To celebrate the opening of our exhibition today, we are delighted to share details of two outstanding George I gilt gesso card tables. Very few of these, possibly only four, are known to exist today.
These tables all share similarities in design and form. Their vocabulary of strap-work, scrolling foliage, and shellwork was first promoted in around 1700 by the engraved Oeuvres of William Marot (d. 1752). Pieces similarly embellished were created by the Pelletier family of carvers and gilders, who supplied pier tables, mirrors and candle stands and frames to William III and Queen Anne among other notable patrons, as did their successor as Royal cabinet-maker, James Moore.
One of the tables is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which is shown above. The table is said to have come from the collections of the Earls of Carnarvon at Highclere Castle, Berkshire. The table was one of the few gilded pieces acquired by the esteemed English furniture collector Irwin Untermyer before he bequest his collection to the museum.
It is likely that one of the tables in our collection, pictured above, is the pair to the table at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to sharing exactly the same dimensions and overall form, the elaborate strap-work design on the top of the table is identical.
The other gilt gesso card table, shown above, features a shaped foldover top decorated throughout with deeply carved scrolling foliage centred by a flower head on a pounced ground, the top opening to reveal a velvet lined playing surface with counter wells and candle stands, the whole standing on slightly cabriole legs terminating in claw and ball feet.
In addition to the example at the Metropolitan Museum and the two in our collection, a fourth example is known in a private collection in the UK. This example was previously in the collection of Winston Guest and sold at Sotheby’s in 1967.