The introduction of specialised tables suitable for drawing, reading and writing arose out of the needs of draughtsmen, architects and amateur artists in the early eighteenth century. This sophisticated form of table, with double rising top was considered so healthy for those who stand to write, read or draw. An artist's table with upward and inward rising desks was noted by J.T.Smith in Nollekens and his Times (1829) to have been made fashionable by the cabinet-maker John Cobb. The painter Nathaniel Dance so admired the usefulness of the table that he easily persuaded Cobb to allow him to paint his portrait in exchange for one (R.Edwards, ed., The Dictionary of English Furniture, Woodbridge, Suffolk, rev.edn., 1954, vol.III, p.186-187).
This artist's table relates to a small group of slightly differing form which are attributed to the partnership of John Mayhew and William Ince which was established in 1759 and flourished until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Two related tables with double ratchet supports and pull-out fitted drawers are illustrated in their pattern book, The Universal System of Household Furniture, 1759-63, pl.XXIV. A related example, bearing the engraved crest of the Earl of Kerry and with ribbon-and-flower carved edge, was sold anonymously at Christie's London, 9 July 1992, lot 136. This table was almost certainly commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Kerry (d.1818), who was one of the most significant patrons of the firm. Other tables of this same form include an example sold from the collection of Geoffrey Blackwell, Esq., in the same Christie's sale, lot 142, which was formerly in the notable collections of Sir Sydney Greville and Percival D. Griffiths, and Geoffrey Blackwell and is illustrated in P.Macquoid and R.Edwards, op.cit, p.186, fig.4. A further example in the Noel Terry Collection at Fairfax House, York is illustrated in P.Brown, The Noel Terry Collection of Furniture and Clocks, York, 1987, p.103, no.102.