Philippe de Montebello (Director Emeritus) and Ian Wardropper (Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts) discuss Center Table (2002.115) (July 2008).
Center table, ca. 1780–85
Russia (Tula, Imperial Armory)
Steel, silver, gilded copper, gilded brass, basswood, mirror glass (replacement); 27 1/2 x 22 x 15 in. (70 x 56 x 38 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2002 (2002.115)
This table was the first piece of Russian furniture to enter the Museum's collection. It belongs to a small group of furniture embellished with silver inlay, ornamental etching, and gilded applications that summarizes nearly all the techniques practiced by the Tula craftsmen. Presumably the only example currently known outside Russia, the table is visually the most accomplished of all. Objects of such commanding quality left Russia primarily as diplomatic gifts or as part of an imperial dowry. Recent research reveals that this extraordinary parade table (meant for display, not daily use) was made for the Russian imperial family about 1780–85. Some years later, it was recorded in the bedroom of Empress Maria Feodorovna (1759–1828) in the palace of Pavlovsk, near Saint Petersburg. In 1801, she gave it as a personal keepsake to her former brother-in-law, Duke Peter of Oldenburg (1755–1829), on the occasion of a sad anniversary: the duke had married her late sister, Princess Fredericke of Württemberg (1765–1785), twenty years earlier.