Louis Tessier was a flower painter, trained at the Manufacture royale des Gobelins, from the late 1740s until his death in 1781. He provided models for the borders of tapestries and furniture trimmings, some of which circulated as engravings and were used in marquetry decorations, notably in pieces by the cabinetmaker Jean-François Oeben whose family was related to the Tessiers.
It was Maurice Fénaille's research into the Manufacture des Gobelins that first brought attention to the little-known figure of Louis Tessier. Later, Michel Faré's studies of 17th and 18th century French still lifes led to a new appreciation of his works: the founding piece of his corpus was Still Life with a Delft Pot, a fire screen that entered the collection of the Marquis de Marigny, for whom it was intended. Letters with broken seals, tossed negligently into a porcelain bucket, are boldly and humorously addressed to the Marquis.
Our still life, viewed from slightly above, might also have been intended as a fire screen. The structure of the space, which resembles a rectangular box, as well as the flat areas of shadow, tend towards this analysis. It depicts the implements of the arts: books, a music score, watercolours and a plan, and the base of a column – and those of the sciences: a globe, a telescope and a shagreen eyeglass. In an elegiac tone, they also evoke travel, distance and loss: the roses are fading and bindweed is growing around that base of a column that stands on a copy of The Iliad, and the words of the love song set to music suggest the absence of the beloved.
The inspiration and the colours are very close to those of the Marquis's fire screen, particularly the use of bright blues. The spatial perspective and the arrangement of objects are very similar. In this case, the globe, the focal point of our painting, is the pièce de résistance, skilfully highlighted, much in the way of the porcelain bucket in the artist's masterpiece.
– Paris, collection Bourdelau. – Paris, Galerie Cailleux.