9776 AN EXTREMELY FINE GILTWOOD CENTRE CUM SIDE TABLE IN THE GOTHIC TASTE Italian. Circa 1820. Measurements: Height: 31 3/4″ (81 cm); Width: 45 3/4″ (114.3 cm); Depth 22″ (56 cm)
Of giltwood and gilt brass. Acquired with old but replaced verde antico top; upon discovering traces of the original velvet covering of this table, a velvet top was reinstated using contemporary red velvet. The top set within a gilt brass molded edge above a blind arcaded carved frieze set with a single drawer. Below the frieze are pendulous crocheted Gothic arches from which issue eight carved fluted tapering legs with acanthus bell shaped capitals ending in a turned foot.
The Gothick style, or Gothic Revival, was an 18th century reinterpretation of medieval Gothic architecture that began in England circa 1740. Unlike 16th and 17th century manifestations of the Gothic style, which was to suggest the Apostolic Succession of the Anglican Church, the 18th century version was purely decorative, was not strictly copied, and was often blended with exotic elements. Objects of typical Georgian form were applied with tracery, arches, crockets, and pinnacles.
This center table, circa 1820 is designed in the manner of Horace Walpole’s furnishings for his London villa, Strawberry Hill. Walpole (1717-1797) was an English politician, man of letters and art historian who wrote extensively about the Georgian social and political atmosphere and published his works from a printing press at Strawberry Hill. The house was built in 1678 but was modified by Walpole between 1747 and 1792 with Gothic architectural elements including towers and battlements, fan vaulting, ogival and lancet arches, and tracery which are an imaginative reading of a gothic element, rather than the more usual square or shaped plinth base. The present table relates to an Gothic sideboard made by by Richard Bentley for the Refectory (Great Parlour) of Strawberry Hill. Although its current location is unknown, the drawing exists in the collection of the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University (figure 1), and it was described as having a Sicilian jasper top on a black frame.
A pair of pier tables, en suite to the present piece, were formerly in the Niall Hobhouse Collection (sold at Christie’s London 23 May 2008, Lot 246) (figure 2).
Construction details indicate the table was made in Northern Italy but likely relying on English influence in its well studied, complex design.