The inspiration for the base of this magnificent centre-table is clearly the pair of celebrated commodes made by André-Charles Boulle and supplied in 1708 for the chambre du roi of Louis XIV at the Palais de Trianon, now the Grand Trianon, Versailles. A second 18th century example of the commode entered the collection of the Dukes of Hamilton at Hamilton Palace, and prior to its sale at Christie's in 1882 (lot 994) was loaned by the 11th Duke for the Specimens of Cabinet Work exhibition at Gore House in London in 1853. There it was admired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, founder of what was later to become The Wallace Collection. The Marquess obtained permission from the Duke of Hamilton to have replicas of the commode made and the work was entrusted to the little-known London cabinet-maker, Blake, who subsequently produced up to five copies to be divided between the Marquess's Hertford House and rue Lafitte residences. The model was highly popular with the best Parisian ébénistes during the latter half of the 19th century, and examples are known by Fourdinois, Winckelsen, Dasson, Zwiener and Linke, each maker having in turn either owned or had access to the set of master patterns for the commode, initially acquired from Blake.
Although apparently unstamped or signed, the base of the table may be attributed to the Parisian ébéniste, Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener. German-born, Zwiener established his atelier at 12, rue de la Roquette in 1880 and continued to work from that address until 1895. Copying most of the 18th century styles and replicating articles from the Garde-Meuble National, he participated in the major international exhibitions of the late 19th century, winning a Gold Medal in Paris in 1889. Impressed by the quality of his work, the jury at the latter exhibition reported: 'Dès ses débuts à une Exposition universelle, [il] s'est mis au premier rang par la richesse, la hardiesse et le fini de ses meubles incrustés de bronze et fort habilement'. As mentioned above, Zwiener, along with several others, is known to have produced copies of the Trianon model commode (for a pair by his atelier, see P. Lecoules, Art Mobilier Parisien 1850-1900, 1983, p. 60). However, what singles him out specifically as the likely maker here is the existence of what would appear to be the only other known example of this unusual form of table, of identical dimensions, executed in tulipwood and parquetry veneers and bearing his stamp (see Christie's, London, 24 February 2005, lot 100). The table features the signature cariatides ailées mounts of the Trianon commodes, but also cleverly uses an inverted and adapted interpretation of the central mount on their upper drawers as the central drawer mount and escutcheon, whilst also using the scrolled acanthus from the same mount as the drawer pulls.
The table's sumptuous top displays fine 17th and 18th century hardstone panels from the the Florentine 'Opificio delle Pietre Dure' workshop, created in 1588 under the patronage of Ferdinand I de Medici, Grand-Duc of Tuscany (d. 1609). The 19th century fashion for ornate furniture embellished with such panels was nothing new, and the depiction of birds among flowers in the larger panels set into this top recalls in particular those found on the spectacular Badminton Cabinet, made for Henry, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, circa 1720-32, sold in these rooms, 5 July 1990, lot 151 and again, for a world auction record price for any piece of furniture, 9 December 2004, lot 260. Following the end of the Tuscan Duchy in 1859, the Grand Ducal workshops were used principally for restoration and many old hardstone panels were re-used and incorporated in new arrangements within contemporary furniture. Judging by the design of the grey and white hardstone ribbon-tied bouquets, which fill the gaps between the earlier panels and which fit neatly around the satyr corner clasps, it seems certain that this top was designed specifically for the embellishment of its Boulle-inspired base, leading one to speculate as to whether and for whom this might have been an important private commission.