We've been lucky enough recently to pick up a huge collection of vintage tile topped tables, almost certainly the largest in the UK and whilst cleaning them up and doing a bit of studying it became obvious that there's not a huge amount of definitive information out there.
Here's an attempt to compile what info there is, to iron out any contradictions and to clear up a few misconceptions. I'll also post a few links to some of the gems we have available.
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Let me also say that we welcome additional comments and corrections!
Lets start with one of the more common names you'll see - Adri (Adri Belgique) A Belgian firm active mainly through the 1960's. Their tables are usually signed, with the manufacturers name rather than any of the several designers they must have used judging by the variety of their abstract patterns.
Photo's from 1stdibs and Pamono
As any name or signature is painted on before firing the tiles, it doesn't always come out as legible as on the table above. What would be the chances of identifying a name from the four blobs on one of the sailing boat tables below? The base of these tables, incidentally, is very common to Adri, straight squared chrome legs attached to a black metal base.
This pair highlight one of the attractions of tile topped tables, with each one being individually hand painted no two are the same. Notice the differences in shading and lines between the two. It's conceivable that the image was designed by an Adri employee and the two tables painted by different artists.
Signatures on tables add to their value as they give a little provenance, some of the most sought after designs carry the name of Belarti. Here's a couple of examples
Tables with this name tend to be on good quality chrome bases and feature abstract, colourful designs which could easily pass for modern art. In fact, though the signatures tend to be consistent, the designs can vary wildly.
Is it possible that, in fact, they were designed by more than one person?
Although many sellers will confidently state that tiles were designed by a Belgian artist named Juliette Belarti, it seems actually that there was no such person and that the name was short for 'Belgian Artists' and created by a ceramicist named Julien de Covemaeker who had a studio in Ostende, Belgium.
Other items we have in store only cause further confusion. Compare the table Denisco tiled table on the right with the one below, signed Belarti.
Unless there was some flagrant copying going on, it seems highly likely that the same artist painted both of these.
Denisco (or DeNisco/De Nisco) was an Italian ceramicist though the 60's/70's
Although there are several DeNisco tables to be found (with huge variations in style and signature) very little information is to be found as to the person behind the art.
Could Belgian Covemaeker posing as Belarti be designing for an Italian firm while posing as DeNisco?
One particularly sought after design is often referred to as the 'Starburst' pattern, a Belarti specialty as seen on the signed example
on the right (sold recently on Roomscape)
We have a stunning example of a Starburst tiled table pictured above
This particularly gorgeous table is signed Vigneron a tile making firm whose only other examples of tile art I've found are embedded into sideboards rather than tables.
So did Belarti/Covemaeker design for Vigneron?
One interesting point that can help with identification is that the tile makers weren't generally also the base makers. It's probable that whoever originally sold the tables would have commissioned the tiles and bases separately and married them independently. This would explain the frequent confusion with similar styles and varying signatures
If you can't identify the tiles, flip the table over and see if there's a mark or label on the base. Here's an example where the base is made by, still trading, Belgian firm Metakor. The table itself, whilst presumably also Belgian, has a still unidentified signature.
You can't win ''em all!
Stepping away from Western Europe for a moment, the Scandinavians had their own take on tile topped tables, typically more understated and usually using wood instead of steel. Here's a gorgeous Danish example designed by Tue Poulsen for Mobler. Details HERE
..and our earliest example, an English Conran designed table bought in 1956.
More details HERE
Thanks for reading, let me leave you with an invitation to contribute or correct any errors via the comments
Here's two final images of tables we have instore and online which whilst beautiful and even familiar, are both unsigned and remain stubbornly unidentified!
Details HERE and HERE
Breaking news..........this is an image from a 1968 Belarti catalogue apparently showing an image of the man himself.
Any further information most welcome!