royalty

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

Like or not, the holiday gift-giving season is upon us, the time of year we begin making a list and checking it twice. It’s a good thing that Christmas and Hanukkah only come around once a year, what with all the stress gift selection causes. In 17th- and 18th-century France, however, the fine art of gift giving was a yearlong endeavor.

Let Them Eat Turkey

Thanksgiving is the time when you get to use all the best stuff in your kitchen: the gravy boat, the fancy napkins, and, of course, the turkey deep fryer. Louis XIV and the other French monarchs who succeeded him obviously didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but they did bring out the good stuff when setting the table. Some of the objects in Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette, open through March 31, 2013 at the Legion of Honor, are examples of these items; they’re just like the things you set your table with, but with a “royal” twist.

You’ve probably moved past the first dining room set that you bought off Craigslist, but no matter how nice your table is, you likely didn’t have it custom-made to feature your royal markings. Louis XIV’s mosaic tabletop is made of semi-precious stones and features, among other things, some of his official emblems, like the lyre of Apollo and fleurs-de-lis. It was made by the Gobelins manufactory, a workshop responsible for many of the objects used to decorate Versailles and the other royal residences.

Louis XIV tabletop

Mosaic tabletop with emblems of Louis XIV, last quarter of the 17th century.
Gobelins Manufactory (France, established 1662)
Marble and pietre dure (hardstones)
©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY

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