This Regency brass-inlaid mahogany serving-table and pair of pedestals en suite is possibly by the celebrated and prolific firm of George Oakley (c. 1765-1841). Although not conclusive, there are at least four rectangular tables, either by or attributed to the cabinet-maker, with similar characteristics, such as the brass ‘buhl’ inlay, ebony stringing, applied bronzed lion masks and tapering reeded supports terminating in bronzed lion’s paw feet; one in the Royal Collection, another supplied to the Bank of England, a third from Papworth Hall, Cambridgeshire, and one in the Ballroom of the Mansion House, London.
The firm recorded at 22 St. Paul’s Churchyard, and thereafter, 8 Old Bond Street, London, who described themselves as the ‘Manufactory and Magazine for fashionable Furniture’, attracted the patronage of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales (later George IV, r. 1820-1830) at Carlton House, London. A related serving table in the fashionable Greek Revival-style acquired from Oakley is in the Royal Collection, now at Holyrood House, Edinburgh (RCIN 28079). Another important commission included the extensive refurbishment of the Bank of England between 1793 and 1815, the furniture of which reflected the austerity of the interior decoration designed by Sir John Soane (1753-1837). This comprised a serving-table virtually identical to the Royal table (M. Jourdain, ‘Early 19th-Century Furniture at the Bank of England’, Country Life, 3 October 1947, p. 677, fig. 8). The Bank of England table resembles a further table made in 1810 for Charles Madryll Cheere of Papworth Hall, Cambridgeshire, described in the accounts as a: ‘capital mahogany sideboard supported on a stand, reeded legs and carved and bronzed paw feet, with antique bronze heads…£26’ (ibid., p. 676). The Papworth Hall table was accompanied by a pair of pedestals, which similarly to the furniture offered here has the distinctive Oakley brass banding bordered with ebony (one illustrated M. Jourdain, ‘Decoration & Furniture from the Restoration to the Regency: English Empire Furniture made by George Oakley, Architectural Review, December 1920, pp. 151-152, plate IV). There is also another mahogany serving-table of the same model attributed to Oakley in the Ballroom of the Mansion House, London.
The table’s rectilinear form, with indented columnar corners, corresponds to that of a pattern introduced in the 1780s for a ‘French’ ormolu-enriched sideboard, designed by the Prince’s principal architect Henry Holland (1745-1806), for Spencer House, London (P. Thornton and J. Hardy, ‘The Spencer Furniture at Althorp,’ Apollo, May 1968, p. 272, fig. 11). The lion masks were undoubtedly inspired by the Roman antique fragments recorded in the Rome-trained architect/designer C.H. Tatham’s Etchings Representing the Best Examples of Ancient Ornamental Architecture (1799). Tatham (1772-1842) was Holland’s protégé, and went on to assist Thomas Hope (1769-1831) in the designs for Hope’s Duchess Street residence, published in the latter’s Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (1807).