This highly unusual, possibly unique, games-table is a tour de force of the consummate design and craftsmanship of François Linke's atelier. The most celebrated ébénistes Parisiens of the belle-époque had a unique ability to combine all the verve and skill of their ancien régime predecessors with the demands of modern living. There is perhaps no better an example of this ability than the present lot. At first sight, apparently merely a fine games-table of standard construction, with an elaborate marquetry top, scrolled apron and slender cabriole legs, it transforms into a table à jeux complete with roulette wheel and backgammon board.
In typical style Linke, this games-table is a fusion of Louis XV rococo with the latest Art Nouveau. The marquetry top of harp and music sheets between crossed oak and laurel branches is directly inspired by the eighteenth century work of Oeben and Riesener's bureau du roi. Linke often drew marquetry directly from such master-models and even the colours, which were then already faded by a century of exposure, were faithfully reproduced by the marqueteur. Here the marquetry is comparable to Linke's best: the shadows cast by the leaves are intricately replicated in the satiné ground and the swept-foliage framed frieze is highlighted by playful rocaille sprays. The caryatid clasps to the corners with their laced-bodices and ruffle collars are most unusual. Apparently rare, they also appear on a tiered table è thé shown in a cliché reproduced in C. Payne. François Linke, 1855-1946 - The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, 2003 (p. 239, pl. 255).
François Linke (d. 1946) was one of the most celebrated ébénistes of his time. Born in Pankraz, Bohemia, Linke moved to Paris in 1875 and six years later established independent ateliers at 170, rue de Faubourg St. Antoine. As was the practice among contemporaries and noteworthy predecessors, such as Alfred Beurdeley and Henry Dasson, Linke initially produced furniture derived from styles popular during the 18th century ancien régime. By 1900, his worldwide reputation as an individualistic master of high quality furniture was already established. However, with a huge display, placing his extravagant pieces in room settings and winning the Médaille d'Or for his Grand Bureau, Linke's participation in the Paris 1900 exhibition was to be the pinnacle of his career, and prompted critics, such as Charles Dambreuse, to comment: L'Exposition de la maison Linke est le gros événement de l'histoire du meuble d'art en l'an de grâce 1900 (see C. Dambreuse, L'Art Industriel à l'Exposition de Meuble de Style - M. F. Linke, in Revue Artistique & Industrielle, Paris, July-August, 1900). Linke's international acclaim following the 1900 exhibition afforded him a high degree of financial stability, not only allowing him to establish a large showroom on the fashionable place Vendôme, but also to pursue new and further distant markets by exhibiting at other international shows. These included the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, where he was again awarded a gold medal, Liège in 1905 and the Franco-British exhibition in London in 1908.