These spectacular tables are embellished with the arms of the Caprari and Amalfi families, and celebrate the marriage in 1616 of Nicola Caprari to Vittoria Piccolomini, sister of the Duke of Amalfi.
Trophies of beribboned musical instruments and arms, emblematic of Peace and Pastoral life, are hung between lozenged hatchments enclosing the family armorial shields displayed within flowered and corona-ensigned cartouches. Motifs from the armorials are incorporated in the borders, which evoke the Elements, and include a fantastical array of beasts including a phoenix emerging from the flames and fire-guarding salamanders. One top also has Jupiter's eagles at the base while its top features Venus's dolphins guarding a shell and moon-crescent, while the other has a crescent and star guarded by lions at the base, while pairs of draco-serpents guard a shell and fleur de lys at the top.
The tops are of an unusually small size, and it is probable that they were commissioned, along with the stylish English ormolu bases, early in the 19th Century by an aristocratic collector on the Grand Tour, reusing 17th Century pietre dure from larger panels celebrating the union of the Caprari and Amalfi families. The use of armorial cartouches on a ground of white marble recalls a series of coats-of-arms of cities in pietra dura, also on a white ground, in the celebrated Capella dei Principi in Florence (see U. Baldini et al., La Capella dei Principi e le Pietre Dure a Firenze, Milan, 1979, figs. 219-239), while a similar pietra dura coat-of-arms, for the Medici family, also on a ground of white marble, is in the Museo dell'Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.
The coats-of-arms are those of Nicolo Caprari, who was a senator in Bologna and also a Knight of the order of S. Iago, and Vittoria Piccolomini, and celebrate their marriage in 1616. She was the sister of Ottavio Piccolomini-Pieri (1599-1656), Duke of Amalfi, who had a distinguished military and diplomatic career in the service of the House of Habsburg during the Thirty Years' War.
THE ENGLISH ORMOLU BASES
The English Regency ormolu bases are executed in the 'Roman' manner, while their cone-shaped columnar legs and scrolled palm-leaf capitals reflect the monumental Grecian style introduced around 1800. This 'antique' fashion was popularized in England by pattern books such as Thomas Hope's Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807, and George Smith's Collection of Designs for Household Furniture, 1808. The robust bronze foliage relates to the work of lamp manufacturers such as William Collins, who was established in the Strand in 1808, and worked extensively for the Duke of Northumberland (see Temple Newsam House, Country House Studies, Country House Lighting, 1992, fig. 35). Certainly, the combination of these elegant à l'antique bases with the grandeur of the pietra dura tops, would have appealed to the sophisticated, antiquarian connoisseur-collector who originally commissioned them.