Writing and reading table by Martin Carlin, c. 1784, detail of the porcelain plaques on it
There appears to have been no limit to the appetite for Sèvres porcelain in France in the second half of the eighteenth century and pieces of furniture mounted with porcelain plaques were incredibly highly-prized. They combined the artistic and manufacturing skills of the Sèvres manufactory with the finest cabinet-making and gilt-bronze chasing techniques that only a very few craftsmen were capable of achieving.
The plaques were made and sold by Sèvres to Daguerre in 1783; they were intended as a set to be mounted on furniture, and are decorated by some of the top artists working at the royal porcelain manufactory. The flowers were probably painted by Edmé-François Bouilliat, a specialist in this genre; each plaque shows in finest naturalistic detail a posy of flowers in a basket or vase, sometimes with a raindrop or a snail perched on a leaf and all delicately bordered with stylized harebells and cornflowers. The gilding was executed by Henry-François Vincent, a gilder of great talent who amongst other pieces worked on dinner services for Catherine the Great and Louis XVI. The overall effect is a piece of dazzling freshness, of bright and vibrant colours, an effect which would have been further enhanced by the original pink tone of the tulipwood veneer and the gold of the mounts.
Several Carlin tables like this were produced, one of which was owned by Marie Antoinette. She was so passionate about hers that she consigned it to a dealer for safe-keeping in October 1789, when the mob was clamouring at the doors of Versailles. — at The Wallace Collection.