An oval table on four diagonally placed, tapered legs, with an inlaid table top with a ormolu gallery and a drawer in the frieze. The legs are mounted at the bottom in ormolu sabots with fields, the sabots on round legs which are decorated with a laurel leaf motif. Under the frieze feet on three sides are decorated with gilt bronze fittings in the shape of a bay leaf rosette with a pending leave garland.
The frieze shows above the legs ormolu bronze fittings of a rosette within a rectangular frame. Between the legs are ormolu bronze fittings of an "entrelac" or guilloche list with leaf and flower rosettes and acanthus. The table top is around the circumference of an ormolu band. A three-quarter circular, open work gallery ensures that no single object can fall from the table.
The table top itself is along the edge decorated with a wide band of marquetry with the same decorative motif as the fire-gilded bronze on the frieze: an entrelac with leaf and flower rosettes and acanthus. In the middle of the leaf is within a gilt bronze frame with a bonded decoration, overlapping leaf pearl inside edges, a pietra dura plaque depicting a bird on a branch with flowers and a butterfly.
Such small tables could be found in the 18th century in almost all the rooms and they are called today coffee tables. They were by Empress Catherine the Great of Russia (1729-1796, czarina from 1762), often used as a writing table when she was involved in the identification and description of her extensive collection of gems and cameos. Using this type of table as a writing table was not just a habit of the czarina, also in France where this type of table arose; such small tables were used as such. Other purposes for these highly practical, tables were also common. For example to display candelabra’s, small clocks or other beautiful objects.
Catherine the Great encouraged the arts, culture and science in Russia by creating a great art collection. She bought through her agents in Western Europe at times entire collections when they came on the market and built, to house her collections, the Hermitage palace in St. Petersburg. But Catherine not only pulled collections to Petersburg, also craftsmen in various fields, including carpentry, temporarily came to St. Petersburg and had great influence on the quality and design of the furniture in the region.
This oval coffee table is both in its type in form and effect - with marquetry and fine gilt bronze fittings - very French inspired.
Private collection, Belgium
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