The Wallace Collection

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An Italian Console Table
Portrait of the Second Duke of Buckingham by John Jackson.
Portrait of the Second Duke of Buckingham by John Jackson.
View of the State Drawing Room at Stowe, watercolour, Joseph Nash, 1845 (Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, Her Majesty the Queen)
View of the State Drawing Room at Stowe, watercolour, Joseph Nash, 1845 (Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, Her Majesty the Queen)
Treasure of the Month - November 2006

An Italian Console Table

This console table, with its elaborate base and colourful top, was probably made in Rome, c.1700-20. It is typical of the kind of Italian furniture acquired by gentlemen to furnish their houses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.

Made of carved and gilded pinewood, the table base represents three infants linked by a garland of foliage and berries. Such animated figures, two of which stand on the rocky terrain as if to support the table top, often feature on baroque style Italian tables, which were made to be positioned against a wall in a large room or hall. The top is of stone, skilfully veneered with different marbles and alabasters in decorative patterns. The marbles probably came from excavations in Rome and the three landscapes are characteristic of Florentine workmanship.

The table was once in the collection of Richard Grenville(1797-1861), who inherited Stowe House as Second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos in 1839. A watercolour of the State Drawing Room (now the Temple Room) executed by Joseph Nash in 1845 shows the table situated in an apse at the north end of the room. The watercolour is one of a series commissioned by Queen Victoria after her three-day stay at the house earlier that year. She is said to have commented that the room, immediately west of the Marble Saloon at the centre of the house, was ‘one of the most perfect interiors ever witnessed’. Other pieces of Italian furniture shown in the watercolour include a set of chairs carved with the figures of infants. Two of the chairs are now in the Wallace Collection, displayed on either side of the table. The chairs are part of a set made in c.1779 for Paolo Renier (born 1710), Doge of Venice (1779-89); four others can be seen in the Ca’Rezzonico, now a museum, in Venice.

Although he was already in debt owing to the extravagance of his father, the Second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos spent vast sums preparing for the Queen’s visit to Stowe House and in August 1848 was forced to sell the contents of the house. The catalogue for the sale records that the Italian furniture in the State Drawing Room had been imported en bloc in the 1830s by an entrepreneurial Milanese dealer, Gasparoni, who had ‘chartered a vessel expressly to convey [it] to England’. The firm of Town & Emanuel bought the whole shipment and sold several pieces to the Second Duke of Buckingham. The table and two chairs were purchased by the dealer Redfern on the fifth day of the Stowe sale for the 4th Marquess of Hertford. Other major works of art acquired by him at this sale include the Astronomical Clock in the Back State Room and a pair of neo-classical side tables veneered with verde antico marble and the painting Persian Sybil by Domenichino in the Great Gallery.

Further Reading

  • Michael Bevington, Stowe House, London, 2002
  • Frank Herrmann, The English as Collectors: A Documentary Sourcebook, London, 1999; see pp.274-280 on the Stowe House Sale
  • Peter Hughes, The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Furniture, London, 1996