These console tables are conceived as Roman 'marble' or sideboard-tables by the architect John Vardy (d. 1765) and display colourful slabs of richly-figured Sicilian Jasper that are cut-cornered, after the French fashion.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE DESIGN
Vardy's design with paired front legs, in the sideboard-table fashion, may indicate that the room for which they were designed was intended to serve occasionally as a banqueting room, perhaps for the remove for the desert. In which case the great bay would serve as the sideboard, and these tables would serve to display the Bolton plate, with marble or silver cisterns placed underneath.
His design proposed that the veneered marble tops were to be sunk in a gilded border. It also provided an alternative choice for surmounting the inner legs with shells rather than foliage, and an alternative foliage pattern for the apron, which was also to be festooned with flowers.
His design relates to the Kentian 'Marble Table' pattern that William Jones had illustrated in The Gentleman or Builder's Companion, 1739, pl. 29, and it also relates to console tables illustrated in Gaetano Brunetti's Sixty Different Sorts of Ornament, 1736 (E. White, Pictorial Dictionary of British 18th Century Furniture Design, Woodbridge, 1990, p. 262).
Vardy's design for the table frieze corresponds to that of the sideboards he designed in the late 1750s for Holkham Hall, Norfolk and Spencer House, London. His designs survive for the great sideboard-table with porphyry sarcophagus-trussed legs that remains at Holkham, and for the bacchic-lion sideboard-tables, which remain in situ at Spencer House. The Holkham sketch is now in the British Architectural Library.
Commissioned in 1761, the year of George III's coronation, the Bolton family motto 'Love Loyalty' is alluded to in Vardy's design for these tables by focusing attention on the triumphal scallop-shell of Venus, nature goddess and goddess of Love. These badges are displayed in husk-festooned cartouches of Roman acanthus, whose foliage is serpentined in the French 'picturesque' style or 'natural' fashion as lauded in William Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty, 1753. They are tied by a moulded ribbon-guilloche to antique-stippled freizes, and these are enriched with a pattern of acanthus flowers alternating with husks.
The angles are wrapped by trefoiled acanthus sprays emerging from the voluted, serpentined and hermed trusses of the paired front legs. The latter, enriched with pearled libation patterae issuing from acanthus leaves, terminate in voluted feet enriched with palm leaves.
The tables have been water gilded twice. In some areas the second gilding, probably early 19th Century, is separated from the first by a thin skim of gesso. The original gilding and the second gilding is identical on both pairs of pier tables (lots 53 and 55) and their mirrors (lots 52 and 54).