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By the mid-eighteenth century, elaborately decorated silver centrepieces, or epergnes, had become de rigueur on the grandest English dining-tables during dessert – the third and final course of dinner if served à la française – and were often given as wedding gifts. Made in London in 1759/60, and engraved with the owner’s coat-of-arms, this fashionable Rococo epergne is a typical example with its large detachable central basket and smaller removable dishes supported on radiating branches.
Once the table had been cleared of the second course dishes and the cloth removed, the epergne dressed with assorted fresh or candied fruits would be brought in and placed centre-stage, surrounded by other elegant tablewares in silver, porcelain or glass, and figures in either porcelain or sugar-paste. In very grand settings, these items might even be placed on mirrored glass plateaux, which would reflect not only the splendid table ornaments, but also the candlelight and ceiling decorations.