This 'Roman mosaiced slab' displays a trompe l'oeil engraving and paintings framed in colourful scagliola borders. It was executed in imitation of Florentine hard-stone or 'pietre-dure' inlay and can confidently be attributed to Petrus Antonius de Paulinus (Pietro Antonio di Paulino), whose signature appears in the central medallion of nearly identical tables, such as sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 28 November 2002, lot 150, on George I giltwood stands. The medallion celebrates ancient virtue with its Venetian engraving after Titian's David and Goliath, that was executed in the 1540s for Santa Maria della Salute, Venice (H.E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian, pt. 1, nos. 84 and 5). The flanking medallions depict Mediterranean coastal vignettes with trading ships and include ruins of Pagan temples in the manner of 17th Century Florentine pietre dure plaques. The medallions are set in antique-scrolled cartouche frames, which provide perches for birds while insects inhabit the arabesque scrolls of Roman acanthus that issue fruit and flowers emblematical of Peace and Plenty. Lozenged tablets frame these cartouches, while similar scagliola medallions embellish the top and bottom of the central medallion.
PETRUS ANTONIUS DE PAULINUS
The manufacturer and painter of scagliola, Petrus Antonius de Paulinus also signed another 'David' table-top engraving bearing the date 1737. The same engraving also appears on a serpentined commode top (sold from the Prince Littler collection, Chestham Park, Sussex; Christie's, house sale, 18 April 1977, lot 182) and on a rectangular top also signed by de Paulinus and dated 1737 (sold Phillips, London, 23 April 1996, lot 206). The most celebrated example of de Paulinus' work is a signed table dated 1732 and with a dedication to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. This was formerly displayed in the Galleria degli Uffizi (Dr. A.M. Massinelli, Il Mobile Toscano, Milan, 1993, fig. 141).
The coastal scene with ruins also appears on the Lichfield table-top (Victoria and Albert Museum), which is likely to have been ordered from de Paulinus in 1725 and bears the arms of George Henry Lee, 2nd Earl of Lichfield (d. 1742). One of its accompanying coastal vignettes is said to include the ship of his naval officer brother the Hon. Fitzroy Henry Lee (d. 1750) who visited the Tuscan seaport of Leghorn (Livorno) the following year and reported that the table would be the 'finest of the sort in Europe'. Livorno was then under Florentine rule, and there is a possibility that the workshops of de Paulinus were in Florence. Fitzroy Lee may have been shown a proposed design for the table, while de Paulinus was still awaiting details of his brother's armorials. (D. Fitzgerald, The Knight of Glin, Georgian Furniture, London, 1969, no. 21).