Label

"In the middle of the table was placed a piece of table furniture about six feet long and two wide, rounded at the ends. It was either of wood gilded or polished metal, raised about an inch with a silver rim round it like that round a tea board; in the center was a pedestal of plaster of Paris with images upon it, and on each end figures, male and female of the same. It was very elegant and used for ornament only. The dishes were placed all around, and there was an elegant variety of roast beef, veal, turkeys, ducks…" - Theophilus Bradbury to his daughter, Mrs. Hooper, Philadelphia, December 26, 1796

During the mid- to late 18th century, mirrored plateaux (or sets of trays) arranged with sugar and ceramic parterres and figurines to represent pleasure gardens graced fashionable European tables. Washington saw these centerpieces early in his presidency at the French and Spanish foreign ministers' residences in New York. Keenly aware that dining and formal entertaining rituals communicated to foreign and domestic visitors the young republic's values as well as his position as its president, he corresponded at length with longtime friend Gouverneur Morris, then living in France, to procure this plateau and biscuit-porcelain "table ornaments" representing the arts, sciences, and mythological figures for public and state dinners. The plateau originally included nine sections extending over twelve feet when placed together.

For the table ornaments, see W-2133.

Description

Set of five mirrored trays having a cast, beaded gallery or balustrade with square parapets or panels decorated in relief with half a festoon or garland of beads. Each tray rests on four, cast, tapered feet, triple fluted on their faces, which are attached by tabs fitted through slots secured to the gallery's underside. Mirrored glass rests on a single piece of wood which, in turn, sits on the gallery's bottom interior edge.

Two trays (a, e) are long half-circular ends, and three trays (b-d) are rectangular middle sections.

Alternate names for this object include: surtout (this term is not included in AAT but is acceptable; also used by GW and Gouverneur Morris in their correspondence, "plateau" meaning the individual trays and "surtout" the whole arrangement.)


Date

c. 1789


Geography


Material/Technique

Silvered brass, mirrored glass, unidentified wood


Dimensions

Overall: 2 7/8 in. x 17 3/8 in. x 24 in. (7.3 cm x 44.13 cm x 60.96 cm)


Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland, 1895


Object Number

W-105/A-E


Colors (Beta)


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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