This Grecian tea-table appears to form a pair with the table acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1978 (illustrated in C. Wainwright et al., George Bullock, London, 1988, no. 50). The Victoria & Albert Museum's table is known to have been introduced to Thornbridge Hall, Derbyshire by Charles Boot and may conceivably have been amongst the furniture he acquired from the Duke of Newcastle's collection at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. However, the absence of Newcastle labels - as well as the paucity of Clumber Inventories makes this only a very tentative possibility.
THE ATTRIBUTION TO BULLOCK
At the time of the publication of the George Bullock exhibition catalogue in 1988, the Victoria & Albert Museum's table was believed to be unique - and not one of a pair. As such, the authors concluded that whilst the 'buhl' marquetry inlay was characteristic of Bullock's workshop, as were some of the mounts including the 'lamb's tongue' moulding, the incorporation of a Grand Tour specimen marble top (as opposed to an indigenous or 'mona' marble top) as well as the design of the feet, instead suggested that the table was constructed around 1820 from marquetry included in the 1819 sale of Bullock's stock.
Whilst it is certainly true that the design and profile of the feet are uncharacteristic of Bullock's oeuvre, the fact that a pair of the tables is now known to exist would seem to strengthen the hypothesis that these were more probably executed in Bullock's workshop during his lifetime, rather than made up after the 1819 stock sale. For to make a pair requires considerable lengths of very specific marquetry for both the friezes and bases of each table which is not found in the Stock in Trade sale.
A recently discovered Bullock commission also underlines the fact that Bullock was as happy to construct bases for Grand Tour marble tops as he was to incorporate slabs cut in his own Mona marble works. This was certainly the case with the magnificent pietra dura slab and parcel-gilt base supplied for George Byng (d. 1847) for Wrotham Park (see Christie's sale, 9 June 2005, lot 50), currently being exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as well as on the pair of cabinets with green Mona marble and Italian scagliola tops made for the Marquess of Abercorn (d. 1818) at Bentley Priory in 1817 (Wainwright, op. cit., no. 23).
This French form of Grecian 'altar' tea-table, described in 1808 as a parlour 'breakfast-table', served multi-purposes as a reading, work and games table (G. Smith, Collection of Designs for Household Furniture and Interior Decoration). It typifies the national 'massy' style promoted by the Tenterden Street manufactory established by George Bullock (d. 1818) and corresponds to his Louis XIV marble and 'buhle' enriched Library furniture lauded in 1816 by Rudolph Ackermann (see R. Ackermann, The Repository of Arts). Its colourful Italian marble-mosaiced and ormolu-wreathed drum has a plinth-supported tripod of bronze-black ebony enriched with golden boulle filigree and bas-relief rosettes. Its inlaid thyrsic tablets of British hop-entwined rods featured on a table designed by Bullock for Lavinia, Countess Spencer (d. 1831) and another supplied in 1817 for Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire (see the Thomas Wilkinson 'Bullock' Tracings, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery no. 232; and Christie's house sale of Great Tew Park 27-29 May 1987, lot 33).
The architect William Atkinson appears to have been responsible for the design of Bullock's related boulle furniture in 1809; while related brass work, possibly associated with the New Bond Street Ironmonger W.S. Summers, also featured in the 1819 sale of Bullock's Stock in Trade. The present table's honey-suckle frieze - as well as its hop pattern - feature on a rosewood secretaire that has been dated to the early 1820s; this was constructed re-using Boulle marquetry ornaments executed by Bullock and presumably acquired in the posthumous sale of Bullock's stock, when unfinished furniture, marquetry panels and ormolu mounts were sold off (see M. Levy, 'George Bullock's partnership with Charles Fraser, 1813-1818, and the Stock-in-Trade Sale, 1819', Furniture History, 1989, pp. 145-213 and fig. 8).
Messrs. Gillows' bill to Stephen Tempest in 1821 describes 'A handsome pillar and claw (table) for your circular marble slab, richly carved in rosewood' - underlining the prevalent tradition of Grand Tour tops being brought home to have fashionable bases made for them (S. Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London, Woodbridge, 2008, p.337). The fact that this table and that in the Victoria & Albert Museum display identical tops would perhaps strengthen the hypothesis that they were originally commissioned by the same patron - although this pattern of top is not unique, as a similarly mosaiced Roman top wreathed with 'antique' black and white ribbons corresponds to patterns in Messrs. Gillows' 1824 Estimate Sketch Book (C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, Leeds, 1978, no. 396).