The Teschen Table symbolises the intersection between art, design, politics and the natural sciences in the eighteenth century. It commemorates a largely forgotten, yet highly important treaty in the history of International Relations: The Treaty of Teschen.
The Treaty represents one of the defining moments in the evolution of European cooperation, establishing the principle of collective security that underpins many of our international institutions today, from the United Nations to NATO.
Created by Johann-Christian Neuber, The Teschen Table was given as a gift by the Duke of Saxony to the French Ambassador, the Baron Louis Auguste de Breteuil in 1780. It is an opulent table covered with 128 semi-precious stones sourced in Saxony and inset with Meissen porcelain medallions by Johann Eleazar Zeissig; evidencing the growing interest in geology in the 1860’s and alluding to the Duchy’s mineral wealth and prestige, while displaying allegorical celebrations of peace. The table is an object that straddles the worlds of art, design, politics, diplomacy and natural history and defines the interests of the time.
In 2015 the table was sold by the Marquis de Breteuil to the Musée du Louvre. As part of the conditions of sale it was agreed that one facsimile could be made to ensure the table’s continued presence in the Chateau de Breteuil. The Marquis contacted Factum Arte in the spring of 2015 and requested that the facsimile be produced in the most objective way possible, with the highest level of similarity to the original table in its current state.
A full recording of the table was carried out by a team of four people from Factum Arte in July 2015 at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. This consisted of 3D scanning with Factum Arte’s Lucida 3D scanner (one of the few systems that can record gold), composite photography, detailed measurements, a recording of the book housed within the table and notes about the condition and surface of the table.
Scanning the Teschen Table with the Lucida 3D Scanner
The first step in the production of the facsimile of the Table of Teschen was to 3D scan in high resolution. The Lucida 3D scanner obtains 3D information of the surface of an object by recording raw black and white video. A laser strip is projected onto the surface and two video cameras, set at a 45 degree angle from the laser, records the line distortions as the scanner moves along the surface. This information is then used to generate a 3D model which, after processing, can be re-materialised to create an exact facsimile.
The production of the facsimile took place over the course of several months and was achieved using an array of advanced output technologies including CNC milling, various types of 3D printing, waterjet cutting, multi-layered printing onto gesso coated aluminium and centrifugal casting. This was done in conjunction with highly-skilled craftsmen who were casting and chasing bronze, cutting stones, patinating gold, turning wood, cutting stones and bookbinding. The facsimile is an example of what can be achieved when digital and physical artisans work together to produce an uncompromising and articulate object. The facsimile is also informed by research carried out by the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation in tandem with external advisers to ensure an objective analysis and attention to detail. Specialists of stones from Saxony, geologists/geological historians and connoisseurs of 18th century furniture-making and casting techniques were invited to contribute to the project.
Routing the Table´s internal layer of wood to inlay stones
The geological samples, semi-precious stones, pearls and porcelain tiles are critical to the look and feel of the table. The stones were reproduced in three different ways: The geological samples were printed in high-resolution on waterjet cut pieces of aluminium coated with gesso. These were coated with a ‘waterclear’ resin and polished. A similar approach was used for the decorative stone inserts on the sides and legs. All the inlaid semi-precious stones (quartz, amethyst and agate) were hand-cut in Thailand to 3D files extracted from the table. The surface cutting was based on observation while the invisible parts were based on knowledge of C18th stone cutting. The pearls were slotted onto a 3D modelled and printed holders that are inset into a waterjet cut aluminium sub-structure.
One unexpected challenge was to find an appropriate gilding method to achieve the variety of gold tonalities (rose gold, green gold and white gold, yellow gold). The table was originally produced using mercury gilding (a process we used on the production of the Bonarelli Lion for the Museo del Prado). Most mercury gilding has now stopped for health and safety reasons and has been replaced with electro-plating. A mix of gold, tin and silver plating was used to create the final surface. The silver/gold mix was oxidised and worked to produce the character of the heavily cleaned and restored top. The gold parts were tinted with ‘Corla’ - a mix of shellac and pigment to push the tone of the gold towards green or red.
Gold plated brass garlands
Printed porcelain tiles
Final stone arrangement on metal plates which constitute the table top
Assembling the table top
In March 2016, a team from Factum Arte took the unfinished facsimile of the table top to Galerie Kugel in order to conduct a side-by-side comparison with the original. The comparison was conducted in the presence of Nicholas Kugel, Henri François Breteuil and François Breteuil. They are people who have an intimate relationship with the table and who know it well. Their response to the facsimile was essential, and their reaction conditioned the final decisions on how the finished facsimile looks.
François de Breteuil, Adam Lowe and Francesco Cigognetti inspecting the facsimile at the Factum Arte workshop, April 2016
Facsimile of the Teschen Book, identifying, classifying and describing each of the 128 precious and semi-precious stones belonging to the Table of Teschen.