English. Circa 1685.


Height: 31" (79 cm)
Width: 42 1/2" (109 cm)
Depth: 28 1/2" (73 cm)

Of oak. The complex geometric parquetry top above a further inlaid conforming cavetto frieze. The four waisted carved supports joined by a carved x-form stretcher, terminating in paw feet, and raised upon leather castors.

Beckley Park, Oxfordshire and thence by family descent.

This table is one of a small group of pieces associated with an elite group of joiners working in the City of London at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The majority of work in this style, which combines parquetry of oak veneers with fine carving, was executed as fixed joinery rather than moveable furniture. Much of it survives in London’s parish churches, as many were rebuilt in the decades following the Great Fire of 1666, but the finest work is in St. Paul’s Cathedral, reconstructed to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1710) between 1675 and 1710. Other examples include the pulpits of St. Olave, All Hallows by the Tower (figure 1), St. Margaret Lothbury, and St. Clement Danes, all in London.

Similar work can be found outside London in a number of great interiors, particularly at Burghley House, Lincolnshire, and Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. The woodwork in both of these was executed by London joiners. The State Dining Room at Chatsworth, in particular, has geometric parquetry paneling and carving of outstanding quality (figure 2). There are also parallels with the interior joinery of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge universities. The reredos in the chapel of Trinity College, Oxford (completed 1694), is particularly fine, with parquetry executed not in oak but American red cedar (figure 3).

Notably, in all the above-mentioned instances, the parquetry panels are bordered with elaborate carved “frames” by, or in the manner of, Grinling Gibbons (1648–1721). Gibbons was an English sculptor and woodcarver famed for his decorative wooden garlands made up of intricately carved still-life elements, and it is a testament to the quality of the panels that they are combined with such important carvings.

In contrast to the abundance of fixed joinery, moveable furniture in this style is exceedingly rare. It differs from contemporary cabinetmakers’ work in being executed in oak rather than walnut or other more expensive woods, and relying for its effect on the geometric arrangement of oak veneers. The veneers are aligned to maximize the directional emphasis created by the coarse grain of the oak; they are knife-cut and laid straight-edged, rather than sawn in natural shapes as with floral marquetry. The construction of the frame is also typical of joiner’s work, relying primarily on pegged mortise and tenon joints and a minimum of glue.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.