The present splendid centrepiece is one of two bases created as part of an immensely elaborate surtout de table for Ferdinand-Philippe, duc d’Orléans, son of King Louis Philippe. The duc d’Orléans was one of the most dynamic figures of the July Monarchy, noted for his diplomatic and military acumen. He also championed a number of the emerging artists of his era and in 1834, commissioned a surtout de table for his apartments in Palais de Tuileries in Paris, designed by Aimé Chenavard and Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann, and incorporating works of art by artists such as Antoine-Louis Barye and Pierre-Jules Cavelier, who would go on to define sculpture of the romantic period. This element is one of two bases created to support hunting groups by Barye: Chasse au lion and Chasse au taureau sauvage, today in The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (27.174 and 27.178).
In her study of the duc d’Orléans’ surtout, Isabelle Leroy-Jay Lemaistre references an inventory of this elaborate commission which included a pair of bases supporting the aforementioned Barye groups: 'Chacune de ces pièces est placée sur 'un socle riche en argent niellé et damasquiné décoré sur les longs côtés de deux groupes d’Enfants buveurs’ exécutés par Feuchère. 'Les quatre angles…sont occupés par Un lion, Un tigre, Un sanglier, Un ours de M. Fratin. Ce socle est décoré… de petites niches garnies de vases enrichis de pierres fines’ (I. Leroy-Jay Lemaistre, 'Des sculpteurs et des bronziers,’ Le Mécénat du duc d’Orléans : 1830-1842, Paris, 1993, p. 136). Following the untimely death of the duc d’Orléans, the surtout was sold by his widow in 1853 when it was widely dispersed and many of the bronze groups and rich decorative elements separated from their bases. The present lot, however, has retained much of original decoration, and is a fine relic of one of the most important Royal commissions during the July Monarchy in France.