These guéridons are after the model by François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (1770-1841). The son of Georges Jacob (1739-1814), celebrated seat-furniture maker to the court of Louis XVI, Jacob-Desmalter, took over his father's business with his older brother in 1796. When his brother died six years later, Jacob-Desmalter hired his father back as his partner and began to develop one of the largest furniture workshops in Paris, securing extensive commissions from Napoleon and the Empress Josephine.
The design for the guéridons is based upon a drawing reproduced by the publisher Pierre Antoine Leboux de la Mésangère (1761-1831) in his celebrated periodical Collection des Meubles et Objets de Gozût (plate 11, 1802-3). Three period examples have been recorded, each a subtle variant of this design: one in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, with circular base and lacking the central basket. Another, photographed in 1914 in the antichambre of Sir Richard Wallace's Paris residence at 2 rue Laffitte, apparently with modified eagles lacking their sphere-perches and without an elevated top. Lastly, one has appeared recently at auction, with circular base, but without the central basket or elevated top (Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 4 December 2007, lot 94).
The present fine examples date from the Empire revival of the 1880s and are the work of Parisian bronzier Henry Vian. Specializing almost exclusively in gilt-bronze, Vian produced articles of the highest quality, so much so that the style of his casting and gilding can often be mistaken for earlier work. The firm's output was concerned principally with the production of light-fittings, making this pair of guéridons inspired by Jacob-Desmalter's celebrated model highly unusual.