The uprights on this striking side table derive from the celebrated antique sculpture of the Emperor Hadrian's favourite companion Antinous, which had been rediscovered at his villa in 1740. Antinous had drowned in the river Nile on a visit to Egypt with Hadrian. He was buried in Rome with all the pomp reserved for a demigod and his funerary monument was surmounted by an Egyptian-style obelisk, as if the grief-stricken Hadrian, whose fascination with Egypt is revealed by the fact that he actually built an Egyptian pavilion to house his collection of Egyptian sculptures, wished to immortalize Antinous as an Egyptian god.
The image of Antinous evidently captured the imagination of Italian designers as it appears in a number of forms from the middle of the 18th century. Antinous-form painted uprights surmounted a fireplace in the Egyptian Salon created for the Palazzo Massimo in Rome at the end of the 1770's, while in 1763 Hubert Robert sketched the sculpture among other classical pieces in the celebrated collection in the Capitoline Museum, Rome (see J-M. Humbert et al., Egyptomania, Paris, 1994, p. 40, fig. 5 and p. 78, cat. 24). A clock incorporating gilt-bronze Antinous uprights, once in the collection of the Baron de Red and attributed to the Valadier workshop, is illustrated in A. Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Tempio del Gusto: Roma e il Regne delle Due Sicilie, Milan, 1986, vol. II, fig. 239.
The earliest recorded piece of furniture incorporating the figure of Antinous appears in a portrait dated 1777 by Laurent Pecheux of Marchesa Margherita Gentili Boccapaduli, a side table with polychrome-decorated Antinous-form uprights and specimen marble top. It is known that she consulted with the celebrated designer Piranesi on the decoration of Palazzo Boccapaduli, and it is tempting to suggest that he designed the table for the Marchesa, especially as his promotion of the Egyptian taste is well recorded. Other tables of this form include one in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, illustrated in Gonzalez-Palacios ibid., fig. 243 and another in a New York private collection, illustrated in Humbert op. cit., p.76, cat. 23.