St. Petersburg, Russia: Deep in the heart of a petite palace lies a “magical” table, three floors deep and bearing the scars of many a royal scandal.
Catherine the Great was a frank and eccentric Tsarina of the 18th century. Following a coup d’état, she came to power in 1762 and ruled until her death in 1796.
During her golden reign, her well-documented sexual exploits often overshadowed her political triumphs. To avoid scandal, Catherine sought to hide her lusty appetite from the outside world, but with eras gone by it is her table designs that truly reveal her carnal inclinations.
A collection of eyebrow-raising furniture was first uncovered in 1941 hidden inside a secret sex parlour. A hero item was the gold lacquered table made from sycamore and walnut. In her sensationalist fashion, the table’s supporting legs were designed as generously proportioned erections with bulbous testicles that, quite confusingly, doubled as breasts.
In 2011, French master craftsman Dominique Roitel, from Henryot & Cie, reconstructed this table from found drawings and images. It took over two years and more than 2,500 hours of carving to reimagine, proving no item was considered too extravagant for the Empress’s sensual taste.
It’s rumoured that most of the parlour furniture was destroyed in 1950, but a few photographs still remain. Although the world has lost this extraordinary table, there is a greater example that still remains, and is testament to Catherine’s masterful invention and clandestine dealings.
Burrowed away in her private palace, Le Petite Hermitage, remains a 12 seater mechanical dining table, meticulously constructed to serve her young male guests without a nosy servant in sight.
The intricate mechanics were hidden under the tabletop and rooted three floors deep. It was here the servants would remain hidden from the dining room’s activities, manipulating pulleys and cranks to make the magic happen.
First, the table would rise up from the floor fully set. Her special guests would write their meal requests on a place setting and ring a bell. Their orders were lowered to the servants below who would fill the order and use the table's machinery to hoist up the dishes from the kitchen below.
After the dining was complete and Catherine was ready to move her party along, the table would completely fold up and disappear beneath the them altogether.
A just feast custom-made for an Empress, with a taste for desire and a determination for absolute disclosure.