The origin of these impressive and crisply-carved tables with magnificent specimen marble tops is sadly unknown and only one comparable table has been hitherto identified - a closely related example, measuring a massive 7 ft. 6 in. in width, with stretchers and with a neoclassical oval relief to the centre of the frieze, was advertised in The Connoisseur, August 1929.
This arrangement of specimen marbles or in a lozenge pattern was popular amongst marmisti (marble-workers), whose skill for inlaying hardstones and range of specimens were held in high regard by Grand Tourists of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some 18th-century marmisti, such as Antonio Minelli, were described as using up to 170 different kinds of marbles for their table tops. The centres for specimen marble table top production, which continued well into the 19th Century, were Florence, Rome, and Naples, although examples were also made in England (A.M. Giusti, Pietre Dure, London, 1992). The striking specimens used to create the top of these tables appear to be volcanic specimens from the south of Italy, and related mosaic tops can be found at Paxton House in Scotland. Patrick Home of Wedderburn (1728-1808), who had embarked on a Grand Tour to Italy in 1750-51 and again in 1771-79, returned to Scotland with vast collections of Italian pictures, vases, chimneypieces and marble tops, including several incorporating specimen lava. The Paxton lava tops are mentioned in 1814 invoices addressed to his nephew - and subsequent heir - George Paxton, who had commissioned William Trotter to make supports for the mosaic slabs (F. Bamford, Dictionary of Edinburgh Wrights and Furniture Makers, Leeds, 1983, pp. 54 & 56). Further related specimen marble table tops include the set of four slabs at Saltram House, Devon, bought by John Parker, later 1st Lord Bovington (d. 1788), during his Grand Tour in 1764. Three similar specimen lava slabs were bought by Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter (d. 1793) for Burghley House, Lincolnshire, during his Grand Tour 1763-4, and another was given by 9th Earl to the British Museum in 1764. An additional example of a specimen lava top of Roman manufacture was probably bought by William Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen (d.1803) for Florence Court, Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, later sold Christie's London, 11 November 1999, lot 182.