The painter Edouard Lièvre (Blamont 1829- Paris 1886) trained in Thomas Couture's atelier and devoted himself to the industrial arts, in particular furniture. Towards the late 1870s, worried by the lack of manufacturing of the pieces he had designed earlier, Lièvre created a fabulous suite of neo-Japanese furniture for Albert Vieillard (1841-1895), the renowned director of Bordeaux's ceramics manufactory. It was Vieillard's keen interest for Japan that inspired Lièvre's highly original designs. The most celebrated piece of this suite is the Cabinet Japonais, now in the Musée d'Orsay, inset with a painting depicting a Samouraï on a horse, by Edouard Detaille. At the same time, Lièvre created a parade bed, in both the Renaissance and neo-classical styles, for the notorious courtesan Valtesse de La Bigne (now in the Musée des Arts Decoratifs). After Edouard Lièvre's death, his sketches and plans, together with their reproduction rights, were sold in both 1887 and 1890, some of which were purchased by George and Henry Pannier, the then directors of the luxurious store Escalier de Cristal, who specialised in creations of 'Sino-Japanese' style. They re-edited part of Vieillard's furniture, making slight alterations. Without any inventory of Albert Vieillard's furniture, it is difficult to ascertain if the present lot was made for him or manufactored by Escalier de Cristal after Lièvre's death.
The iconography present on the pedestal refers to the four Japanese divinely constituted creatures: the Mino-game (or tortoise), emblem of longevity; the Ho-o (or phoenix), the appearance of which is regarded as an auspicious sign heralding the advent of a great and glorious ruler; the Kirin, emblem of perfect goodness and the paragon of virtue and wisdom; and the Tatsu (or dragon), symbolic of water. Also depicted are the four Japanese cranes (black, yellow, white and blue), or Tsuru, chiefly regarded as emblems of longevity and as such frequently associated with the tortoise. These birds were protected by Imperial decree which forbade their killing, unless it was with express permission, as they were believed to be the bearers of good-luck and long life, a status which won for them the honorific title O Tsuru Sama, or 'Honourable Lord Crane'.