Specimen marble and micromosaic objects such as this magnificent tabletop are surviving examples of the tradition of Grand Tour articles popularized during the 18th Century by the English and North European tourists who travelled throughout Italy. The fine quality of these items attests to this lineage by appealing to the aristocratic, educated and well-travelled dilettanti.
The motif of Pliny's doves that decorates the center of this tabletop derives from a mosaic in Villa Adriana, discovered in 1737, by Cardinal Furietti, from whom it was purchased by Clement XIII. Considered one of the finest and most perfectly preserved specimens of ancient mosaic, it represents four doves drinking. The mosaic is supposed to be the work of Sosus, and is described by Pliny as a proof of the perfection to which that art had arrived. He says:"At Pergamos is a wonderful specimen of a dove drinking, and darkening the water with the shadow of her head; on the lip of the vessel are other doves pluming themselves."
A very similar specimen marble tabletop with a central micro-mosaic of Mercury previously from the collection of Charles de Beistegui, Château de Groussay was sold anonymously at Christie's, New York, 22 May 2002, lot 364. Another smaller example, but with the same micro-mosaic motif of Pliny's Doves in the center, sold anonymously at Christie's London, 2 October 1997, lot 47.