This magnificent tablet-fronted pier card-table and its pair, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, formed part of a suite including medallioned-back 'cabriolet' chairs that was supplied for Dingley Hall, Northamptonshire (Y. Hackenbrock, loc. cit., fig. 259, pl. 220).
Palms wrap the table cornice, which is further enriched with a flowered ribbon-guilloche above the projecting tablet that bears a 'poetic' laurel-festooned trophy with the arms of John Peach Hungerford (d. 1809), who was elected M.P. for Leicestershire in 1775. The armorials, 'Out of a ducal coronet or a pepper [wheat sheaf] garb between two reaping-hooks', are tied by wheat to flowered libation paterae serving as bolts for the laurel 'baguette'. The table-frame is elegantly scrolled in the Louis XV manner, and laurels also festoon its scrolled frieze and legs, which are carved with palm-flowered capitals and terminate in acanthus-wrapped volutes. The crests of the armchairs,
which have matching frames, also display the Hungerford 'wheat sheaf'
within laurelled medallions after the French 'antique' fashion adopted in the 1770s by Messrs Chippendale of St. Martin's Lane.
THE ATTRIBUTION TO THOMAS CHIPPENDALE
The 'Hungerford' furnishings are likely to have been designed circa 1775, by Thomas Chippendale Junior (d. 1822), whose pattern-book Sketches of Ornament was issued in 1779, the year that he succeeded to his father's St. Martin's Lane business, trading at the sign of the 'French Chair'. Chippendale Junior is also likely to have designed the related 'Gobelins' tapestried chairs, supplied in the early 1770s for Newby Hall, Yorkshire, as well as the related chairs at Brocket Hall, Northamptonshire and Harewood House, Yorkshire (C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, vol.II, figs 180, 186 and 182). The form of the accompanying 'Hungerford' chairs was also described as 'Modern' in a pattern published in Thomas Malton's, Complete Treatise on Perspective, 1775 (pl. XXXIII, fig. 131). They were noted by Christopher Gilbert in his introduction to the catalogue of the 1979 Chippendale exhibition held at the Leeds Art Galleries at Temple Newsam House as: 'the most illustrious newly-discovered chairs corresponding to one of the [Chippendale] firms standard design types of c.1770-1775'.
A side table with central tablet carved with a wheatsheaf and attributed to Thomas Chippendale, which may have formed part of the suite supplied to the Hungerford family for Dingley Hall is to be offered anonymously, Christie's New York, 23 October 2002, lot 175.