An Interesting Rosewood And Parcel Gilt Inlaid Center Table With Chessboard Specimen Marble Top
This center table, with chessboard specimen marble top, represents the Regency taste of the early 19th century. A more subdued manifestation of the style than the extravagant pieces of furniture commissioned by the Prince Regent, the table nevertheless embodies the qualities that defined the period, characterized by symmetry, clean lines, and the archaeological influences of ancient societies.
The subtle lotus leaf carving of the stretcher evokes ancient Egypt, while the scrolled x-form legs, creating a guilloche motif in the center, reflects classical Greek and Roman architecture. The use of specimen marbles was popular in England at this time, either imported from Italy, or extracted locally from quarries such as those in Derbyshire. The present tabletop incorporates over a dozen unique specimen marbles and is centered by an inlaid chessboard with rectangular reserves of various geometric patterns on either side. The base of the table is made of rosewood, which, between c. 1820 and c. 1870, was the most widely used luxury tropical wood in British cabinetmaking after mahogany.1 It was viewed as a beautiful material on its own as well as “contrasting admirably”2 with other materials, and was “especially recommended for drawing rooms.”3
The present table shares certain decorative similarities with contemporary furniture designs depicted in various publications by the leading cabinetmakers of the day. Plate XII of George Smith’s The Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers Guide (1826) illustrates an occasional table with related scroll supports connected by a turned and lotus leaf carved stretcher (figure 1). A window seat illustrated in Rudolph Ackermann’s The Repository of Arts, published between 1809 and 1828, also takes an x-form shape and is edged with gilding. As noted in the text, the “design would have a very good effect executed in bronze, with the rosettes, fillets, and other ornaments of the frame, in mat gold”4 (figure 2).
The marble top is notable for its unusual use of Paesena marble in the divisions and borders. This interesting material, which has fossilized fern inclusions, was much prized in the Baroque period, and was set into the drawer fronts of Italian stipos.