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The hinged, rectangular top is inlaid with geometric marquetry in tulipwood diamond-shaped lozenges centred with individual boxwood flowerheads; with harewood stringing and amaranth borders between a broad band of boxwood, inlaid with stylised leaves issuing from the four corners. The top, supported by one gate leg, reveals a green felt playing surface surrounded by intricate marquetry and geometric marquetry in various woods, predominantly amaranth, boxwood and harewood with shallow grooves of tulipwood on each of the four sides . The frieze is inlaid with stylised drapery held by rings on three sides with a spotted boxwood border which continues on the fourth side. The square tapering legs in amaranth are headed on two sides with a geometric pattern in tulip and harewood above tapering crossband on four sides in tulipwood. On four castors.
This games table veneered in marquetry is a fine representative of the pieces produced during the golden age of Russian furniture at the end of the eighteenth century. They can be confidently attributed to Christian Meyer, the most preeminent cabinet-maker in Russia at the end of the eighteenth century. He gave carpentry lessons to the Grand Dukes Alexander and Constantine, the grandsons of Catherine the Great—she wrote in a letter of 1784, ‘As for master Alexander and master Constantine, who like to try their hand at any trade, they have finished their carpentry course with Mr Meyer.’
There is a group of card tables related to the one offered at Mallett. An invoice of 14 May 1779 signed by Christian Meyer reveals that he supplied six pairs of games tables for the Winter Palace. A pair of tables sold at Christies’ Exceptional Sale in 2011 has an inventory label of the Winter Palace. Meyer also made tables for a commission by Tsar Paul I for furniture to present as a dowry for his daughters. An example of a table from this commission was sold at Christie’s sale of The European Connoisseur: 500 Years of Decorative Arts in Europe in 2012. There is a similar table at the Pavlosvk Palace museum, and several others were sold at auction and remain in private collections.
The tables have a distinctly English design, which reflects the Anglomania in Russian society in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Russian cabinet-makers had access to English designs through Michael Angelo Pergolesi, an assistant to Robert Adam. His albums entitled Designs for Neoclassical Ornaments and Ornaments in the Etruscan and Grotesque Styles offered examples of the English designs. The Hermitage has sheets of these albums signed by Pergolesi dating form 1778-82.
Antoine Cheneviere, author of Russian Furniture: The Golden Age 1780-1840 illustrates a similar games table that features inlaid with marquetry and various woods (fig. 24). The tables differ in the use of castors and design of the marquetry along the frieze.
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