This bonheur-du-jour is banded in the 'antique' manner, with rich polychromed decoration in the Roman mosaic fashion. Its table top is banded in with an Etruscan black ribbon, flowered with Grecian palms. The cartonnier has a china-galleried top that is painted to evoke lyric poetry with laurel wreaths flanking a laurelled sacred urn issuing from Roman foliage. The central compartment of the cartonnier has a mirrored door enriched with a wire-filligreed and scalloped medallion and is framed by a pearled ribbon-guilloche. Painted 'Etruscan' figures on the doors in the projecting and flanking compartments symbolise Abundance and good health. Executed in the antique manner popularised by Angelica Kauffmann, one depicts Ceres with a cornucopia and Hygeia with a serpent-entwined staff and a cockerel. The table top is painted with palm-flowered acanthus issuing from a beribboned medallion depicting an attendant bearing doves to the altar of Venus.
The closest parallel in decoration to this bonheur-du-jour is a pair of demi-lune side tables that in 1911 were in the possession of C.J. Charles, the dealer Charles of London (H. Cescinsky, English Furniture of the 18th Century, London, 1911, vol. III, p. 35, fig. 22). The decoration is so closely en suite with the same frieze, leg decoration and edge to the top, that it is possible that they all formed part of the same decorative scheme. The Charles tables were subsequently with Frank Partridge in New York, in the Arthur H. Spero collection (sold New York, 1943), in the Rovensky collection (sold New York, 1957) and in the Chrysler collection (sold New York, 1960).
The hermed legs of the bonheur du jour, with their sunk panels and plinth collars, correspond in form to those of an Etruscan-japanned Pembroke table supplied in the 1770s for Robert Adam's state apartment at Osterley Park, Middlesex, by the Covent Garden japanner Henry Clay (d. 1812; M. Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture, London, 1972, p. 84, no. J/5). In 1772 Clay patented the manufacture of 'paper high varnished panels for ... coaches ... tables, tea-trays and waiters'. Clay japanned doors in the 1770s for Derby House, London, and these were described as being 'beautifully painted by Zucchi ... on papier mache, and so highly japanned as to resemble glass' (G. Beard, Connoisseur Year Book, 1958, p. 32).
The Duke of Portland was one of the leading Whig politicians of the late 18th and early 19th century. There is a politically ironic comparison with a japanned cheveret table with the monogram of Mary, Countess of Bute (d.1794) wife of George III's first Prime Minister and therefore a Tory. The cheveret table is of a slightly later form, popularised by Gillows, with a removable bookstand. Most of its decoration is less rigidly neo-classical although both horizontal surfaces are centred by very similar panels in the style of Kauffman and the back upright has the monogram. The decoration has been attributed to Lady Bute's daughter, Lady Caroline Stuart (d. 1813), who is recorded as a talented painter (A. Coleridge, 'Lady Bute's Bonheur du Jour', Connoisseur, June 1963, p. 95).