A dining table centerpiece or silver plate surtout de table is a long tray featuring gilded or precious metals on which condiments and candlesticks were displayed during formal dinners. This dining table centerpiece would be made in sections and its length was determined by the number of leaves to be added to the table. It can take the form of a long tray with objects placed on top or an elaborate centerpiece object or a combination of the two.
These centerpieces reigned supreme in the late 1700s and the whole of the 1800s. But that doesn’t mean they are extinct. The surtout de table is still a major feature in dining rooms where formality is required. Now a look at the origins of the surtout de table.
It was in the 17th century when the surtout de table first appeared. It was designed to hold condiments and candles. However, its major purpose was to protect the surface of the table from damage due to the spillage of vinegar and salt.
By the 18th century, salt cellars were introduced, thus rendering the surtout de table a mere ornamental centerpiece. The table centerpiece now took the form of epergnes, figurines, candelabra, vases, and a few candle sconces.
While some of the silver plate centerpieces were made from precious metals, others were nothing but glass and porcelain pieces. In fact, sugar was used to make some of the sculptures. On top of the tray, a mirror was used to reflect the underside of the objects on the surtout de table.
When it comes to these table centerpieces, it was never a one-size-fits-all affair. Each house or indigenous theme determined the kind of surtout de table to be made. In short, most of these centerpieces were custom-made. You would expect to find a centerpiece with dog figurines on a dining table in a hunting lodge. In a palace, it was common to find a centerpiece with baroque and rococo styles, which were fashionable at that time.
It was in the 1850s when decorations for dining tables reached its climax. At that time, there were established porcelain factories, which produced elaborate figurines are models that were used in place of Empire style statuary. The decorations now took the form of rustic scenes with domestic animals, colorful porcelain mountains, and jungle scenes with lifelike snakes.
If you are looking to buy these table centerpieces, you may look in any of the auctions which offer them for sale. You will be exposed to all kinds of styles from different eras of the surtout de table. Look well and you will not miss a few pieces made by Luigi Valadier, a famous Italian goldsmith. The patriarch and his son Giuseppe Valadier often made pieces with miniature Roman cities complete with triumphal arches, colonnades, and temples.
But not just that. There are quite a number of surtouts de table originating from France made specifically for Napoleon Bonaparte for state banquet use. If you are careful in your search, you will find exactly what you are looking for. We an ship these surtout de tables to anywhere in the world so please get in touch for a shipping quote.
The silver plate surtout de table - an elaborate centerpiece stretching the length of the dining table elaborately decorated - will take your dining experience to another level...
Looking at Victorian, Regency, William IV, Queen Anne, William and Mary.. not to mention the great cabinet makers such as Chippendale, Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Adams and Gillows...