This superb Florentine black marble Nero del Belgio slab with multi-coloured pietre dure inlay was designed for Sir Robert Paston, later 1st Earl of Yarmouth (1631-83), and displays four medallions incorporating his family coat-of-arms of six fleurs-de-lis together with his bear and ostrich Supporters, griffin crest and motto. These heraldic medallions accompany a flower-wreathed 'fruit' trophy, emblematic of Plenty, surrounded by butterflies and dragonflies, and flanked by exotic birds perched in fruit-laden branches. Such pietre dure and its scagliola imitation was highly fashionable at the court of King Charles II (1660-1685); and in view of its heraldic and other ornament, the slab would have been appropriately on a sideboard-table frame. It is likely to have been commissioned for the new banqueting room at Oxnead Hall, Norfolk at the time that it was used for the entertainment of the King in 1671. In 1672 Sir Robert's son William Paston married Charlotte (d.1684) daughter of King Charles II and Elizabeth, Viscountess Shannon and in the following year King Charles granted Sir Robert the Viscountcy of Yarmouth. His pride in his family arms was made clear in December 1673, as, while registering the new arms incorporating his coronet, he expressed the wish to retain the 'Armes' and 'Supporters', which his 'Ancestors have from time immemoriall borne' (College of Arms MS 1 25, 138).
At the time the slab was manufactured, the chief cabinet-maker at the Grand Duke Cosimo III's (1642-1723) Workshops at the Uffizzi was Lionardo van der Vinne (active 1659-1713), but its ornament derives from that introduced earlier in the century by Jacopo Ligozzi (d.1623). (See A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto, pt.II Milan 1986 figs. 169-72)
On the death of William, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth, in 1732, his heavily encumbered estates had to be sold and the contents of Oxnead Hall dispersed, the house being sold to George, later Lord Anson, circumnavigator and Admiral of the Fleet. Lord Anson's descendants remained at Oxnead until 1837, by which time the majority of the early house had been demolished, and it is fair conjecture that the slab was purchased at about this time by an ancestor of the present vendor as part of the stateroom furniture for his new house