The table has passed by descent in the Wrey family of Tawstock Hall, North Devon. The present house was largely built after a disastrous fire in 1786 or 1787, although the family or their ancestors have held the estate since the mid-15th century. Until the mid-17th century the estate was the central part of the vast North Devon holdings of the Bourchier Earls of Bath, with their tombs at Tawstock itself. Those Earls of Bath were also Lords Fitzwarine (pronounced Fitzwarren). With the death of the 4th Earl of Bath in 1637 without a son, the Barony of Fitzwarine lapsed. The Earldom continued in the person of a cousin until 1654 when he too died without children. The estates of the 5th Earl of Bath were divided among his three daughters. One of the daughters was first married to the 2nd Earl of Middlesex. On his death she remarried Sir Chichester Wrey (d.1668), bringing the estate of Tawstock to that family. Lady Wrey, née Bourchier olim Lady Middlesex, died in 1662. This table almost certainly dates from post-1660 and it seems probable that its carving and its coat-of-arms (the only one ever applied) were created by the next generation to emphasise the antiquity of their family.
The table was presumably originally a stand for a magnificent cabinet. The palm-flowered escutcheon is ensigned with coronets borne at the side by youthful satyrs perched among fruit-and-flower festoons emblematic of the Golden Age of Peace and Plenty. More coronets are borne at the side by youthful genii, while festive lions emerge from the legs scrolled and acanthus-wrapped corner trusses.
THE MARBLE TOP
The marble top is certainly Italian as it is made on a ground of peperino stone, a type of volcanic rock typical of 18th century Roman table tops. The Roman tops of the Borghese tables, sold in these Rooms, 5 July 2001, lot 50, were on the same ground. Sir Bourchier Wrey, 6th Bt. (c.1714-84) undertook an extensive Grand Tour in 1737-40 and was in Rome at Easter 1740.
Paint tests show that this table has been painted seven times. The original decoration was white, followed by four more of white, or pale grey. The change to dark colours probably took place at the end of the 19th century. The table was first painted dark brown and then twice black.
There is just one paint scheme on the coat-of-arms itself. The blue is Prussian blue, the red is vermilion and the green is a mixture of Prussian blue and ochre.
A copy of the full paint test is available on request.