The tables are designed in the French antique or Grecian taste, and with 'tablette' stretchers and columnar 'encoignure' corners, relate to the fashion promoted by the Parisian marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre (d. 1796), such as his 'Consoles ... avec tablettes', supplied in the mid-1780s to John, 2nd Earl Spencer (d. 1834) (J. Friedman, Spencer House, London, 1993, fig. 207). Their columnar legs have Grecian Ionic capitals as popularised by James Stuart's engravings of the Ilyssus Temple issued in his Antiquities of Athens, 1762, and introduced by the architect Henry Holland in his 1780s embellishment of Spencer House, London (ibid., figs. 206 and 73). In place of laurels festooned from capitals in the Ilyssus Temple fashion, these frames are wreathed in bas-relief with Apollo laurels; while their columns are flower-garlanded in the French manner adopted in 1773 by Thomas Chippendale Junior (d. 1822) for 'Swags of Roses' festooning the laurelled 'Venus temple' bed at Harewood House, Yorkshire (J. Sellars (ed.), The Art of Thomas Chippendale: Master Furniture Maker, Leeds, 2000). Their herm-tapered and palm-wreathed columns have antique flutes scalloped in sunflower fashion, while their reeded feet are coned in 'thyrsus' form as adopted by Chippendale for one of his sets of 'cabriolet' chairs that were japanned yellow and white, supplied for Harewood's Yellow Damask Sitting Room (ibid., p. 35 and C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol. II, p. 115, fig. 200). The tables' ribbon-tied wreaths and garlands, as well as their stretchers' ribbon-guilloches banded in the 'Etruscan' manner with Venus pearl-strings, also featured in Chippendale's embellishment of Harewood's pier-glasses, whose Roman-medallion frames were burnished like 'Silver' (ibid., p. 31 and fig. 18; sold by George, 7th Earl of Harewood, Christie's, London, 10 April 1986, lot 84 and again, anonymously, Christie's, London, 9 July 1992, lot 54 (£319,000)).
Thomas Sheraton noted in his Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, 1793 (pl. IV, Appendix) that 'such pier tables are merely for ornament under a [pier] glass, they are generally made very light, and the style of finishing them is rich and elegant. Sometimes the tops are solid marble, but most commonly veneered in rich satin, or other valuable wood, with a cross-band on the outside, a border about two inches richly japanned. The frames are commonly gold, or white and burnished gold. Stretching-rails have of late been introduced to these tables, and it must be owned that it is with good effect, as they take off the long appearance of the legs, and make the under part appear more furnished; beside they afford an opportunity of fixing a vase or basket of flowers, which, with their reflection when there is a glass behind, produced a brilliant appearance.'
THE PAINTED TOPS
These painted tops have Etruscan pearl-wreathed borders wreathed by beribboned rose garlands; while more beribboned garlands festoon its central compartment, comprised of figurative medallions with trophies of flowered cornucopiae emblematic of Peace and Plenty. The theme is echoed by their golden laurel-wreathed frame, which is garlanded by flowers suspended from Grecian Ionic-capped and palm-wrapped pillars. Their capitals also incorporate tablets in the manner of the scagliola-topped table of the 1790s included in the sale at Christie's, London, 5 June 2008 'Four British Collections including Important Furniture', lot 6.
Their floral japanning relates to that of the furniture and new-fashioned chimney-pieces advertised in 1788 by the Great Marlborough Street cabinet-maker and, 'Peintre ibiniste' George Brookshaw (d. 1823) (L. Wood, 'George Brookshaw', Apollo, May 1991, pp. 301-306). A related table, with French-fashioned garlanded frieze, was supplied for Sir John Griffin Griffin (1719-1797), for Audley End, Essex in the mid-1780s by Messrs. Chipchase and Lambert (R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, rev. ed., 1954, vol. III, p. 300, fig. 75).