11311

A REGENCY COROMANDEL EBONY AND BRASS INLAID CENTER TABLE OPENING TO REVEAL A MINIATURE BAGATELLE GAME

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" (36.8 cm).

Research
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.

Marks:
Inscribed in pencil behind one drawer:
Fred Mueller
Basel, Schweiz

Bears paper label:
CLUMBER 4674 with gothic ‘n’ below ducal coronet

Provenance:
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).

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.