This marquetry Pembroke table, with its light and spirited neoclassical ornamentation, is undoubtedly inspired by the designs of Robert Adam (1728-92) as promoted in his Works in Architecture, published in parts from 1773. Following his return from Rome in 1758, after a four-year stay in Italy, Adam called the Italian artist Michelangelo Pergolesi to London to work with him on the publications he was preparing. Adam appropriated some of Pergolesi’s designs in addition to those of other Italian artists also in London, such as Cipriani and Bartolozzi, and made them his own. Pergolesi produced one publication in his own name, Designs for various ornaments, etc., published from 1777 to 1801. These designs first appeared as loose sheets, and although they were intended to supersede the Rococo, in their lightness of touch they were in fact Rococo ornament in classical disguise. The ornamentation of this table appears to include at least one of Pergolesi’s motifs, the entwined foliate marquetry border; a version of which appears in ed. E.A. Maser, Classical Ornament of the Eighteenth Century, Designed & Engraved by Michelangelo Pergolesi, New York, 1970, plate 58, no. 380. The ornament of this table, with its husk swags and demi-lune fan motifs, can further be related to the plaster and painted decoration of Adam’s ceilings, such as the Adelphi ceiling designed by Adam in c. 1771, with painted neo-classical roundels by Antonio Zucchi (1728-92), now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, W.43:1 to 5-1936.
The marquetry motifs employed here recall the works of John Linnell who worked with and was undoubtedly greatly influenced by Adam. The two collaborated first at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, for the 1st Lord Scarsdale in the 1760s and later commissions included Syon House and Alnwick Castle for the Duke of Northumberland, and Osterley Park for Francis, Robert and Mrs Sarah Child, to name just some of the more notable patrons. For Alnwick Castle Linnell supplied a pair of writing-tables displaying a similar arrangement of palm leaves around an oval medallion (in the borders of the table top offered here) and a pair of pembroke tables with a similar arrangement of husk swags (centering the table top), both circa 1770 (H. Hayward & P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, London, 1980, vol II, pp. 148-149, figs. 290 and 291) while rosettes with spiral arrangements of petals (again in the borders of the present lot) are similar to those on tables at Inverary Castle and at Heveningham Hall, circa 1780 (ibid., pp. 161-162, figs. 307 and 309).