Deser for Jacques-Laure Le Tonnelier, Bailli de Breteuil

detail of deser, depicting reductions of arches and temples

Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
Deser for Jacques-Laure Le Tonnelier, Bailli de Breteuil, ca. 1778
Gilt bronze, enamel, colored marbles, amber, lapis lazuli, amethyst, garnets, ivory, and agate
Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real, Madrid and Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
Michael Bodycomb

Desers, or table centerpieces, are Valadier’s best known works. He created a number of such splendid ensembles, but only three of them survive. Two (now at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Louvre in Paris) survive in incomplete and much compromised formats. This is the best preserved of Valadier’s desers and the most complete. The term deser, an Italian phonetic transcription of the French word dessert, comes from the verb desservir, which signifies the clearing or removing of services from the table. These magnificent objects decorated the tables of aristocrats during lavish banquets. The deser on view in the exhibition was the second created for Jacques-Laure Le Tonnelier (1723–1785), Bailli de Breteuil, who was the Knights of Malta’s ambassador to the Holy See from 1758 and, subsequently, to the French court from 1778. Having sold his first Valadier deser to Catherine the Great of Russia in 1777, Breteuil commissioned a second and more magnificent one, decorated with a number of reductions of temples and triumphal arches in precious and semiprecious materials. After the death of Breteuil, the deser was acquired by King Charles IV of Spain, in 1788. Usually divided between two different museums in Spain, all the parts of the deser have been brought back together for the exhibition.

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Plateau of the Madrid Deser, ca. 1778
    Various marbles and hardstones, gilt bronze, and enamel
    4 7/8 × 110 1/4 × 32 5/8 in. (12.5 × 280 × 83 cm)
    Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real, Madrid
    © Patrimonio Nacional

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Reduction of the Temple of Flora, ca. 1778
    Lapis lazuli, giallo antico, gilt bronze, and enamel
    h. 18 7/8 in. (48 cm); diam. 16 3/4 in. (42.5 cm)
    Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real, Madrid
    © Patrimonio Nacional

     

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Pair of Exedras, ca. 1778
    Alabaster, pavonazzetto, and gilt bronze
    13 × 18 1/2 × 10 5/8 in. (33 × 47 × 27 cm) (each)
    Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real, Madrid
    © Patrimonio Nacional

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Reduction of the Arch of Septimius Severus at the Velabrum, or Arcus Argentariorum, ca. 1778
    Green and yellow jasper, giallo antico, pavonazzetto, amber, and gilt bronze
    10 5/8 × 9 7/8 × 5 1/2 in. (27 × 25 × 14 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Fernando Velasco Mora

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Reduction of the Arch of Trajan in Ancona, ca. 1778
    Green jasper, verde di Corsica, porphyry, lapis lazuli, and gilt bronze
    12 3/8 × 11 1/8 × 6 in. (31.5 × 28.3 × 15.2 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
     

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Reduction of the Temple of Mercury, ca. 1778
    Lapis lazuli, amethyst, garnet, red porphyry, portasanta, green porphyry, and gilt bronze
    17 7/8 × 17 3/8 in. (45.5 × 44 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Reduction of the Temple of Minerva, ca. 1778
    Verde di Corsica, gilt bronze, giallo antico, bianco e nero antico, alabaster, ivory, and porphyry
    20 1/2 × 15 in. (52 × 38 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Ángel Martínez Levas

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Monument with Four Columns, ca. 1778
    Green jasper, alabaster, and gilt bronze
    18 3/4 × 7 3/4 × 5 1/2 in. (47.5 × 19.7 × 14 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Pair of Obelisks, ca. 1778
    Porphyry and gilt bronze
    15 × 2 1/8 in. (38 × 5.5 cm) (each)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Juan Carlos Quindós de la Fuente

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Pair of Pedestals of the Reduction of the Temple of Flora, ca. 1778
    Statuary marble and gilt bronze
    4 × 17 3/8 in. (10 × 44 cm) (each)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Raúl Fernández Ruiz

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Salt Cellar, ca. 1778
    Porphyry, rosso antico, and gilt bronze
    4 3/8 × 4 3/8 × 3 in. (11 × 11 × 7.5 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Juan Carlos Quindós de la Fuente

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Salt Cellar (some details missing), ca. 1778
    Jasper, reddish alabaster, and gilt bronze
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Juan Carlos Quindós de la Fuente

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Triumphal Column Supporting a Vase, ca. 1778
    Red Sicilian jasper, agate, and gilt bronze
    17 3/8 × 2 3/4 in. (44 × 7 cm)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Juan Carlos Quindós de la Fuente

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Two Obelisks, ca. 1778
    Rosso antico and gilt bronze
    22 7/8 × 2 7/8 in. (58 × 7.2 cm) (each)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Juan Carlos Quindós de la Fuente

  • Luigi Valadier (1726–1785)
    Pair of Rostral Columns, ca. 1778
    Rosso antico, alabaster, and gilt bronze
    15 7/8 × 4 in. (40.2 × 10 cm) (each)
    Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid
    Raúl Fernández Ruiz