An English ormolu-mounted Ebony, Red Porhyry and Pietra-Dura console desserte
An English ormolu-mounted Ebony, Red Porhyry and Pietra-Dura console desserte

CIRCA 1835

An English ormolu-mounted Ebony, Red Porhyry and Pietra-Dura console desserte
Circa 1835
Surmounted by a shaped rectangular top, the apron centred to the front by an egg-and-dart framed panel with fruit, above a foliate cartouche, flanked to each side by a panel with ribbon-tied berries, the sides each with a further panel with fruit, supported to the front by two scroll feet, the back with a mirrored panel, above a serpentine lower shelf, on a plinth base
43 in. (110.5 cm.) high; 81 in. (207 cm.) wide; 27 in. (69 cm.) deep
By Repute:
Purchased by the present vendor's father from a house sale during the 1950s near Rumbling Bridge, Muchart, Perthshire. The house was said to have been frequented by Queen Mary.

Lot Essay

This console table is exemplary of a group of furniture, embellished with precious hardstones, supplied to the Great families of Scotland during the early part of the 19th Century, in order to embellish their houses in the grandest manner. The most celebrated being the Palace of The Dukes of Hamilton.

The classically influenced double volutes of the supports and apron of this massive pier table, with their fleshy, dynamic yet controlled gilt-bronze acanthus mounts, suggest a date of around 1830, and possibly English manufacture. The dominant hold that neo-classicism had maintained over the decorative arts was beginning to be challenged - not least by a revival of the baroque style, associated with the reign of Louis XIV, and the rococo of his successor Louis XV, distinctions not always appreciated by designers of the time. Despite the obvious quality of the piece, the lack of a maker's name is not unusual on a piece of English furniture.

The materials create a dramatic impact: the blackness of the ebony sets off the gold of the mounts and the large slabs of porphyry. But it is the frieze panels of pietra dura in low and high relief that give the piece its extraordinary richness. The use of decorative pietra dura is generally associated with production from the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, founded by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1588. However, the central rectangular panel carved with luscious fruit, some of which is almost in the round and tumbling off the pedestal of lapis-lazuli, relates in style and composition to panels found on a commode (circa 1775) by the French bniste Martin Carlin, (British Royal Collection). Even closer similarities can be found in the plaques used on a cabinet and centre table (both circa 1780-85) by Adam Weisweiler (British Royal Collection), acquired by George IV for Carlton House in the 1790s. Another related panel was incorporated into the clock cabinet made by the London company of Hume & Son in 1822-4 for the Duke of Hamilton (Sold by the Duke of Hamilton, The Hamilton Palace Sale, Christie's, 26 June 1882, lot 520 for 605 gns. to Davis, subsequently David Style, Esq., Wateringbury Place, Maidstone, Kent, Sold Christie's House Sale, 31 May 1978, lot 311). It is accepted that some or all of the high-relief pietra dura plaques on these pieces of furniture were made at the Gobelins workshops in the time of Louis XIV. Intended for magnificent cabinets, they were created under the auspices Domenico Cucci, the Italian born and trained cabinet-maker, who was working for the French crown by 1664. Given the quality of the workmanship and similarity of design and composition, it seems likely that the present central panel and those at the sides of the table originate from the same 17th century source. Very little of Cucci's furniture survived long into the 18th century; it was sold by the crown, probably being considered too old fashioned, and purchased by dealers who dismantled it in order to sell the precious panels of pietra dura separately or reuse them in more up-to-date pieces.

In 1828, the Weisweiler cabinet was moved from Carlton House and sent to Windsor after restoration in the workshops of Morel and Seddon. This company supplied, among others, George IV and his successor with considerable quantities of furniture for the royal palaces, not least pieces inset with pietra dura, some of which is known to have been specially acquired in Paris. The Duke of Hamilton also had a particular interest in pietra dura and commissioned a considerable number of pieces decorated with this material during the 1820s, much of which was intended to evoke the period of Louis XIV.

Although, at the time of this catalogue's publication, extensive research has been undertaken to trace the identity of the house from which this table was purchased, it has not been forthcoming. There were many such sales during the post-war years, three are recorded in Perthshire during 1949 - Blair Castle, Dunkeld House and Garth House. However, the house may have been in Clackmannanshire or Kinross-shire, both of which are close to Rumbling Bridge.

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