Charles Christofle (d. 1863) took over his brother-in-law's bijouterie-joaillerie 'Maison Calmette' in 1831, and changed its name to 'Société Charles Christofle & Cie'. Following the invention of electro-metallurgy techniques by the English firm Elkington & Co., Christofle turned away from jewellery and, from 1844, concentrated on the production of large-scale works in electroplate, solid silver and gilt-bronze. Shortly thereafter, Christofle was appointed Fournisseur officiel du Roi Louis-Philippe, and in 1855, Fournisseur de l'Empereur. Christofle supplied fine quality pieces, predominantly table-wares, to the various palaces and ministerial offices of Napoleon III. Charles was succeeded by his son Paul and his nephew Henri Bouilhet, and under their direction, the firm exhibited at the major international exhibitions throughout the 19th century.
Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie commissioned various silver plated centrepieces from Christofle to ornament the tables of the spectacular Imperial dinners given during the 1860s, however many were destroyed by the burning of the Tuileries in 1871. Maximillian (1832-1867), Emperor of Mexico, commissioned a Christofle service even more lavish that that of the Emperor of the French. Like the present examples (lots 73 & 74), each of Maximillian's centrepieces includes one, two or three putti engaged in bucolic activities. For his centrepieces Christofle shrewdly offered elements which could be combined by a client to create unique ensembles. One of Maximillian's centrepieces, like lot 74, features a large cartouche formed by two Louis XV branches or 'rinceaux' enclosing two putti and supporting an identical pierced basket (in the Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico City, and illustrated in The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Second Empire: Art in France under Napoleon III, 1978, p.129 pl. III.4).