Ever wonder whether it's a Rococo or Régence? Louis XV or Louis Philippe? A Bergère or Fauteuil? Each week, we will highlight a word, term, or phrase to help identify antique furniture, periods, and styles.
1. a table of the 18th century having a cooler for bottles and shelves for plates so that occupants of a room may self-serve themselves libations without outside interruption.
Origin: < French, literally refresher
"Le souper fin", ("the gallant dinner"), engraving, after J.M. Moreau the Younger (1741 - 1814), France.
It's said that if you drank a different wine each night, it would take EIGHT years to drink your way through France! With the vast amount of wine consumed by the French upper class during the reign of Louis XV, it's no surprise then that craftsman specialized in certain types of furniture to store, chill, and serve the luxury crus that were a vital part of everyday life in France. One such piece of furniture was called a rafraîchissoir.
Considered an "essential" serving table in 18th century France, the rafraîchissoir did serve a very specific purpose for certain members of French society at the time. Having one of these small refreshment tables parked near the dining table gave French nobility or the bourgeoisie and their guests the opportunity to dine alone — meaning waiters and other domestic servants were not privvy to the confidential conversations and rumblings of the rich and famous. Whether we would consider a rafraîchissoir essential during these times of COVID-19 is questionable, but definitely probable.
Most often made with a marble top and brass gallery to accommodate spills, rafraîchissoirs (sometimes called servantes) were fitted with two or more wells that held removable brass or silver plated buckets for chilling wine. They also included a drawer for storing corkscrews, cutlery, extra napkins, and anything else that might be needed during dinner. They also had a shelf or shelves below to hold covered dishes or extra plates for later courses, thus allowing the host and his guests more privacy by providing all the required items for the duration of the dinner without the prying eyes and ears of the help.
Antique wine furniture has become very collectible in recent years. Pieces like the rafraîchissoir have become as relevant and interesting to today's interiors and lifestyles as they were during the days of Louis XV and his favorite mistress, Madame de Pompadour. These clever, yet elegant tables were very popular and continued to be in use until the end of the 19th century. They can still be found in French homes, but are most often used as a planter or bar cart. Hmmm... maybe they do qualify as an "essential" piece of furniture? What do you think?
When this self-described Francophile is not reading or writing about all things French, she's dreaming up charming new ways to showcase Lolo French Antiques et More or traveling to France with Lolo to buy delightful treasures for their store. Mimi, Lolo, and their new French Bulldog, Duke, live in Birmingham, AL.