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Console table

Carved and painted softwood with marble slab

Height: 86cm
Width: 138cm
Depth: 54.5cm

Museum number: MP63

Curatorial note

English, unknown maker, c. 1740, Black painted softwood; marble. Cut to fit a recess in the centre of the north wall of the Monk’s Parlour; the marble slab top also cut to fit the recess and now raised up on carved wooden balls; the frieze a Greek key pattern below egg and dart moulding to the top edge; the front apron with central female draped head flanked by acanthus scrolls which curve round to continue down the backs of the legs; small area of apron either side of the head carved with fish-scale motif; central section of the apron flanked by festoons of oak leaves and acorns which terminate in drops beneath the lion’s heads on the knees of the cabriole legs; the two surviving front cabriole legs on lion’s paw feet, with acanthus scrolls above, and the knees carved with lion’s heads with rings in their mouths above shells; female face at centre of the front apron; the side aprons have been cut away leaving part-festoons of oak leaves; the two female heads from the side aprons were removed by Soane and mounted on the north wall either side of the recess in which the table stands.2

This is a magnificent English neo-Palladian console table, of slighter later date than the two console tables H22 and H23, but with the same provenance. Peter Thornton noted that it is in the style introduced by William Kent and continued by John Vardy and felt that its slightly more massive quality might indicate the latter. He also noted that several other top-flight London firms could have produced this table such as Vardy’s own brother Thomas, for instance. It would originally have been accompanied by a tall pier-glass but its exact position at Yarborough House has not been identified: it is not listed in the recently discovered Walpole inventory.3 Although said to have been acquired by Soane in around 1809-10, it does not appear in any views or plans of No.13 until it is shown in the sketches for the creation of the Monk’s Parlour, Perhaps it was kept at the house Soane had at Chelsea Hospital where he was Surveyor from 1807.4

Paint research has shown that the table was originally gilded, unlike the two console tables H22 and H23, and was later given a layer of 'varnish' to give the effect of a rich, dark mahogany.5 The watercolour view of the Monk’s Parlour by J M Gandy of 1825 (Vol. 82, 68) seems to show this table a light, perhaps off-white colour, but by about 1830 when the view by C J Richardson in preparation for the 1830 Description was drawn, (Vol 85A) it seems to be green-black, appropriate for a ‘monkish’ interior.6 Black was considered particularly suitable for furniture in gothic or pseudo-monastic settings in Soane’s day and Soane himself designed black and white furniture for the Gothick Library at Stowe in 1806 (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London)7 However, a reference has been found in the chronology in the New Description to this table (along with the others H22 and H23) being ‘painted’ in 1893 - presumably when the current black paint surface was applied. The raising of the marble top on circular wooden balls seems distinctly Soanean and might be an indication that the slab was acquired for his installation rather than having always been on the table. The other tables from Yarborough House were seemingly acquired without their original slabs (see H22 and H23).

Soane considered this table of sufficient importance to be included in the works of art inventory rather than amongst the Furniture and Fittings.

1 AB Inventory, 1837, p. 97.
2 Museum number MP61 and MP74; MP74 has been missing since at least 1962.
3 Moore and Bottoms, op. cit. at note 27.
4 Soane kept some significant works of art at Chelsea, for example the large Riva painting by Canaletto. In 1809-10 Chelsea might have been the logical place for this table as Pitzhanger was in the process of being sold and there was limited space at No. 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
5 The analysis was carried out by Dr Ian Bristow for Peter Thornton and the report is in the SM object file.
6 Today a white surface shows through in places. Although SM Vol. 85A preliminary watercolour by CJ Richardson for the 1830 Description, shows it green- black, another view in the British Library (c.190 b.22 Soane 22) shows it dark brown-black.
7 An ebony, mahogany and ivory suite consisting of a pair of side tables, an octagonal Library table and two chairs. See F. Collard, Regency Furniture, London, 1985, p. 164.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Yarborough House (formerly Walpole House), Chelsea; acquired by Soane c.1809-1810.1

Literature

P. Thornton, ‘Soane and Furniture,’ (unpublished typescript) produced for a talk at the FHS Symposium, 1985, pp. 3 and 7
P. Thornton ‘Soane’s Kent Tables’ Furniture History XXIX 1993, pp. 59-63


If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk