Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre- François-Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853) probably met in 1779 whilst studying architecture in Paris. However, it was their stay in Rome for several years from 1786 that was the basis of their future success. Their particular rendering of the neo-classical style has been described as ‘…a combination of severity and pomp’ involving a more archaeological approach. They were inspired by the ancient architecture of Greece, Imperial Rome and Egypt. When they secured the patronage of Empress Josephine in 1799, Percier and Fontaine became the official Imperial architects. Their enormous artistic influence resulted from the publication of numerous design books, culminating in their Recueil de décorations intérieures. In total the books comprised seventy-two plates which were issued in sets of six from 1801, and were published in full in 1812, including designs for silver and furniture, individual decorative elements, and views of interiors.
The design for the present lot was inspired by a chimneypiece designed by Percier and Fontaine for a Mr. D. in Paris, illustrated in the Recueil de décorations intérieures. The frieze of the chimneypiece features chimeras facing each other with anthemions between all below a band of stiff leafage (C. Percier and P.F.L. Fontaine, Recueil de décorations intérieures, Paris, 1812, pl 27). A related design used by Jean-Charles Cahier for the wine coasters in the celebrated silver-gilt Pavlovitch Service of 1819-1838, a set of four sold Christie's, Paris, 4 May 2011, lot 38.