October 26, 2010

Interior Decor: The 18th Century Athenienne

An 18th century athènienne sits in the corner of a room used for entertaining.
If you want to add some 18th century flair to any room, all you need is a pair of these!

Pair of tripod stands (athèniennes) After a design by Jean-Henri Eberts. 1773, Carved and gilded pine; brass liners; gilt bronze. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A piece of furniture that became en vogue during the 18th century was the Athénienne, which came in pairs. The design was a French twist on a classical piece, which made its appearance in France around 1773. The designer, Jean-Henri Eberts, is said to have been inspired by the painting La Vertueuse Athénienne. Eberts owned the work at the time he came up with his design.

Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), Une prêtresse brûle de l'encens sur un trépied, dite La Vertueuse Athénienne. Toile. H. 0,895 ; L. 0,670. 1762. Strasbourg, musée des Beaux-Arts.
The essential pedestal table is supported by a tripod base. You can have them in your living room or any room where you might entertain. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Madame du Barry was one of the first to own a set of Athénienne which she had at Louveciennes.

I love Christies' description and uses of this versatile period piece:
The multi-purpose athénienne was intended for entertaining in the salon or boudoir and was accordingly fitted with casters and an ormolu-mounted patinated copper cassolette, silvered on the inside and containing a removable spirit lamp, above which was set a tin-plated double boiler, surmounted by a marble slab and a patinated copper cover.

A Pair of Louis XVI Style Atheniennes. Ordered by Lord Duveen through the Decorateur L. Alavoine circa 1932-34. Ormolu mounted giltwood. Christies.
Here are 8 ways to use the Athénienne:

  1. an ornament and focal point in the middle of a room 
  2. a table under a pier mirror , or in a corner, or as a pedestal to support a candelabrum or a piece of sculpture 
  3. a perfume burner 
  4. a heater for making coffee, tea, or chocolate 
  5. a goldfish bowl 
  6. a planter to grow bulbs in winter 
  7. a bowl for cut flowers 
  8. a device for keeping bouillon or other drinks warm. 

An all around must have piece, no?


  1. I want one of theses. They must be rare as I have only seen them in museums and high end auctions.

  2. I love these they are so neat looking!

  3. This is random but I just noticed these darling plates on Anthropologie