Pembroke tables, according to Sheraton, derive their name from that 'of a lady who first gave orders for one of them, and who probably gave the first idea of such a table to the workmen...' This lady was possibly the Countess of Pembroke (1737-1831). They begin to appear in accounts from the middle of the 18th Century, and from about 1770 they were often made of inlaid satinwood, like the present lot. A. Hepplewhite & Co.'s The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide, 1788, describes Pembroke tables as 'the most useful of this species of furniture: they may be of various shapes. The long square and oval are the most fashionable. These articles admit of considerable elegance in the workmanship and ornaments' (pl. 62). Hepplewhite also shows two tops for Pembroke tables: 'Proper for tops, inlaid, or painted and varnished', both having central ovals panels (pl. 63).
In Jane Austen's Emma (1814-15) the heroine introduced a dining-table, 'which none but Emma could have had power to place there, and persuade her father to use, instead of the small-size Pembroke, on which two of his daily meals had for forty years been crowded'.
A related pembroke table was offered anonymously, Sotheby's London, 17 May 1991, lot 176.