Relevant categories: Silver Plate
(Above photo - Silver Plate Surtout de Table - or centrepiece epergne )
Looking for a way to turn a boring dining room into something classic and elegant? It is time to buy a silver plate surtout de table. Even though this table centrepiece was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is still a staple in today’s forward looking dining rooms.
(Above photo - Two configurations on this silver plate epergne / surtout de table )
We are not talking about the simple trays that pioneered these centrepieces but the elegant, gilded kind that appears in the form of a long gallery. A surtout table is supposed to make it possible for you to display different types of objects at the same time. It may not be a single piece but could be composed of several pieces depending on how long the table was.
What Is a Surtout De Table?
(Above photo - Silver Plate Surtout de Table )
A surtout de table is the French name of a centerpiece displayed on formal dining tables. It features lots of candelabras and several mirrored plateaus. There are other display pieces that make a surtout de table a must-have for anyone who wants to dazzle guests over dinner. It is usually made from gilded or precious metals, which is the reason they tend to cost a lot of money.
How Has the Surtout De Table Evolved Over the Years?
(Above photo - Silver Plate Centrepiece - Sheffield Surtout de Table Glass Epergne Victorian Platter )
The first surtout to table was used to decorate the wedding banquet of Francoise Marie de Bourbon, daughter of Louis XIV and Phillipe II, the Duke of Orleans. The year was 1692, just before the turn of the century. There was nothing grand about the first surtout de table, given that it was a simple centerpiece meant to hold candles and condiments. It could also hold salt and vinegar to prevent spillage onto the table that could damage the wood.
Soon, the 18th century came and people no longer appreciated a table centerpiece that was nothing more than a large salt cellar. At that time, people preferred smaller standalone salt cellars. The centerpieces were no longer used to hold sugar. It during this time when the surtout de table became more ornamental than functional.
(Above photo - Silver plate epergne )
It was more of an elevated galleried tray for displaying vases, figurines, candelabra, epergnes, and fixed candle sconces. Even though most of these pieces were made from precious or gilded metals, some were glass and porcelain affairs. A mirror was used to cover the surtout de table on top. Through the mirror, you could see the underside of the displayed objects. Depending on what one could afford, it was possible to make an extremely extravagant piece.
With time, surtout de tables were commissioned for specific houses including regimental messes, town palaces, and hunting lodges. Centerpieces for each one of these houses would have different types of figurines based on the theme that the makers were addressing. For example, a surtout table in a regimental mess would have military themed figures.
While surtout de tables had previously been hand crafted, porcelain factories that sprang up from the 1850s made these items available to the masses. Don’t be surprised if you find pieces from this era in the antique shops today.
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