This impressive table bears the celebrated armorial of the Barberini family, with three bees, and in this instance with the addition of a cardinal's hat. The members of the family likely to have commissioned this impressive table include the cardinals Francesco Barberini, Antonio Barberini the elder, and Antonio Barberini the younger, all of whom were appointed cardinal by Maffeo Barberini (1568-1644), brother of Antonio the elder and uncle of Francesco, and who was elected Pope Urban VIII in 1623. Following his election as Pope, Urban embarked on a lavish building program, among which the construction of the Palazzo Barberini, started by the architect Carlo Maderno, and completed after his death in 1629 by Gianlorenzo Bernini, with the assistance of the young Francesco Borromini.
Alvar González-Palacios (op. cit.) attributes this table to the carver Alessandro Nave, mentioned in the Barberini archives as 'M. ro Alessandro Nave falegname di palazzo', and was recorded as working for the family at the Convento dei Padri Cappucini from 1632, at the Palazzo Barberini from 1629, and at Castel Gandolfo from 1637. Little else is known about Nave. Nave's son Francesco also worked for the Barberini family, supplying bookcases with the arms of Antonio Barberini the elder for the sacristy of S. Maria sopra Minerva (ill. Lizzani and González-Palacios, op. cit., p. XVII, fig. XX).
The bold, muscular carving of this table is a defining feature of Roman furniture of the period. A table with the coat-of-arms of Cardinal Sfondrato, featuring closely related scrolls framing a shell motif, as featured to the top of the legs of the Barberini table, is illustrated in González-Palacios op. cit, vol. II, p. 53, figs. 82-3. A medal cabinet with the arms of the Barberini, of similarly strong architectural form, likely to have been supplied to Maffeo Barberini as its armorial combines a bishop's cross with a cardinal's hat (unique feature among the Barberini cardinals, as Maffeo was made a bishop before becoming a cardinal), is in the Art Institute of Chicago (illustrated in A. González-Palacios, Il Mobile di Corte Italiano, 1985, p. 59, and recently exhibited in S. Walker and F. Hammond eds., Life and the Arts in Baroque Rome, New York, 1999, cat. 61).
Two frames supplied to the Barberini family are also known. The latter are carved in a boldly muscular mannerist vein similar to this table. One, framing a remarkable ancient mosaic of the Rape of Europa, is documented as having been supplied by Giovanni Maria Giorgetti in 1675-1677 (ill. González-Palacios op. cit., vol. II, p. 61, fig. 104). The second, framing a fresco by Guido Reni, is recorded in a 1649 inventory of Francesco Barberini, and features swags and husk trails remarkably similar to the present table (ill. Lizzani op. cit., p. 243).
Most recently, this table was featured in the renowned Contini-Bonacossi collection, which belonged to Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, who resided in the Villa Pratello Orsini, previously with the Strozzi familly, and later re-baptized Villa Vittoria (today it is the Palazzo dei Congressi) by Alessandro, before a significant part of it passed to the State and the Uffizi collection. It comprised an impressive group of Old Master paintings, important early maiolica and Renaissance furniture.