The Gentleman's table, with richly sculpted ormolu embellishments, is designed in the George II French antique fashion called 'picturesque'. Its fine mahogany top is enclosed by a golden reed moulding; while the drawer-concealing frieze is supported by scrolled and herm-tapered columnar legs that terminate in Bacchic lion-paws issuing from Roman foliage. The legs' 'bronze' bas-relief capitals of foliated and wave-scrolled lambrequin drapery present stately palm-wrapped, eagle-winged and flower-trellised cartouches, and these frame heroic heads, evoking ancient virtue and the Arcadian Golden Age.
A related 'French' table-frame, supporting a 'medaillier' cabinet, is engraved on a 1730s trade-sheet issued by the Holborn cabinet-maker Thomas Potter (Gilbert and Murdoch, op. cit., London, 1993, fig. 11). However, the present table's helmetted warrior derives from H. Goltzius' engravings entitled 'The Roman Heroes', 1586; and relates in particular to the work of the sculptor Jean-Bernard Toro (d. 1731), such as featured in the Livre de Vases inventé de Barnard Tarot, sculpteur du Roy (c. 1720). Since some of Toro's oeuvres, entitled Masks and Other Ornaments, were published in London in 1745 by F. Noble of St. Martin's Court, it is of interest to note that the 'medallier' cabinet, which is now in the City Art Gallery, Bristol, has been attributed to the St. Martin's Lane cabinet-maker, John Channon (d. 1779) (Gilbert and Murdoch, op. cit., figs. 123, 124, 125 and pls. XIX and XX).
JOHN CHANNON AND HIS CIRCLE
Following London's rapid expansion westwards into Mayfair in the early 18th Century, John Channon took the opportunity to move from his family's cabinet-making business in Exeter and establish workshops in St. Martin's Lane, which was becoming the centre of England's cabinet-making industry. He was given encouragement by his Devon patron, Sir William Courtenay, 1st Viscount Courtenay (d. 1762) following his succeession to the Powderham Castle estates in Devon in 1736. 'J. Channon fecit 1740' is inscribed on brass tablets attached to a pair of arch-pedimented bookcases commissioned by the Earl for Powderham Castle. The execution of such 'rich and curious [fine wrought] workmanship' no doubt necessitated the engraving and inlaying skills introduced by émigré craftsmen such as Abraham Roentgen (d. 1793) of Neuwied, and other members of the Moravian and Huguenot communities (ibid., pls 6 and XXIII).
The fashion for brass-enriched furniture in London is evident from other cabinet-makers who are recorded as working in this manner: the Holborn maker John Renshaw advertised a desk-bookcase in 1737. Thomas Potter's advertisement of the late 1730s early 1740s displays a collector's cabinet, with the Cardinal Virtues supporting its pediment cartouche, (ibid., fig. 11). A related brass-enriched cabinet, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, has also been associated with the 'Curious [fine wrought] cabinet of casts, pastes and impressions' that belonged to Channon's St. Martin's Lane neighbour, Mr. William Hubert (d. 1740) a leading French dealer or marchand mercier patronised in the 1730s by Frederick, Prince of Wales (d. 1751) (ibid., p. 18 and T. Murdoch, 'Hubert's Chandeliers', Country Life, 25 April 1996, p. 87). The immigrant German cabinet-maker Frederick Hintz (d. 1772), of 'The Porcupine', Newport Street, near Leicester Fields advertised furniture in 1738 which was '...all curiously made and inlaid with fine Figures of Brass and Mother of Pearl'. The fashion for such furniture continued to the 1770s: Chippendales' 3rd edition of his Director (1762) included designs which the 'Ornaments may be of Brass or Silver, finely chased and put on'. And the trade card of the Tottenham Court Road cabinet-maker, Pierre Langlois, describes, 'Commodes made and inlaid in the Politest manner with Brass and Tortoiseshell'.
The 'hero' leg has also been recorded on a table of richly figured padouk, whose carved orament, including a central Venus-shell cartouche, may once have been bronze-gilded to resemble French ormolu (ibid., figs. 84 and 85), the latter was sold by Joseph and Laverne Schieszler, Christie's New York, 21 October 1999, lot 146.