The underside of one console table has the following printed letter attached:-
Letter: Wednesday 11th My dear Sonny I have found some additional information regarding Woodhall Par. Mr. P. Parker did much of the paper decoration during the early 1780s for Thomas Leverton. Henry covers this in one of his excellent essays 'English Homes' Country Life. I will probably be coming down this weekend ...'.
These rare paper-scroll tables and matching mirror are designed en suite with the famous painted armchairs from Woodhall that were sold from the house by the Executors of the late Henry Abel Smith, Esq., Sotheby's London, 13 March 1931, lot 101 and are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (W.18-1931; Georgian Furniture, London, 1947, pl. 69). On its own this stylistic connection firmly supports the likely provenance, but combined with the fragment of a letter pasted underneath one of the tables the provenance seems incontestable. Solomon Gubbay was collecting in the period when these tables are likely to have been sold from Woodhall. It seems less likely that the provenance given in the letter would be wrong so soon after they were bought; the 'Henry' referred to is the architectural writer, H. Avray Tipping, who died in 1933. The letter at least implies that Avray Tipping is still alive and this gives a terminus post quem of 1933 for the purchase of the tables by Mr. Gubbay. The tables were not in a small Christie's sale in 1923, nor in either of the large dispersals in 1931 and if Henry Abel Smith did inherit these pieces in 1898 he may have them between these two dates, as well as other pieces on a sporadic basis.
They are likely to have been designed under the direction of his architect Sir Thomas Leverton (d. 1824). The ribbon-twined frames of the mirror, the tables and the chairs are designed in keeping with the contempory fashion for beribboned dressing-tables and were painted in the 'Etruscan' fashion and embellished with laurel-wreathed 'print' medallions. The mirror's medallion of mural-crowned Cybele, the Phrygian Earth Mother personifying the element Earth, is in the manner of Piazzetta. It would have been supplied by the print-dealer R. Parker, who assisted with the decoration of the 'Engraving Room'. This was on the principal floor and Parker also provided a catalogue of the prints in the room. A prospectus for sale, drawn up in 1799, also noted the first floor dressing-room as being 'Ornamented with Prints' and the small scale and character of these pieces of furniture and the chairs, which have caned seats, suggests that they were supplied for the dressing-room and not for the larger scale Engraving Room (F. Russell, 'Microcosm of 18th-Century Taste, The Engravings Room at Woodhall Park', Country Life, 6 October 1977, pp. 924-6). There is another room on the first floor which was billed in the 1799 and 1801 sales as being a boudoir. It has three windows and it could be that this pair of console tables and the pair of mirrors (one of which being lot 129) were placed between those windows; however there is no photographic record of this room.
A paint analysis undertaken by Catherine Hassall of University College London showed that no traces of the original decoration appear to survive to the paintwork, implying that in the 20th century the tables were completely stripped back and re-painted with the current scheme.
We are extremely grateful to Ralph Abel Smtih for his assistance in preparing this catalogue note.