A Magnificent Carlton House Boulle-Inlaid Table Designed for George, The Prince of Wales, The Prince Regent,
The circular, dark red leather-lined top is surrounded by a gilt border featuring scrolling foliage and Bérainesque patterns contained within a gilt-brass moulded edge. The frieze below consists of four real (cedar-lined) drawers alternating with four dummy drawers. Each drawer has a handle and is divided from the next by gilt-metal bearded masks. The table top is set on a canted triangular spreading shaft inlaid with gilt-metal mounts of scrolling foliage, itself set on a conforming plinth with richly gadrooned edge and scrolled paw feet with shell terminals on brass castors. The underside with black wash, and the underside of one drawer inscribed in pencil 'George Wall Parker'
English, Circa 1817
This magnificent Carlton House Boulle-inlaid table pattern, or 'loo' games-table, appears to have been created for George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV, around 1813 or 1814. Two pairs of closely related Boulle (or 'buhl') circular drum tables were supplied to the Prince of Wales by Parker. The first pair was invoiced on 5 April 1814 at the considerable cost of £315 (PRO/LC9/367) and the second pair invoiced in 1817 at the only slightly less substantial cost of £210 'two round buhl tables with Boys chased heads Mouldings with drawer' (V&A archives). One pair (in première and contre -partie Boulle marquetry) is presently in the Green Drawing Room, Windsor Castle; the whereabouts of the second pair is not known, and it is possible that the present table is one half of the second pair of tables delivered by Parker, as suggested by Christopher Gilbert in 1996 (Gilbert, op. cit., p. 43).
The present table matches the Royal table veneered in première-partie, and has its frieze decorated at intervals with festive golden bas-relief saytr heads, oak-wreathed, and issuing between tortoiseshell-ground golden tablets that are shell-inlaid with seventeenth-century courtly figures and vases of flowers with ribbon-tied foliage in the Roman manner popularised by the engraved Oeuvres of Jean Bérain (d. 1711). The present table differs from the pair of tables now at Windsor in that the design on the drawers of the latter pair is repeated on all the drawer fronts, whereas the present table features two alternating patterns of inlay and the shell at the end of the ormolu foot is of a slightly different design.
CARLTON HOUSE TASTE
The table reflects the antique style introduced for the Prince at Carlton House, his palatial Piccadilly mansion, by the architect Henry Holland (d.1806) with assistance from Charles Heathcote Tatham (d.1842), the Rome-trained architect and author of Etchings Representing the Best Examples of Ancient Ornamental Architecture, London, 1799 (see Queen's Gallery exhibition catalogue, Carlton House: The Past Glories of George IV's Palace, 1991, no. 62). The Prince, whose taste for rich French court furniture was encouraged by Paris-trained marchand-merciers or dealer/decorators, introduced two of these circular tables, executed in the 'Louis Quatorze' French fashion as practised by André-Charles Boulle, in première partie and matched contre-partie, to Carlton House's Golden Drawing Room in 1814 (see W.H. Pyne, Royal Residences, 1817-1820, vol. 3, p. 60). They were probably commissioned in 1813 via the Prince's celebrated 'Furniture Man' Benjamin Vulliamy (d. 1821), and were executed by Thomas Parker, while trading as 'Cabinet & Buhl Manufacturer to the Prince Regent and Royal Family' from premises established in Air Street in 1808. By the time of Wild's watercolour views published in Pyne's Royal Residences in 1818, one table is seen in the Golden Drawing Room and another, possibly slightly different, is in The Blue Velvet Closet, suggesting that both pairs were at Carlton House in 1818. One pair was then restored in the 1820s for use at Windsor Castle by Nicholas Morel (d. 1830): both tables remain in the Green Drawing Room (see H. Roberts, For the King's Pleasure: The Furnishing and Decoration of George IV's Apartments at Windsor Castle, London, 2001, pp. 98, 102 & 115; account nos. 115 & 116)
THE PARKER DYNASTY
Thomas Parker was established at 19 Air Street, Piccadilly from 1808-17 and then at 22 Warwick Street, Golden Square from 1817-27 and finally at 32 Warwick Street until 1830 after which date the firm closed. The Prince Regent favoured the firm as Parker supplied the prince with a pair of Boulle caskets-on-stands for Carlton House in January 1813 (the companion pair at Woburn Abbey: see P. van Duin, 'Two Pairs of Boulle caskets on stands by Thomas Parker, Furniture History, 1989, pp. 214-217); the pair of drum tables in April 1814 at a cost of £315 (Carlton House: The Past Glories of George IV's Palace, 1991, p. 108) and a second pair of drum tables in 1817 costing £210. George Wall Parker is recorded in Piccadilly in 1818 and was clearly related to Thomas Parker (Gilbert, op. cit, p. 43). Both men were Freemen of Canterbury and other cabinet-making Parkers are recorded in Kent, including John Parker, established in Deal from 1800-1829, and a Thomas Parker recorded in Canterbury in 1796.
C. Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, Leeds, 1996, p. 43 & figs. 714-5.
Queen's Gallery exhibition catalogue, Carlton House: The Past Glories of George IV's Palace, 1991, no. 62
Royal Residences, 1817-1820, W.H. Pyne, vol. 3, p. 60
Height: 29 ¼" 74.5cm
Diameter: 39" 99cm