The pembroke-table with its oval Roman-medallion top wreathed by palms, is embellished in the Etruscan fashion appropriate for bedroom- apartments as introduced by George III's court architect Robert Adam (d.1792) and popularised by his Works in Architecture. Lyric poetry is evoked by the top's Apollo sunflowered and Venus shell-scalloped medallions, which accompany a colourful medallion of Cupid attending Venus as she is attired by a Grace. Such subjects were popularised by engravings after the artist Angelica Kauffmann. The Birmingham japanning and papier mâché manufacturer Henry Clay (d.1812) displayed such furnishings in the style of Etruscan vases at his London premises, which he opened in Covent Garden in 1772. A related table was acquired in the mid-1770s for the State Dressing Room designed by Adam for Osterley Park, Middlesex (M. Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture, London, 1982, J/5).
In 1772, Clay received a patent for a special process of pasting sheets of paper together and stove hardening them to produce a durable substance suitable for furniture wares. This process was distinct from that for making true mâché, which used a mixture of pulped paper, glue and chalk and originated in Persia, coming to England via France in the seventeenth century. He decorated his products in the Etruscan (Classical) or Chinese taste. The patent expired in 1802 at which time rival factories began production and continued to use the Clay name throughout the nineteenth century.
A box on stand by Clay with the same faux-aventurine ground and palmette borders forms part of the collection assembled by Jon Gerstenfeld (see E. Lennox-Boyd, ed., Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, London, 1998, p. 250, no. 115).