These marble-topped tables reflect the revival in the 19th century of the 'Palladian' style as previously promoted by the Rome-trained artist William Kent (d. 1748), who served in the King's architectural Board of Works and provided illustrations for the poet Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Odyssey. Adapted in the 19th century to accommodate the Roman mosaic tops, these tables are emblematic of the 'antiquarian' taste as promoted by the fashionable connoisseurs of that time. Sparked by the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum towards the middle of the 18th century, wealthy, educated and artistic members of society undertook the 'Grand Tour'. Many returned with artifacts, relics and antiquities that were consequently incorporated into the decorative schemes of the most elegant interiors. The mosaic tops were most probably commissioned in Rome by an aristocratic patron wanting to return to England with a souvenir of his tour, designed to indicate ancient mosaics, they are reflective of that period of collecting.
Appropriate to a 'buffet' or banqueting-sideboard, their golden table frames evoke the poets' concept of 'the banquet of the gods', being carved with Jupiter's sacred oak wreath borne by the deity's sacred eagles. In particular they recall Ovid's Metamorphoses or Loves of the Gods, and his history of the shepherd Ganymede, who was born aloft by an eagle to serve as Jupiter's cup-bearer.
A related eagle-borne table featured, beneath a sconce candle-branch mirror, in the 1739 trade-sheet issued by the Edinburgh cabinet-maker Francis Brodie, who in that same year supplied the Duke of Gordon with A marble table, supported by an eagle, gilt, in burnished gold (F. Bamford, 'Dictionary of Edinburgh Wrights and Furniture Makers', Furniture History, vol. XIX, 1983, plate 24a).
These tables, according to the Parke-Bernet 1949 sale provenance, were once in the collection of the Earls of Kinnoull at Balhousie Castle, Perthshire. Balhousie, although not a true castle was built in 1860, most probably by the 12th Earl, George Hay and incorporated a 16th century towerhouse inside the new building. The tower had been in the possession of the Hay family since 1631. In 1962, Balhousie Castle became the regimental headquarters and museum of the Black Watch.
A very similar pair of tables was sold anonymously, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 24 - 26 October 1946, lot 402. These were subsequently sold, from the Collection of Lord and Lady White of Hull, Christie's, New York, 30 April 1997, lot 228 ($ 129,000).