Russian. Early 19th Century


Height: 24 1/2" (74.75 cm)
Width / Diameter when open: 34 1/2" (87.75 cm)
Depth 17 1/4" (43.75 cm)

Of mahogany(?), ebony and tulipwood, with gilt-brass mounts and inlay. Each table with hinged top with cross-banded border surrounding concentric cross-banded sections, centered by an ebony D-shaped section inlaid with gilt-brass leaf decoration within borders of gilt-brass dot inlays and surrounding a circle of further gilt-brass dot inlays which contains the monogram WD. Opening to reveal a polished quarter-veneered interior surface. The ebony frieze with two inlaid gilt-brass bands surrounding a repeating design of gothic arches and rosettes of gilt-brass dot inlays, centered by a drawer with two ringed lion-mask pulls. The whole raised on four tapering legs, each topped with ebony veneer inlaid with gilt-brass dot inlays in a diamond pattern and terminating in a square ebony veneered foot.

Sold by H. C. Baxter and Sons at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, 1992
The David Roche Collection, Australia

Menz, Christopher, and Robert Reason. Empires & Splendour: The David Roche Collection. Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2008. 156.

Under the patronage of Catherine the Great (1729-1796), the Scottish architect Charles Cameron (1745-1812) was responsible for introducing furniture designs to Russia that were often variants on the English models developed by his contemporary Robert Adam (1728-1792). The present tables are in a demi-lune form typical of English gate-leg-action card or tea tables, but are decidedly Russian in their use of contrasting ebony and brass-inlaid decoration on a wood of a rich dark color. The St. Petersburg-based cabinetmaker whose keynote was this type of inlaid work is Heinrich Gambs (1765-1831).

Gambs was born in Würtemberg, Germany, and began his career under David Roentgen. In the late 1780s he emigrated to Russia, where he established a workshop in St. Petersburg that was flourishing by the late 1790s. He sought out the country’s elite clientele, which included Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna, who commissioned a desk in 1793. He produced many pieces for Pavlovsk Palace, and in 1795 Catherine the Great accepted his proposal for the furnishing of Grand Duke Alexander’s apartments. Not long afterward, in 1801, Gambs was appointed court cabinet-maker and was “principally employed in supplying the Imperial residences, including Pavlovsk, Tsarsköe Selo and the Winter Palace.”1 He is not believed to have signed any of his works, and therefore ascriptions are based on uniform, recurring use of materials and decorative motifs, and the consistent use of mahogany for drawer linings.

Decoration with geometric brass ornament on a black background is a characteristic found in Gambs’ mahogany furniture2 and the repeating Gothic arch seen on the present tables is a staple decorative motif in his body of work. A repeating arch design in brass inlay can be found on a table by Gambs, now in the Pavlovsk Palace Museum, near St. Petersburg (figure 1).

A second related table attributed to Gambs, previously in the collection of Antoine Chenevière Fine Arts, can be seen in figure 2. This table also employs cross-banding on the surface and a frieze of ebony veneer highlighted by brass geometric inlay. Another recurrent characteristic, seen here and on the present pair of tables, are lion masks holding a ring.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.