Adam Weisweiler, maître in 1778
With its characteristic thuya veneer, pierced interlaced stretchers, facetted tapering legs and milled and pearled ormolu borders, this table is characteristic of the 'antique' style promoted by the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre and executed for him by Adam Weisweiler. Established in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Weisweiler's collaboration with his fellow ébénistes Riesener (between 1778-85) and Beneman (post 1785) is well-documented. Whilst he was undoubtedly patronised by other marchands, including Julliot frères, the vast majority of his oeuvre was commissioned and sold directly through Daguerre, often employing innovative designs that were unique to this accomplished ébéniste. In the 1780's, Daguerre established his own shop in London to meet the demands of George, Prince of Wales and his circle, and it was this link to a thriving export trade that enabled Weisweiler to avoid the bankruptcy which befell so many of his colleagues during the Revolution.
The distinctive cockerel mounts, in direct contradiction to the subsequent Revolutionary fervour that was to seize France, must presumably predate the Terroir of 1793. It is interesting to note, therefore, that extremely similar putto reliefs, although painted, featured on the jewel-cabinet almost certainly commissioned by William Beckford whilst in Paris in 1788-93 (anonymous sale, Sotheby's Monaco, 14 June 1997, lot 137). This latter casket, also executed by Weisweiler, was ornamented with painted panels by le citoyen Sauvage (Piet-Joseph Sauvage), and the latter may well have provided the source for the Alexander frieze mounts.
An identical table, but surmounted by a white marble top, almost certainly acquired by Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild for Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, was sold by the Earl of Rosebery at Christie's London, 17 April 1964, lot 44, It is tempting to conclude that the table offered here, with its drawers numbered '5,6,7,8' may originally have formed a pair to the Mentmore example. A further table of similar form with closely related stretchers, thuya veneer and putto mounts across the frieze, formerly in the collection of Alphonse de Rothschild, was sold by Baron de Redé, Sotheby's Monaco, 26 May 1975, lot 267. A side table in the Royal Collection, displaying a closely related ormolu relief and pierced, interlaced stretchers (although of different form and mounted with pietra dura panels), originally from the collection of the princesse de Salm, was acquired by George IV in 1816 ('P. Lemonnier, 'Les Julliot', L'Objet d'Art/L'Estampille, October 1989, pp.40-1).
Although the author of Weisweiler's mounts - so often supplied by Daguerre before 1794 - is not known conclusively, Weisweiler collaborated extensively with Thomire et Duterme even after his decision to set himself up as a marchand-ébéniste in 1797.
PIET-JOSEPH SAUVAGE (1733-1808)
Piet-Joseph Sauvage (1733-1808) revelled in the art of illusion, and was unsurpassed at imitating in paint the bas-relief sculptures of the great masters of the French School, especially works by Duquesnoy, Clodion, Pigalle and Sarrazin. Sauvage trained in his native Belgium before settling in Paris in 1774, and was received into the Académies of Toulouse and Lille, the Académie de Saint-Luc in Paris, and finally the Académie Royale in 1783. Appointed painter to the Prince de Condé, he subsequently received numerous commissions to decorate the Royal residences at Versailles, Fontainebleau and Compiègne with overdoors of faux marble, bronze, cameo and terracotta. Throughout his life he was tireless in his efforts to obtain for trompe-l'oeil painting recognition as an official art.
Children's games, often in mythological guise, provided Sauvage with his favorite themes, and he exhibited a great many painted reliefs of this subject at the Salon.