This type of table, known in the 18th Century as a table en cabaret or cabaret, was intended for drinking tea, chocolate and coffee. Introduced into France in the late 17th Century, the great luxuries of tea, chocolate and coffee became hugely fashionable, so firing the imagination of the marchands-merciers to create furniture appropriate for their consumption. Usually incorporating a lacquer, porcelain or faience top - all of which could tolerate the heat - the bases were usually either lacquered or gilded. Such a table belonged to the marquis de Marigny and possibly also to Madame de Pompadour:-
'une table à café en bois de rose de 27 po par 18 po de large avec plateau en laque, tiroirs et tablette dessous la dite table'.
In France the fashion for copying far Eastern goods originated in the mid 17th century, but it was the Martin brothers who perfected a method for the imitation of lacquer involving successive layers of white chalk, paint and varnish. They received the first of several royal patents in 1730 and by 1748 their establishment had been appointed Manufacture Royale. They undertook the decoration of entire rooms at Versailles, and while their output included a large quantity of superb furniture, they produced everthing from small domestic objects to sedan chairs and carriages.
The decoration of this table is strongly reminiscent of the work of Pierre Macret who, while never achieving the status of master, received in 1756 the warrant of marchand-ébéniste priviligié du roi suivant la cour. He produced colourful lacquered and chinoiserie decorated furniture, including a bureau in red, gold and black lacquer illustrated in Perry Rathbone, The Forsyth Wickes Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1968, p.45. Other pieces combining red and black lacquer include a pair of encoignures by BVRB, illustrated in T.Wolfesperges, Le Meuble Francais en Laque au XVIII Siècle, Paris, 1999, no.95, p.204, York, 24 May 2001, and a vernis Martin commode by Jean Desforges sold Christie's, New York, 21 May 1996, lot 337.