11339 A MOST UNUSUAL DEMILUNE CONSOLE TABLE ALL COVERED IN FINELY WORKED LEATHER Possibly American. Last Quarter of the Nineteenth or Early Twentieth Century. Measurements: Height: 28 3/4″ Depth: 21 1/4″ Width: 42 1/4″.
Of wood, entirely covered in tooled brown leather. The demilune shaped top densely worked with repeating classical foliate designs and lion monopodiae. The raised edge decorated with repeating inverted acroterae above a three panel frieze set with laurel branch and berry decoration. Each tapering leg headed by a panel decorated with paterae with repeating ‘sunflower’ heads of diminishing size below. The outer back rail of the table similarly decorated.
Inscribed on right upper corner of table top:
A grand Connecticut estate.
The present table is very rare in being a large item of furniture entirely covered in leather, worked with an intricate design.
Precedent does exist in the late Renaissance for small table coffers all of tooled leather, sometimes with figural and arabesque designs. Later on during the eighteenth century drawer fronts were occasionally clad in leather, for example, on bureaux à cartonniers, items of furniture that sat at the end of a bureau plat as a form of filing system.
However, the present table is remarkable for being a large standalone item in this medium. Interestingly, its decoration draws from the neoclassical canon of ornament, including lion monopodiae, a swan and laurel leaf, all within a restrained English demi-lune form.
The table bears an intriguing inscription worked in the same technique as the ornament which reads “AURO,” (possibly short for ‘Aurora’). One compelling possibility for the table’s maker and the meaning of the inscription, is the firm of Roycroft, an American Arts & Crafts community founded by Elbert Hubbard circa 1895 in East Aurora, NY, near Buffalo. The firm practiced printing, bookbinding, text illumination, metalwork and furniture making. Roycroft also specialized in ‘modeled leather,’ which was described in the 1909 Roycroft Leather-Book as “a high grade of heavy leather, decorated by hand. The staining of the leather also plays an important part in the Art. Modeled leather is non-breakable, lasts four hundred and forty years, is individual, peculiar, distinct and highly artistic. Do not confuse this work with “stamped leather” —that is something else.” The book also indicates that each piece is made by hand according to original designs and a limited production that did not allow for duplicates. The leather goods included items such as purses, cases for a variety of personal effects, desk accessories and table mats. Figure 1 depicts a circa 1905 table mat with laurel motif, comparable to that on the frieze of the present table. The firm also produced a limited number of furniture items clad in worked leather, for example, the so-called “Special Armchair,” of which are only three are known (figure 2).
However, as the present table is much more elaborately designed it is possible that it was made as a very specific commission.