In this lecture, retired Curator and Head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at Cooper Hewitt Sarah D. Coffin talks about how the Surtout de Table is part of culinary history that starts with sixteenth and seventeenth century banquets and the surtouts, often designed by architects, that served as display on tables of that period. The Napoleonic era extended this tradition with neo-classical design elements, new culinary masterpieces and superstar chefs all of which served to woo supporters and impress ambassadors and heads of state. Eugene de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s stepson often served as host for these lavish diplomatic and social events on behalf of Napoleon, giving added meaning to this surtout which has a provenance to his furnishings.
Sarah Coffin recently retired as Curator and Head of the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department at Cooper Hewitt. She remains involved with the museum having curated the gallery of Tablescapes with the Surtout. In addition she is an authority on culinary design history and lectures widely in this field.