Adam Weisweiler, maître in 1778.
WEISWEILER & DAGUERRE
This elegant and richly mounted table, known as a ‘table travailleuse’ or ‘table en auge’, demonstrates the exquisite level of refinement and unparalleled level of technical skill achieved by the German-born cabinet-maker Adam Weisweiler (1744-1820) in the 1780s, and reflects above all the influence of the great taste-maker of the period, the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, who provided the designs for many of Weisweiler’s most important commissions. Together they supplied the most influential and esteemed patrons of their day: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duke Paul of Russia.
The highly sophisticated column design chosen for this group of tables is almost identical to that found on a pair of ormolu-mounted lacquer meubles d’appui, also by Weisweiler, from the Grog Collection, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (P. Lemonnier, Weisweiler, Paris, 1983, pp. 97 & 100). The remarkable skill required to achieve the spreading spirally-turned lower section intertwined seamlessly with ormolu and the fluted baluster above demonstrates the outstanding level of precision and finesse that Weisweiler had reached at this point in his career.
This form of ‘useful’ table with three galleries, the top one hinging down, was a completely new form created in the fashionable ‘goût anglais’ of the 1780s. Daguerre was undoubtedly responsible for its design, and it reflects the continual thirst for novelty and new refinements at court in the ancien siècle.
OTHER EXAMPLES OF THE FORM BY WEISWEILER
This table is part of a select group of this form, all by or attributed to Weisweiler:
- The most closely related example, also stamped and adorned with sixteen Wedgwood plaques and the same spiral-fluted supports to the lower tier, but with dot trellis parquetry, is in the Wallace Collection, London (illustrated in P. Hughes, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996, vol. II, cat. 221 (F 325), pp. 1122-1133). It was listed in 1807 at the Palais de Tuileries in the collection of the Empress Josephine, where it furnished the Pavillon de Flore, before being offered by King Louis XVIII to the Duchesse d’Aumont in 1815.
- A second almost identical example, also in burr yewwood, but with fourteen, rather than sixteen plaques, is recorded in the collection of M.A.Z. de Hitroff (St. Petersburg in P. Weiner, Nos vieilles années, December 1912, pp. 18-19).
- Another satinwood example is in the Niarchos collection, where only the top tier is inset with jasperware plaques (illustrated in P. Lemonnier, op. cit., Paris, 1983, p. 87)
- A fourth simpler example was sold at Sotheby's, London, 17 May 1968 lot 97, which may be the same table that was sold from the Cooper collection, Christie's, London, 30 October 1947, lot 109.
- A further table of this form is described in the 1791 will of the Princesse de Lamballe, Marie Therese Louise de Savoie-Carignan (1749-1792), a close friend of Marie Antoinette, which could conceivably refer to any of the examples cited above:
‘une table que la reine m’a donnée, en bois précieux avec des camées, montée en ormoulu me venant d’une main chère je ne peux mieux en disposer qu’en la transmettant à mon amie intime’
DAGUERRE AND THE TASTE FOR CAMEOS
The à l’antique cameos on this table are executed in a rare technique of carved wax on glass and are set within gold frames - they were probably made as part of a small production recorded in Paris in the 1780s and appear to be the only known example of Daguerre and Weisweiler employing cameos in this unusual technique. As such they perhaps indicate that the table pre-dates 1787 when Daguerre became Wedgwood's exclusive representative in Paris (Wedgwood and Bentley’s cameo tablets had been first introduced to France by the dealer Granchez of 'Au Petit Dunkerque').
The use of Wedgwood and cameo plaques on furniture continued the tradition of furniture mounted with Sèvres porcelain plaques as pioneered by Simon-Philippe Poirier in the 1760s. Daguerre commissioned Weisweiler to incorporate Wedgwood plaques into a number of pieces of furniture. Around 1788 Weisweiler combined a large Sèvres plaque painted with flowers with a series of jasperware medallions on a secrétaire that was probably part of Daguerre's last delivery to Marie Antoinette (Decorative art from the Samuel H. Kress collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Aylesbury 1964, no. 28; D. Alcouffe, C. Baulez, et. al., Il mobile francese dal Medioevo al 1925, Milan, 1981, pp. 105-107, fig. 42). Weisweiler also produced a series of tables with signs of the zodiacs, bonheurs-du-jour, consoles-dessertes and other pieces inset with jasperware, presumably all under Daguerre’s direction (Lemonnier, op. cit., figs. on pp. 28, 87, 90, 104, 105, 113 and 118). One of the most lavish examples of furniture with Wedgwood plaques was a secrétaire delivered by Daguerre to Prince Fréderic III de Salm-Kyrbourg in 1787 for the hôtel de Salm, now the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur (sold Christie’s, New York, 11 December 2014, lot 37 for $905,000).