The pattern for this handsome drawing-room table, designed and ormolu-enriched in the French/antique or Marie Antoinette fashion, evolved from one of the cabinet-making masterpieces invented for display at the London International Exhition of 1862 by the Mayfair firm of Messrs. Holland & Sons (see the chromolithographical illustration in John Waring's, Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture at the International Exhibition 1862, 1863, I, pl. 40). Waring praised the firm's Exhibition table, which featured medallions of celebrated artists; and noted that 'by means of employing well-qualified designers, by great excellence in technical processes... [Messrs. Holland & Sons had] attained to the highest position as furniture-makers, and would certainly have obtained a medal for the finely-executed, marquetrie table, but for the fact that Mr. Holland accepted the honorary post of a juror in his class, which is one of the greatest distinctions'. Waring also praised the table's 'excellently designed stand' with its ormolu-enriched tripod pillars and urn-capped and Grecian-scrolled 'claw', being 'very rich and harmonious'. The present table top is mosaic-parquetried in marble-figured thuya, and wreathed by an Apollonian ribbon of laurels; while winged Mercury masks embellish its frieze, and laurelled heads of the nature deity Venus embellish its flowered and fruit-garlanded plinth. The 'Holland and Sons' label features on a closely related table sold anonymously, Sotheby's, Olympia, 11 February 2003, lot 437; while another related table was supplied by the firm in 1868 to Mr. R.N. Thornton (d.1876) of Portland Place, London and Knowle Cottage, Devon (R.W. Symonds and B.B. Whineray, Victorian Furniture, 1962, pls. 166-168). Another related table was illustrated, Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art: The Handley-Read Collection, Royal Academy of Arts, 1972, no. C5.
THE TABLE THAT GOT AWAY: SECOND-TIME LUCKY
The sale at which this table first appeared at auction, in recent memory at least, was attended by the current owners. It was a small sale near Bath, filled with unexciting goods, the current lot aside. Encouraged by the lack of known bidders attending this small sale, they hoped for a bargain. As the auctioneer announced this magnificent table and the bidding commenced, to their dismay, Monty Sainsbury, a well-known Bath dealer, burst out of the wardrobe in which he had been hiding and carried off the table for £26,000, underbid by the present owners. Monty liked the table so much he kept it at his home and after his death, the present owners were finally able to buy it at his sale in Christie's South Kensington in July 1999.