11311 A VERY RARE REGENCY COROMANDEL EBONY AND BRASS INLAID RECTANGULAR CENTER TABLE OPENING TO REVEAL A MINIATURE BAGATELLE GAME, FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE 4TH DUKE OF NEWCASTLE AT CLUMBER PARK English. Circa 1815. Measurements: Height: 30 3/4″ (78 cm); Width: 21 1/4″ (54 cm); Width when open: 42″ (106.7 cm); Depth: 14 1/2″ […]
Of coromandel, ebony, and brass inlay. The rectangular top with brass inlaid and ebonized border with repeating inlaid brass rosettes. The hinged top opening to reveal a green felt covered playing surface with nine numbered cups set into the surface in a circle arrangement and scoring holes to the sides, and sliding with the release of a pin to center of base, above a frieze to each side with crossbanded borders and brass inlay to the center and vertical inlaid brass rectangles at the corners, the front side opening to a drawer. The whole resting on a trestle base with brass mounted rosette scroll supports (one rosette replaced). This table does not contain ivory: Some small numbers within the cups are old wooden replacements, some small ivory numbers replaced with wood and originals retained. The rectangular marker plaquettes have been replaced with bone; original markers have been retained.
Inscribed in pencil behind one drawer:
Bears paper label:
CLUMBER 4674 with gothic ‘n’ below ducal coronet
Presumably Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne and the 11th Earl of Lincoln, Clumber Park
The present table is an extremely rare example of a table, executed in rare exotic hardwoods and incorporating a miniaturized version of Bagatelle. A slightly later small bagatelle table of similar design, albeit not as diminutive as the present, is illustrated in a trade catalog of the London cabinetmaker William Smee dating to the 1830s (figure 1).
The table game of Bagatelle was named for the Château de Bagatelle in France where it was first introduced in 1777. It is played on an oblong board with balls and a cue or mace, similar to those used in Billiards. On average, the table sizes varied from 6 ft by 1 1/2 ft to 10 ft by 3 ft., “a good substitute for Billiards, especially in private houses where there is not enough space for a Billiard table.”1 One end of the game board is semicircular and fitted with nine numbered cups set into the surface, their numbers showing the amount scored by putting a ball, small ivory spheres, into them. The game consists of two or more players striking the balls (eight white and one red) with a cue into the numbered holes. The balls are struck more softly than at Billiards and “great care is to be taken to cushion with ease and dexterity.”2 There may also be a wooden bridge with small arches, also numbered one through nine, placed across the center of the board, through which players must drive the balls. Other variations on the game with modified rules include Sans Egal, Mississippi, Trou Madame, and the Canon Game.
Each white ball wins the number of points corresponding to the cup in which it is sunk, with the red ball scoring double. The score is kept with pins along the table’s edge, and the player who makes the greatest score is the winner. “To perform this and other feats, some skill and experience are required, and the game is far from unamusing in a cheerful parlour circle…”3
The exterior design of the table is much in the manner of George Oakley (fl. 1773-1840) a British furniture maker and upholsterer who was a pioneer of Regency ‘Buhl’ furniture. Members of the royal family visited his showrooms at 8 Old Bond Street in 1799. “The high class furniture made by Oakley earned him a royal appointment and a contemporary reputation for fine craftsmanship.”4 These substantial premises also housed the workshops, a womens’ workroom, a veneer room and drying lofts, in addition to the showroom. Oakley is often associated with the use of fashionable materials like rosewood and calamander, combined with inlays of ebony and brass bands or geometric motifs. A pair of card tables attributed to Oakley, formerly in the art trade, exhibits these features, and shares this distinctive character with the present piece (figure 2).
The wood used for this bagatelle table is a type of variegated ebony called coromandel, which derives its name from the place it was imported, the Coromandel coast in the south east of India. “… highly coloured and contrasting woods became very fashionable from 1800; Brazilian rosewood, zebrawood, coromandel and calamander being the most prominent examples.”5 Tables like the present piece, entirely veneered in coromandel, rather than employing the wood solely as crossbanding, would have been very luxurious. The distinctive highly contrasted mottled pattern of the grain is perhaps the most prized of the ebonies and its rare markings are probably the result of a rare anomaly within this wood species.
The present table bears an inventory label of the collection at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, “regarded as one of the finest non-Royal houses in the country”6 (figure 3). Other known items bearing such labels include an important pair of George II mahogany side chairs attributed to William Hallett, a French side cabinet by Roger Vandercruse Lacroix, circa 1765 now in the Getty Museum, and a sixteenth century polychrome glazed Italian dish, fist belonging to Thomas Hope at Deepdene and today in the Fitzwilliam Museum,7 placing the bagatelle table within a collection of an impressive scope and the highest caliber. It is interesting to note that two tables in early interior images of Clumber Park share a similar taste to the present piece.
Clumber was originally built by the Dukes of Newcastle, constructed by the architect Stephen Wright in the 1770s, but when the 4th Duke of Newcastle died without issue in 1768, the lands and property were inherited by his nephew, the 9th Earl of Lincoln. The original ducal hunting lodge was flanked by grand wings at each corner, totaling 105 rooms. The State dining room, for example, was 60 feet long and 34 feet wide with 30 foot ceilings, and was “designed to accommodate 150 guests seated at one table.”8 The vast parkland on which the palatial estate stood was equally impressive; it covered 3,800 acres with a large artificial lake spanning over two miles.
At the time of the present table’s construction Clumber was owned by Henry Pelham Fiennes Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne and the 11th Earl of Lincoln, who amassed an impressive collection of objets d’art and paintings. Notable artists represented included Corregio, Rembrandt, Reubens, Titian and Poussin. The library contained “a splendid and well chosen collection of books and maps,”9 while in the great drawing room were “several handsome inlaid tables and cabinets of Indian workmanship, given to a former duke by Lord Cobermere.”10 Beautiful marble chimneypieces and sculptures were installed throughout the mansion, including a colossal statue of Napoleon by Franzoni. Under the 4th Duke the house was altered in 1814 by the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt, and in 1829 a library was added by Sir Robert Smirke.11
The duke was also active in politics and “appointed to the usual offices for a man of his position—including Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire and Steward of Sherwood Forest and Folewood Park.”12 He married the great heiress Georgina Elizabeth Mundy in 1807, and the pair had a rather large family of eight sons and six daughters.
In 1879 Clumber suffered a devastating fire in which several “valuable pictures and other ‘articles de luxe’—for the Dukes of Newcastle have always been great virtu connoisseurs—were destroyed.”13 Sir Charles Barry designed the alterations of the house, but after another fire in 1912 added to the burden of the mansion’s upkeep, it was decided that the house would be demolished in 1938. The property removed from the great house at Clumber Park, last owned by Henry Pelham Archibald Douglas Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle, 14th Earl of Lincoln, was sold by Christie, Manson and Woods on June 9-10 and October 19-22, 1937. The table does not appear in either sales catalog and may have been retained by a family member. Interestingly, a handwritten inscription behind the drawer reads Fred Mueller / Basel, Schweiz (Switzerland).
- Crawley, Rawdon. Billiards for Beginners. with the Correct Rules of the Several Games; and the True Principles of the Side-Strokes Familiarly and Scientifically Explained. Illustrated, Etc. Griffin & Co: London, 1868. 87.
- Chambers, William. Chambers’s Information for the People: 2. London and Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1875.
- Beard, Geoffrey and Christopher Gilbert (eds.), Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840, London, Furniture History Society, 1986, p. 658.
- Bowett, Adam. Woods in British Furniture-Making, 1400-1900: An Illustrated Historical Dictionary. Wetherby: Oblong Creative, 2012. 49.
- The pair of chairs formerly in the UK art trade; Cabinet in the Getty Collection, Accession No. 70.DA.81; Plte in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Object No. C.79-1961.
- Harrod, W. The History of Mansfield and It’s Environs: 1: Antiquities. 2: Present State. Mansfield: Nichols, 1801. 44.
- Black, Adam, and Alfred E. L. Lowe. Black’s Guide to Nottinghamshire. Edited by Captain A.e.l. Lowe. Edinburgh, 1876. 176.
- Biography of Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of Newcastle under Lyne (1785-1851). University of Nottingham, Manuscripts and Special Collections. https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections
- “The Dukeries.” The Cosmopolitan, A Monthly Illustrated Magazine, Vol XI. New York: Hearst Corp, 1891. p. 443.