The Charles II top of ebony richly flowered and polychromed in a mosaic ground, is conceived in the Louis Quatorze 'Roman' manner, and celebrates 'ancient virtue'. The Roman eagle, wreathed by flowered Roman acanthus, is displayed within a scalloped medallion and tied in a ribbon-guilloche to medallion-framed roses, sacred to Venus. This trophy is incorporated in a hollow-cornered and similarly flowered tablet, whose border-frame is centred by oak-wreathed birds that are supported by flowered 'rainceaux' of Roman foliage that issues from Love's sacred lilies flowering the corner-spandrels.
A related 'Ebony flower'd' table formed part of a 'pier-set' introduced to Ham House, Surrey by John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (d. 1682), following his marriage in 1672 to Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart. Its medallion, celebrating 'Peace and Plenty', depicts flowers issuing from Ceres' cornucopia held by the 'Zephyr' wind and 'love' of Flora. Likewise the lily-fretted cresting of its accompanying 'looking glasse frame', celebrates Roman virtue, since it displays a Roman hero in an oak-wreathed medallion that is ensigned with a Ducal coronet. The Duke's 'pier-set' first features in Ham's 1679 inventory, but may have been moved from his Whitehall house (P. Thornton, 'The Furnishing and Decoration of Ham House', Furniture History, l980, p. 105, figs. 139 and 140; Victoria & Albert Museum nos. HH12 and HH13 -1948). The Duke, an intimate of Charles II, had responsibility for the furnishings of his Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, so he may also have played a role in the commissioning of a closely related 'pier-set', though lacking the coronet, that now forms part of the Royal Collection displayed at Kensington Palace.
The unusual form of the roses, that flower the medallions of the present table, are designed in the old English or 'Gothic' manner; while the lilies, composed of Roman acanthus, are shown in the French fleur-de-lys form adopted by Charles II for his Royal Arms. Lauderdale played an important role in Charles II's restitution in 1660, and also in his ministry, known as the CABAL (1667-1672). In view of its ornament, there is a possibility that this superb marquetry top of richly flowered ebony was commissioned by another member of the CABAL, whose title derived from their names and comprised Lord Clifford of Chudleigh (d. 1673), as well as Anthony Ashley-Cooper 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (d. 1683, see also lot 27 in this sale), George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (d. 1686), Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington and Lauderdale.
The principal European manufacturers of such 'markatree' furniture 'inlaid with wood of all sorts of colours' were the Gole family. Pierre Gole was appointed 'menuisier ebene et ordinaire du roi Louis XIV' in l656, while his son Corneille (Cornellius) Gole, ébéniste of Paris, Amsterdam and London, belonged to the coterie that centred round William III's 'architect' Daniel Marot (d. 1752) and was author of A New Book of Ornaments Useful to all Artists, 1704 (see The Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, p. 348). In the 17th Century the name 'table' was often applied to the tabletop only. The present 'table', a masterpiece of Gole fashioned 'markatree', would have been provided with a new frame to correspond with the fashionable cabriole-framed seat furniture of the early 18th Century.
A very similar base appears on a marble-topped walnut side table belonging to Lt. Col. L.C.D. Jenner, DSO, and illustrated in O. Brackett, English Furniture Illustrated, London, rev. ed., 1927, p. 134, pl. CVI.