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Sèvres porcelain factory

Table of the Great Commanders of Antiquity 1806-12

RCIN 2634

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Known as the Table des Grand Capitaines, the table was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and was originally intended to form part of a set of four grand presentation tables designed to immortalise his reign.

Made almost entirely of hard-paste Sèvres porcelain, it took six years to complete and combines some of the finest and most technically challenging work achieved at the Sèvres manufactory in the early nineteenth-century. An internal wooden structure supports the revolving top. The delicately painted porcelain sections were decorated by the Sèvres artists Louis-Bertin Parant (active 1806–41) and Antoine Béranger (active 1808–48), and the finely chased gilt bronze mounts were supplied by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751–1833). The most striking and original feature of the table is the elaborately decorated top, in imitation of sardonyx, with heads and scenes resembling cameos. In the centre, the profile head of Alexander the Great is surrounded by twelve smaller heads of other commanders and philosophers from antiquity and scenes recalling notable events of their lives.

The table was the most prestigious and conspicuous present given to George IV by a grateful Louis XVIII in 1817, two years after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. So highly did George IV regard this gift, and such was its status in his eyes, that it became part of the ceremonial backdrop for all his state portraits.