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Centerpiece, ca. 1822, Silver


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Thomas W. Evans Collection

This sumptuously ornate Odiot compote is a bourgeois 19th century adaptation of the elaborate Rococo centerpieces of elite households in the 18th century. The imagery of a woven basket overflowing with grape leaves and vines against trollius-like forms indicates that it was probably an object would have been piled high with fruits and placed on the table throughout the meal. Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie were renowned for their grand state dinners and we know from his memoirs that Dr. Evans also hosted elaborate events at his old residence. In the mid-19th century, formal dinners increasingly followed a Russian service. Instead of ornamenting the table with dishes to be eaten in the later meal, as has been the traditional meal of French practice, Russian service meant that the table was decorated with cold foods, especially pastries and fruits, while the hot courses were presented to guests immediately. Metalwork displays laden with fresh fruit and flowers, therefore had a theatrical role to play on the stage that was, the 19th-century dining table.