Richly gilded and polychrome-decorated on a white ground, this table was designed in the George III French/antique fashion promoted in the 1770s by the Rome-trained architect James Wyatt (d.1813). Its elliptical demi-medallion top is mosaiced in compartments with scalloped rays radiating from an 'Apollo' sunflower that is wreathed by a luscious garland and a beribboned festoon of flowers displayed against 'Etruscan' blue and black-banded ribbons that are edged with 'Venus' pearls. Such table tops, generally harmonized with a room's ceiling and mantelpiece, executed in a richer fashion than contemporary scagliola-marble examples. Pearled medallions and laurel-festooned floral paterae also embellish the frieze, whose borders are sculpted with palm, pearl and laurel wreaths; while the reeded and tapering columnar legs have altar-hollowed capitals that are similarly wrapped by pearls and triumphal palms.
The table is a masterpiece by the acclaimed peintre ébéniste George Brookshaw (1751-1823), who was established in London's Curzon Street in the later 1770s before moving to his 'Elegant Furniture and Upholstery Warehouse' on Great Marlborough Street in 1782. Brookshaw's reputation can be supported by the epithet 'Peintre Ebeniste par Extraordinaire' inscribed on his bill for a commode supplied to the Prince of Wales at Carlton House in 1783 (L. Wood, 'George Brookshaw and his Painted Furniture', Partridge Recent Acquisitions, 1995, pp. 60-65). In 1788 he advertised 'a variety of the most elegant articles; consisting of pier tables, cabinets, commodes, quines [quoins], book-cases, candilabriums, girandoles, glass frames &c. together with a great variety of new-fashioned chimney-pieces, to correspond with his furniture, which are all made in a style peculiar to himself, in copper and marble, and painted and burnt-in, in a manner which gives them peculiar elegance.' (L. Wood, 'George Brookshaw "Peintre Ebeniste par Extraordinaire", The case of the vanishing cabinet-maker: Part 2', Apollo, June 1991, p. 384). The intended correlation between Brookshaw's chimney designs and his furniture invites comparison with the naturalistic floral garland decoration, combined with Etruscan Grecian vase ornament, that features on a chimneypiece from Hams Hall, Worcestershire (dismantled in the 1920s) and acquired by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 1993. The chimney would have formed part of the aggrandizement of Hams Hall begun by C. B. Adderley in the 1760s (L. Wood, 'Brookshaw's Chimneypiece from Hams Hall, Warwickshire', Furniture History Society Newsletter, May 1994). Another related chimneypiece was supplied to Badminton House Gloucestershire, in 1787 (Wood, 1991, op. cit., pt. II, pl. 1) while a further Brookshaw chimney was sold, the property of a Lady, Christie's, London, 23 November 2006, lot 170.
Other Brookshaw furniture with related decoration includes a commode that may have been supplied for the Albermarle Street house of John, 3rd Baron Monson (d.1806) (ibid., 1991, fig. 4). Another closely related table was sold anonymously, Christie's, New York, 28 January 1989, lot 110.
William Lever, later 1st Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925), the Sunlight Soap magnate, began by collecting English oak followed by 18th century French furniture. By the 1890s he committed himself to forming a collection representative of the best of British art - an endeavor that lasted for the last thirty years of his life. His pursuit of neoclassical English furniture of the late 18th century was virtually unparalleled at the time, but fully evident by the turn-of-the-century at his homes at Thornton Manor, Merseyside and The Hill in Hampstead where the table appears in a black and white photograph taken of the Adams Drawing Room at The Hill in 1925. Leverhulme's exceptional collection of furniture is only one manifestation of his passion for the English arts that are now largely housed in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, a house museum that he established in Port Sunlight in 1922. The Gallery to this day displays the most exceptional examples of English furniture, needlework, and ceramics among other disciplines.
While an invoice does not exist for the present table, a group of painted furniture now attributed to Brookshaw was purchased by him from the collector, part-time dealer and painter James Orrock (d. 1913), with whom he shared a passion for neoclassical furniture and the commitment to British art in public collections. Orrock himself ascribed these painted pieces to 'Pergolesi'. Some of the pieces were purchased by Leverhulme in the Christie's sale of 2-3 June 1904 although others were purchased privately and there were subsequent auction dispersals of his property in 1910-11 and 1912-13 (L. Wood, Catalogue of Commodes, 1994, pp. 33-38 and 252-253). The table was included in the celebrated five-day sale of Leverhulme's vast collections at The Hill following his death, as conducted by Anderson Galleries in February 1926.