Many visitors to Mount Edgcumbe House admire this object and are surprised to learn that it is a planter. It dates from the 19th century and is in the style of Louis XVI of France (Louis Seize). The lid is designed to cover the trough when not in use for houseplants.
Furniture and decorative objects made for the court of Louis XVI were the most finely crafted and valuable ever in French history which may explain the popularity of the style in Victorian England. Perhaps its popularity was also due to the fate of Louis XVI and his wife.
The court of Louis XVI was lavish, and privilege was rife in France while the poorer sections of society did not own land or property and paid high taxes but often faced starvation. By the late 1780’s the country was almost bankrupt and the king was forced to call a meeting of the States General (National Parliament). When it met in 1789 the representatives of the poorer sections of society demanded reform. On 14 July 1789 a mob in Paris attacked and captured the Bastille Prison, marking the start of the French Revolution. When a mob marched on the Palace of Versailles the king and his unpopular wife, Marie Antoinette, were brought to Paris and imprisoned in the Tuileries Palace. They attempted to escape in 1791 but were caught and returned to Paris. The revolution deteriorated into a reign of terror. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were both executed on the guillotine in January 1793.
The jardinière or planter is a fine example of parquetry work. Parquetry designs are made of blocks of various woods of different colours, tones and grains arranged in a geometric pattern. Parquetry differs from marquetry in that the creation is made using only blocks or strips of wood whereas other materials such as tortoiseshell or mother of pearl are also often used in marquetry. The gilded decoration on the jardinière is typical of the 19th century.
The jardinière was probably bought by either the 3rd or 4th Earl as a table decoration.
“ The jardinière or planter is a fine example of parquetry work. Parquetry designs are made of blocks of various woods of different colours, tones and grains arranged in a geometric pattern.”