A Grand Statement: The Surtout de Table and French Empire Style during the Napoleonic Era

The extraordinary surtout de table in the collection of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and currently on view in Tablescapes: Designs for Dining, once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte’s stepson, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais. Created by the prominent French sculptor and producer of gilt-bronze objects Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the surtout was intended for use on a long table at grand occasions, such as the diplomatic dinners Prince Eugéne would host in Paris and Italy. An expert on European decorative arts and interior architecture, Dr. Ulrich Leben will discuss the ornamental grammar of the surtout and its relationship to the interior architecture of the Palais Beauharnais, owned by Prince Eugène de Beauharnais and rebuilt in the Empire style in 1805.


Reception and Exhibition Viewing of Tablescapes: Design for Dining: 6:30 p.m.

Lecture: 7:00 p.m.



Real-time captioning will be provided for this program. Find out about Cooper Hewitt’s accessibility services.

The Enid and Lester Morse Historic Design Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Lester S. Morse, Jr.

Tablescapes: Designs for Dining is made possible by Anonymous. Conservation of the surtout de table is made possible by the Smithsonian Women’s Committee. In-kind support is provided by Shapeways and The Abadi Group.