This table was probably supplied under the direction of Edward Holmes Baldock and produced in the workshop of Robert Blake circa 1840.
THE BLAKES - MASTERS OF MARQUETRY
This table can be firmly attributed to the Blake workshop on account of a very similar writing-table at Goodwood House, Sussex, labelled 'Messrs Blake' (M. Levy, 'E.H, Baldock and the Blake Family', Furniture History Society Newsletter, May 2005, p.1). The two writing-tables are similar in form, and have comparable ormolu mounts heading the legs and bordering the top's edge. Significantly, both tables display similar marquetry executed in the Dutch fashion. This type of marquetry is found on other furniture labelled by Blake, such as a tray with a handwritten label on the reverse inscribed 'Manufactured by R. Blake, 8 Stephen Street, Tottenham Court Road' (illustrated in C. Gilbert, The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 112, figs. 131-132). The 'Cabinet inlayer and Buhl manufacturer' Robert Blake was established at 8 Stephen Street on the Tottenham Court Road by 1826 (ibid., p. 18). The firm was recorded in the early 1840's as Blake, Geo. & Brothers, inlayers, etc' in Tottenham Court Road and Mount Street, Mayfair. They were renamed George Blake & Co. in the late 1840s and continued to trade until 1880 (M. Levy, op. cit., pp. 2-3). The Blakes were apparently renowned for their marquetry: an old note in the Norfolk Archive, relating to a table in the Duke of Northumberland's collection at Alnwick Castle, records its creation by 'the Blakes, the great Makers of Marquetrie' (ibid., p.2).
EDWARD HOLMES BALDOCK
The present table reflects the Louis XV style promoted in the second quarter of the nineteenth century by the marchand-mercier Edward Holmes Baldock (1777-1845) of Hanway Street. Another very similar table, sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 9 July 1998, lot 136, was retailed by Baldock, confirmed by the presence of two 'EHB' brands - identified by Geoffrey de Bellaigue as Baldock's mark (G. de Bellaigue, 'Edward Holmes Baldock: Part II', Connoisseur, August 1975, p. 22). It is interesting to speculate how much work Baldock may have subcontracted: the specialised marquetry on this table is exactly the type of work he may have decided to outsource and commission from Blake.
BALDOCK, BLAKE AND THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
Baldock may well have used Blake's services for the furniture he supplied to Walter, 5th Duke of Buccleuch (1806-1884). Between May 1840 and February 1841 the Duke of Buccleuch purchased goods to the value of £1,035.8.0 from Baldock for Dalkeith Palace, Bowhill and Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland (C. Gilbert, Furniture at Temple Newsam House and Lotherton Hall, vol. II, London, 1978, p.319). An example is an octagonal marquetry centre table supplied by Edward Holmes Baldock to the 5th Duke for £85 in 1840. This table, featuring marquetry synonymous with Blake, was sold by The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, Dalkeith Palace, Scotland, Christie's, London, 1 April 1971, lot 43 and is now at Leeds City Art Gallery, Temple Newsam House, Leeds (illustrated ibid., no. 395).
A writing-table (A) similar to the present table, in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch, reputedly bears the brand 'EHB' and is thought to have been supplied by Baldock to the 5th Duke in August 1841 (Bellaigue, op. cit., p. 25, fig. 15). A bureau (B) in the same collection, also probably supplied to the 5th Duke by Baldock, is attributed to the workshop of George Morant (d.1846). Its attribution rests on similarities it shares with a marquetry centre table (C) in the same collection which is stamped 'G.I. MORANT'.
The three latter pieces (A, B and C) provide an insight into Baldock's practises, and a futher link between Morant, Blake and Baldock. Baldock most probably made use of cabinet-makers and specialists in decoration such as inlayers of marquetry, in his quest to fulfill large commissions of fashionable furniture for patrons such as the 5th Duke of Buccleuch. As a sophisticated marchand mercier Baldock was able to supply furniture of the most up-to-date fashion from the hands of the most skilled craftsmen of the day.
A nearly identical ebonised and marquetry writing-table, featuring a similar cartouche bearing the inscription 'Long Live the Queen' (suggesting a terminus post quem of 1837), was offered anonymously, Sotheby's, London, 26 May 1995, lot 212.