Of German origin, like many "French" cabinetmakers since the eighteenth century, Charles-Guillaume Diehl settled in Paris in 1840 and developed a flourishing trade in cabinet making and fancy goods. This table falls midway between these two specialities. Indeed it is hard to assert that it is really a 'sewing' table because the lid of the casket is covered with a mirror. It may have been a vanity table, used for keeping ribbons and jewellery in. However, the cushioned base may also have been used as a pin cushion.

The composition and style of the table herald some Art Nouveau works. The five curved sides of the basket are decorated with panels inlaid with various woods, branches of flowers and foliage and a flitting dragonfly and butterfly, fitted together with infinite delicacy and great skill. The lid draws on the same botanical repertoire with the petals and leaves of an opulent flower.

Three tortoises stand on the feet; both ends of the legs are decorated with bronze ornaments also treated in a naturalistic style: flowers, foliage and insects whose realism is accentuated by the coloured bronze giving striking illusionist effects.

Very far removed from the aesthetic conventions that dominated the decorative arts at the time, this little table is relatively revolutionary for 1878. Borrowings from iconographic sources dear to Japanism and the repertoire of plant and flower motifs which was shortly to blossom in Art Nouveau make this table a masterly example of the essential aesthetic transition that occurred in 1870-1880.


  • Title: Sewing Table
  • Creator: Charles Guillaume Diehl
  • Date Created: 1878 - 1885
  • Provenance: Ms Antonin Rispal donation, 2005
  • Physical Dimensions: w430 x h750 cm
  • Original Title: Table à ouvrage
  • Credit Line: © Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN / Patrice Schmidt
  • Type: Feet of service tree wood, inlay of various woods, bronzes, mirror, copper
  • Rights: © Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN / Patrice Schmidt
  • External Link: https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections

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