A QUESTION OF PROVENANCE
The table, originally gilt, was accompanied by the celebrated suite comprising ten side chairs, a pair of small settees and a pair of stools traditionally thought to have been supplied to Glemham Hall, Suffolk for Dudley North, who acquired the house in 1708-09. The accompanying suite of seat furniture was acquired in 1970 by the Victoria and Albert Museum (W22-33 - 1970) and lent to Marble Hill House, Sussex.
North set about refurbishing Glemham with suitably grand furnishings for the next several years. North, the son of a City of London magnate, was married to Catherine, the eldest daughter of Elihu Yale, founder of the famous American University and various objects descended from Yale were also added to the collections at Glemham (including a William and Mary strong box-on-stand sold from the estate of Halstead B. VanderPoel, Christie's, New York, 8 April 2004, lot 188). Sir Dudley's male line ended with his grandson (another Dudley North), in 1764. Upon his death, Dudley's sister - the Hon. Mrs. Herbert - succeeded him. She eventually left the estate to her younger sister's son, Mr. Dudley Long who died childless in 1829 and the estate reverted to the Norths, becoming the property of the 8th Earl of Guilford, until sold in 1923.
A question has been raised regarding the Glemham commission due to the present table's long-term presence at another North estate, Sezincote in Gloucestershire. When the table came on the market in 1998, it was put forth that the entire suite of gesso seat-furniture may have been supplied directly for Sezincote to Francis North, 2nd Baron of Guilford (d. 1729), or his son, also Francis, the 1st Earl and 3rd Baron of Guilford (d. 1790). Sezincote was the seat of the Barons of Guilford (and after the Earls of Guilford) from the time of its purchase in 1704 - virtually the same time as the Glemham acquisition; it remained in the family until 1795 when sold to John Cockerell, possibly with the contents of the house. It was Cockerell, an East India officer, who erected the present building in the Indian taste. The argument then follows that the table became separated from the suite (presumably prior to the 1795 sale) when the remainder was removed to Glemham (or another Guilford house) - other pieces from the suite are photographed in situ at Glemham in 1910. This theory, while plausible, may be put to question if only because the eighteenth century manor house at Sezincote at this date does not seem grand enough for such a magnificent suite. It could equally be argued that the present table entered the collection at Sezincote before Cockerell bought the house in 1795 (while the remaining pieces stayed at Glemham). Unfortunately, either historical track remains speculative until further information comes to light.
The 'Guilford' table has Roman foliage wreathing its serpentined and triumphal-arched frame, which is designed in the George I 'picturesque' fashion and intended to be burnished like golden bronze. As the 'sideboard' of a window-pier set of a fashionable salon or reception room, its garniture of vase or candelabra furnishing its former marble tablet, would been reflected in an accompanying mirror (pier-glass). In company with a second pier-set, it formed part of a stately suite together with large fireside bergeres ('love seats'), chairs and stools
Since the table and mirror originally served as a light source, its golden architectural ornament appropriately recalls the light-deity Apollo's control of the Elements , which are here fused in the Roman 'picturesque' manner that was later popularised by the Rome-trained architect James Gibbs' publication entitled Thirty Three Shields & Compartments, 1731. Here Pan's Arcadian reed binds the frieze, and forms cusped arches at the centre and corners of the sarcophagus-scrolled frame, whose scalloped and wave-scrolled lambrequin is decked with trefoiled bas-reliefs. Plumes crown the fretted and water-bubbled escutcheons of the legs, whose truss-scrolled pillars terminate in palm-wrapped volutes that are raised on rustic ogee-scrolled plinths.
The suite may have been supplied by the court cabinet-maker James Moore (d.1726), following the establishment of his celebrated partnership with the glass-manufacturer John Gumley (d.1728). Moore supplied related furnishings for Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire in around 1719 (see T. Murdoch, 'The king's cabinet-maker: the giltwood furniture of James Moore the Elder', The Burlington Magazine, June 2003, pp. 414-415, figs. 16 and 19); Cannons, Middlesex (a pair of chairs sold Christie's, London, 8 June 2006, lot 50) and Claremont, Surrey (see J. Garfield-Davies and T. Murdoch, 'The Duke of Newcastle's lacquer side tables', Antiques, June 2008, pp.89-93).