work of art

This rectangular table-top is decorated with an oval central motif around an alabaster plaque. This plaque is festooned and edged with brocatelle set with oval motifs in alabaster, alternating with black marble and fleurons of brocatelle. These are framed by a scrolled cartouche within a rectangle of black marble decorated with polychrome fleurons and palmettes. The whole is edged with a frieze of pelta shields in black marble, lapis lazuli, and jasper, on a brocatelle ground. These geometric shapes identify the table as the work of the sixteenth century; the seventeenth century favoured figurative motifs such as birds and flowers.

A table famous in the Ancien Régime

This table was part of Cardinal Richelieu's collection in his chateau in Indre-et-Loire, built by the architect Lemercier. It is described with lavish praise in the guide entitled Le Château de Richelieu (Saumur, 1676), written by the chateau's guardian, Benjamin Vignier. It is similar to another marble mosaic table made for Cardinal Alexander Farnese some time after 1565, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

A nineteenth-century base

The table attracted the attention of the revolutionary commissioners, who confiscated it for the Central Museum - which later became the Louvre. The base in gilded wood is in the Louis XIV style. The club, figure in profile, and dead lion represent Hercules. It dates from before 1841, when a picture of the table was included in the magazine Le Magasin Pittoresque. A similar table base can be seen in the museum of Compiègne.

Bibliography

Alcouffe D., Dion-Tenenbaum A., Lefébure A., Le Mobilier du Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1993, p.332-333.
Gonzales-Palacios A., Il Tempio del Gusto, Milan, 1982, t.1 p.88 et t.2 p.91.

Technical description

  • Rome? (last quarter of the 16th century)

    Table-top inlaid with marble and pietra dura mosaic

  • Carved and gilded wood support (early 19th century)

    W. 1.99 m; D. 1.32 m

  • Provenance: castle of Richelieu
    Confiscated during the Revolution, 1800 , 1800

    MR 405

  • Decorative Arts

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Galerie d'Apollon
    Room 705

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