REF NO : B77095

Attributed to Maison Beurdeley

A Pair of Exceptional Gilt-Bronze, Pietre Dure Hardstone and Micromosaic Mounted Centre Tables

France, Circa 1860-1880


The Alfred de Rothschild Tables from Halton House. A Pair of Exceptional Gilt-Bronze, Pietre Dure Hardstone and Micromosaic Mounted Mahogany and Bois...


Height: 88 cm (35 in)
Width: 143 cm (57 in)
Depth: 76 cm (30 in)
REF NO : B77095


The Alfred de Rothschild Tables from Halton House.

A Pair of Exceptional Gilt-Bronze, Pietre Dure Hardstone and Micromosaic Mounted Mahogany and Bois Satiné Centre Tables, Attributed to Maison Beurdeley, Paris.

Each with original Sarrancolin opera marble top. Designed as centre tables, the frieze decoration to all four sides, one table with marble hardstone pietre dure plaques to front and back depicting Commedia dell’arte characters. The second table has mosaic plaques of scrolling leaves to front and back. The gilt-bronze mountings to the frieze are designed as interlacing acanthus leaves with flowers between. The legs with ionic capitals above filled-fluted collars and laurel wreaths. The square tapering legs with acanthus and fruiting husk-trail mounts. With leaf cast feet.

France, Circa 1860-80.

Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) at Halton House, Buckinghamshire.
Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942).
Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009) at Exbury House, Hampshire.

The pietre dure plaques 17th century and attributed to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence.
The micromosaic plaques late 18th century and attributed to Don Giacomo Pellicea, Turin or Rome.

View of Halton House, Buckinghamshire in 1883

Halton House, Buckinghamshire in 1883

That these tables were bespoke commissions made to display the pietre dure and micromosaic tablets is confirmed by the fact that the mouldings framing them to each table differ in size and design to fit the plaques. One table has Florentine 17th century pietre dure plaques. The panel to the front shows two figures mocking each other. The panel to the back shows a single figure with a drum. These figures are grotesque caricatures of dwarfs and inspired by a famous series of engravings, the Varie Figure Gobbi by Jacques Callot, originally designed in Italy in 1616 and published in a French edition in 1622. The engravings are drawn from a troupe of grotesque dwarf entertainers knows as Les Gobbi. They performed in Italy for the Medici Court when Callot was working there recording court entertainment. Callot’s engravings served as templates for all manner of fashionable decoration including on ceramics and, as here, depicted in hardstone intarsia or pietre dure.


FIgure from 'Varie Figure Gobbi, suite appelée aussi Les Bossus, Les Pygmées, Les Nains Grotesques'. Jacques Callot, 1616-22

FIgure from ‘Varie Figure Gobbi, suite appelée aussi Les Bossus, Les Pygmées, Les Nains Grotesques’. Jacques Callot, 1616-22

The representation of these figures in pietre dure have been applied to other works including a Florentine table top at Versailles (ill. Giusti, Pietre Dure, Hardstone in Furniture and Decorations, Belgium, 1992, p. 113) and, most relevantly, a table top formerly in the collection of Alfred de Rothschild at Halton House (now in the Gilbert Collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, acc. no. LOAN:GILBERT.86:1, 2-2008).


Table depicting grotesque figures based on the drawings and prints of Baccio di Bianco (1604-57) and Jacques Callot (1592-1635), from The Gilbert Collection.

Table depicting grotesque figures based on the drawings and prints of Baccio di Bianco (1604-57) and Jacques Callot (1592-1635), from The Gilbert Collection. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London/ © the Rosalinde & Arthur Gilbert Collection, on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The other table has micromosaic plaques to the frieze, front and back. They depict scrolled leaves, also called arabesques. The size of the four-sided tiles (tesserae) indicates that the mosaic dates to the late 18th century period. The panels relate to a mosaic table top attributed to Don Giacomo Pellicea, 1775-85, also formerly in the collection of Alfred de Rothschild at Halton House (now in the Gilbert Collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, acc. no. LOAN:GILBERT.85:1, 2-2008).


Micromosaic, table top with rooster and hens, Rome or Turin, Don Giacomo Pellicea, 1775-85.

Micromosaic, table top with rooster and hens, Rome or Turin, Don Giacomo Pellicea, 1775-85.
©Victoria & Albert Museum, London/ © the Rosalinde & Arthur Gilbert Collection, on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The pietre dure and micromosaic frieze panels to the present pair of tables therefore compliment the tabletops to the pair of tables today in the Gilbert Collection at the V&A and with which they sat in the Hall at Halton House. The Gilbert Collection tables were likely inherited by Alfred from his father Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879). Papers in the Rothschild Archive record the division of Lionel’s estate between his three sons after his death. For Alfred, under the section ‘Objets d’Ameublement’ is listed ‘A pair of oblong tables with marble and mosaic slabs’ (ref RAL 000/176/11 courtesy Justin Cavernelis-Frost, Archivist, The Rothschild Archive). It is probable therefore, that the present tables, which incorporate pietre dure and micromosaic plaques matching the tops of the other tables, also came from Alfred’s father or were made to compliment the them.


View of the Central Hall at Halton House, circa 1888.

View of the Central Hall at Halton House showing the present tables alongside the tables today in the Gilbert Collection at the V&A Museum, London. Photographed circa 1888. ©The Rothschild Archive

The gilt-bronze frieze mounts of interlaced leaves pattern are associated with the neoclassical style of the Louis XVI period and specifically the furniture of Jean-Henri Riesener. In the nineteenth century this somewhat rigorous interpretation of the Louis XVI style is associated with the ébénistes Grohé Frères, Maison Fourdinois and Alfred Beurdeley et Fils. That the Rothschild’s were clients of Beurdeley reinforces an attribution. Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) was a client of Beurdeley. Salomon James de Rothschild, in the first year of his short marriage before his early death in 1864, made numerous purchases from Beurdeley. Anthony de Rothschild was advised on the interiors of Aston Clinton House in 1857–1858 by Monsieur Joyeau, who visited Beurdeley on several occasions. Joyeau also advised Lionel de Rothschild (1808–1879) who spent Fr.71,250 at Beurdeley on a number of items in 1863 for his new home at 148 Piccadilly, including a a Louis XV style suite of salon furniture and a marble table.


The present tables in the Central Hall at Halton House,circa 1888

The present tables in the Central Hall at Halton House, photographed in circa 1888. ©The Rothschild Archive

The present pair of tables are recorded in the Central Hall at Halton House, home of Alfred de Rothschild, in a photograph circa 1888. They are positioned against the wall, as console tables, which is incongruous as they are decorated to front and back and designed as centre tables. Of course, they could have been intended for elsewhere in house, were bought rather than commissioned, or indeed inherited by Alfred from his father, Lionel, client of Beurdeley.



Alfred Charles De Rothschild (1842-1918) ©The Rothschild Archive Trust

Alfred Charles De Rothschild (1842-1918) ©The Rothschild Archive Trust

Alfred de Rothschild was considered the finest amateur judge of French eighteenth-century art in England. He was a friend of Sir Richard Wallace, and as trustee of the Wallace Collection from 1897 until his death in 1918. Paintings formerly in the collection Alfred de Rothschild and today in the National Gallery, London, include an An Allegory of Prudence by Titian and The Abbé Scaglia adoring the Virgin and Child by Anthony van Dyck.

In many ways, Alfred de Rothschild was the most magnificent Rothschild. Today, when we imagine what it meant to be a Rothschild, we think of a time at the culmination of the family’s success at the turn of the 20th century, and it is Alfred’s opulence and benefaction that we are imagining.

Alfred’s London townhouse was Number One Seamore Place, were he hosted in great style the most powerful and famous people of the day and housed a remarkable art collection with magnificent furniture and decorations. Alfred was the son of Lionel and Charlotte de Rothschild and the grandson of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, who had established the English branch of the Europe-wide banking dynasty. Alfred attended King’s College School in Wimbledon and subsequently Trinity College, Cambridge where he formed a lasting friendship with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

At the age of 21, Alfred joined N.M. Rothschild Bank at New Court in London and by the age of 26, in 1868, had become the first Jew to be elected a Director of the Bank of England. His appointment was at the behest of the Governor who felt it would be a good thing to keep in with the Rothschilds. Upon the death of his father in 1879, Alfred inherited an estate at Halton in Buckinghamshire which had previously been the property of the Dashwood family and had been purchased as an investment by Baron Lionel sometime previously.

Alfred had a townhouse at 1 Seamore Place in London’s fashionable Mayfair, but like many of his peers, required a country estate for entertaining. Thus, with the death of his father, Alfred wasted no time in commissioning a new house in the French renaissance style with the deliberate intention to rival his cousin, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s nearby estate, Waddesdon Manor. Following the construction of Mentmore Towers in the 1850s for Baron Mayer de Rothschild, so many Rothschild houses were built in Buckinghamshire, especially in the Vale of Aylesbury, that it became known as ‘Rothschildshire’.

The architect was William R. Rogers, the design partner of the London firm of William Cubbitt and Co. Building work started in 1881 and the house was completed in 1884. Set amongst the finest beechwoods in the county and commanding glorious views over the Vale of Aylesbury, Halton House was a modern French chateau, designed for entertaining on the grandest scale. Paul Villers, writing in 1901, compliments Alfred de Rothschild, for it “was he who designed the furnishings and the decoration with a certainty of taste and an understanding of the things of art that are quite exceptional”. His article, illustrated with Bedford Lemere’s interior photographs, describes Halton as “certainly one of the finest modern castles in England; it is probably the only one where this unity reigns in the architecture, the furnishings, the decoration which gives it its special charm. M. Alfred de Rothschild, enamoured of the art so elegant, so graceful, so refined of the eighteenth century, made his castle of Halton a worthy setting for his admirable collection” Paul Villers, Études de Décoration intérieure Halton A M. Alfred de Rothschild’, Les Modes : revue mensuelle illustrée des Arts décoratifs appliqués à la femme, 1 September 1901).

When war broke out in 1914, Alfred offered the parklands of his glorious estate at Halton to the Army. Upon Alfred’s death in 1918, aged 75, Halton passed to his nephew, Lionel (b. 1882) who sold it to the Royal Air Force the same year and the house is now the Officers’ Mess to RAF Halton. Lionel bought Exbury House in the New Forest in Hampshire in 1919, moving much of the art collection and fine furniture, which would become known at ‘Le Goût Rothschild’, there from various Rothschild London townhouses and estates. Lionel died during the Second Word War, a time of depression in the art market, and high death duties, so his son and heir, Edmund de Rothschild (b. 1916) was obliged to part with a large part of Alfred and Leopold’s collection, many pieces now being in museums in Britain and the U.S.A. The present tables however remained at Exbury into the 21st century.



Circa 1860-1880




Gilt-Bronze, Pietre Dure, Micromosaic, Mahogany and Bois Satiné

Attributed to Maison Beurdeley

The Beurdeley family were a flourishing dynasty of three generations of fine quality cabinetmakers working from 1818 to 1895. The firm was particularly well known for its exceptional metalwork, most commonly basing their designs on important eighteenth century examples. Their mercurial gilding and hand chasing are often of such a high standard that it is difficult to distinguish them from late eighteenth century work.

The founder of the dynasty Jean Beurdeley (1772-1853) was a Burgundian craftsman conscripted into the Napoleonic army. After hostilities ended in 1815 he settled in Paris opening a shop for curiosités and working as a latter day marchand mercier. Initially based on the rue Saint-Honoré, in 1840 Beurdeley moved to the famous Hanover Pavilion situated on the corner of rue Louis-Legrand and boulevard des Italiens, and the business was run by his only surviving son, Louis-Auguste-Alfred (dit Alfred I) Beurdeley (1808-1882). This successful business, which had numerous official commissions including in 1853 the marriage coffer for the Empress Eugénie, was continued by Alfred I’s son, Emmanuel-Alfred (dit Alfred II) Beurdeley (1847-1919).

The success and reputation of the firm continued under Alfred II who took over from his father in 1875 and won a gold medal at the 1878 Paris Exposition Universelle. Following on from this glory, he went on to open a shop in New York. His participation in the 1883 Amsterdam Universal Exhibition drew even further attention to his work, and possibly as a result he was awarded the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest official mark of recognition. Beurdeley’s most magnificent display was at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 when they advertised themselves as ‘makers of furniture and decorative bronzes in the antique styles’ from ‘French Historic Castles’. Centerstage, surrounded by an impressive selection of wares was Beurdeley’s magnificent replica of the ‘Bureau du Roi’, perhaps the most famous piece of furniture ever made.

Beurdeley received substantial commissions for the American titans of the Gilded Age and his increasing popularity with America’s industrialists was underscored by his participation in the Chicago World’s Fair. Beurdeley supplied various objects and furnishings for the renovation of The Cornelius Vanderbilt II Mansion, described as an ‘early French Renaissance style château’, at the northwest corner of West 57th Street and 5th Avenue in New York, including a bronze-mounted marble fire surround which had been exhibited in Chicago. Probably under the direction of interior decorator Jules Allard & Fils, Beurdeley executed numerous bronze and marble objects for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Newport ‘cottage’, The Breakers (see in C. Mestdagh, op. cit., pp. 128-123).

Beurdeley was renowned for making exquisite reproductions of celebrated pieces by the master makers of the Ancien Régime. The quality of the firm’s reproductions is such that they are often mistaken for period originals and Beurdeley predominantly owed its considerable commercial success to supplying furniture in the ‘French Royal Styles’ for the 19th century collecting elite. A masterpiece of French furniture might remain out of reach in a noble or museum collection, but a 19th century collector visiting exhibits such as the 1865 Musée Retrospectif could commission an exquisitely crafted replica and thus show their sophisticated taste. In the 19th century, commissioning furniture in this way was a legitimate antiquarian interest which demonstrated an appreciation for, and understanding of, the historical importance of art, a trend notably championed by 4th Marquess of Hertford, founder of the Wallace Collection. The copies were not designed to deceive, as nearly all works were prominently marked by Beurdeley, whose genius captured the true essence of the original. Throughout their history Beurdeley also innovated by employing their considerable technical and artistic abilities to create new designs or meld elements of those so greatly admired in the 18th century. Alfred II created new designs of his own which are inspired by and indebted to the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles, but credited as entirely his own: ‘all designed according to the imagination of the manufacturer, his personal vision of styles and not with the aim of imitation. You should know that Mr. Beurdeley does not copy old models as so many others do; but he creates in a given style’ (Bergerat Emile, « Art Industriel, L’ébénisterie », Les chefs d’œuvre d’art à l’Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1878).

The company’s workshops finally closed in 1895 and Beurdeley’s stock was sold over a number of auctions conducted by Galerie Georges Petit of Paris. Two catalogues of the collection were published in 1895 and sales were held between 6-8 March and again on 27-28 May.

The originality and the incredible quality of Beurdeley’s work make them pre-eminent amongst Parisian makers of meubles de luxe. In addition to various works held by museums and historic collections, over the past twenty years academic research and an appreciation for the superb quality of their furniture and works of art has stimulated a growth in demand for pieces by Beurdeley.

Ledoux – Lebard, Denise. Les Ébénistes du XIXe siècle, Les Editions de L’Amateur, (Paris), 1984; pp. 75-82.

Mestdagh, Camille & Lécoules, Pierre. L’Ameublement d’Art Français, 1850-1900, Les Editions de L’Amateur, (Paris), 2010; pp.262-276.

Meyer, Jonathan. Great Exhibitions – London, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, 1851-1900, Antique Collectors’ Club, (Woodbridge, UK), 1984 ; pps. 175, 247, 269, 270, 290, 298.



Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) at Halton House, Buckinghamshire.
Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942).
Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009) at Exbury House, Hampshire.


Barbara Lasic, ‘A display of opulence: Alfred de Rothschild and the visual recording of Halton House’, Furniture History, Vol. 40 (2004), pp. 135-150

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