Adam Weisweiler, 1744-1820, received maître in 1778.
Charles-Eloi Asselin, 1743-1804
This table, originally from a collection of the marquis de Balbi-Piovera is first mentioned in an inventory of the marquis' property, taken posthumously at his house, 18, rue du Joubert on 24 July 1832. Although no longer in existence, these archival documents were published in the former Christie's catalogues, and it was there described as 'petite table à dessus de porcelaine - ancien Sèvres'. The hypothesis of this provenance is further confirmed by the presence of Italian customs marks under the table.
The marquis of an ancient and well-known Genoese family, formerly Doges of Genoa, was presumably related to Giacomo Francesco Maria Balbi, Marchese di Piovera, whose son Giacomo (1800- 1878) was a luminary of the Risorgimento. From the evidence of the inventory, the marquis, apparently an artist himself, had a collection of pictures (Rembrandt, Carracci, Titian etc.), furniture, bronzes and porcelain of some refinement.
The suggestion of a link with Marie-Antoinette is open to question. However, if this Balbi was related, as seems certain, to the most celebrated Balbi of his day, the comtesse de Balbi (1758-1842), a Royal provenance is not impossible.
MADAME DE BALBI
The father of Anne Jacobée de Caumont La Force was first court gentilhomme of the comte de Provence, brother of louis XVI. Not terribly charming, she seemed to have a strong character "elle possédait un visage où se lisait la fureur de la passion et l'ardeur de l'intelligence". The young aristocrat and Jacobé de Caumont La Force (1758-1842), married on the 6th of May 1776, François-Marie-Armand de Balbi (1752-1835), grandson of a Doge of Genoa. They had only one son, Jean Luc Jérôme. Soon after, the husband was sent to the hôpital de la charité in Senlis, and countess Balbi was set free. After a long platonic liaison she became in 1780 the recognized mistress of Monsieur. Lavishly installed in the Palais du Luxembourg, which was the residence given for life by Louis XVI to his brother, she was given an apartement in the aile gauche at Versailles. Shortly after, he built a pavillon for the comtesse in the park, designed by Chalgrin. Some of the furniture from this building survives, including a suite of seat-furniture delivered by Georges Jacob in 1785.
When in 1791 Madame de Balbi emigrated to Coblenz, she kept a status close to that of being a queen, until she came back to France in 1802 and was retired to Montauban by her brother. She came back to Paris and Versailles after 1815.
If the Balbi origin is confirmed, did she buy the table herself? Interestingly, the countess owed the large sum of 1122 livres to the marchand-mercier Daguerre for an unidentified purchase, certainly before 1789, and it is most likely that it is Daguerre who retailed this table.
Had she offered the table to a nephew as a wedding present ? This would then mean that the table would have remained with her descendants in Italy.
This same frieze mount was also employed on the Sèvres porcelain- mounted table by Weisweiler in the musée du Louvre (OA 11927, dation Baron Edmond de Rothschild), illustrated in D. Alcouffe et al., Furniture Collections in the Louvre, Dijon, 1993, no.98, pp.292-293, and in Revue du Louvre, April 1991, fig.20. This table, formerly in the Balfour Collection was sold in these Rooms, 17 July 1930, lot 55. This latter table, its plaque undated but with sales label for 132 livres, was also probably supplied by Daguerre to the English market and was formerly in the collection of the Earl Balfour, Whittingehame, Scotland. A similar design was also employed by Weisweiler on the table sold from the Alexander Collection, Christie's New York, 30 April 1999, lot 50. This latter table, with its unusual confronting crescent moon border, was undoubtedly inspired by the fashion for furniture and objects 'à la Turque' in the late 1770's. A taste particularly admired by madame du Barry and her circle, related crescent's featured on the pair of Sèvres bleu celeste limaçons supplied to her by Poirier for Louveciennes on 4 September 1770 (probably those sold by the Marquess of Cholmondeley, Works of Art from Houghton, Christie's London, 8 December 1994, lot 13).
Two other tables with related friezes are to be mentioned; the first one from the Fribourg collection, sold Sotheby's London, 26 June 1963, lot 190, and one stamped Martin Carlin now in the metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The heir to Simon-Philippe Poirier's atelier, Dominique Daguerre specialised in supplying objets de luxe to the French Court and, increasingly during the 1780s, to the English nobility. Based in the rue St. Honoré, as his trade label reveals he Tient Magafin de Porcelaines, Bronzes, Ebénisterie, Glaces, Curiosités, & autres Marshandises, and in the 1780s he even opened a shop in Piccadilly, London to supply the Prince of Wales and his circle, including the Duke of Bedford and Earl Spencer.
Interestingly, Christie's held two sales, the first (anonymous but almost certainly Daguerre's stock) on 15-17 March 1790 and the second, on 25 March 1791, entitled Superb Articles in French Or-Moulu...Imported from Paris by Mons. Daguerre. These clearly demonstrate both the enduring popularity of porcelain-mounted furniture and Daguerre's attempts to dominate the English market.
THE PORCELAIN TOP
The picture on the top is taken after the engraving by Jean-Philippe Lebas of La Récréation des Moisonneurs painted by Théobald Michau (1676-1765). This engraving was dedicated to the marquis Descalcs Darcambal, in whose possession the painting probably was.
The archives of the Manufacture de Sèvres do not reveal much information on the history of the plateau. They indicate however that one plaque was sold to Daguerre in 1778 for the price of 288 livres. This plaque can be compared to a 1774 painting on porcelain by Dodin which cost 330 Livres (cf. Revue du Louvre, march 1991, Ancienne collection Chester Beatty). Another related plaque dated 1777 depicting la Moisson, the harvest, is in the Jones Collection (inv. 770-1882), Victoria and Albert Museum, London.