A pair of mid 19th century Sri Lankan specimen wood and carved ebony occasional tables, the octagonal top with leaf carved edge and central swirling flowerhead inlay, with radiating veneers of specimen native woods, within featherbanded and white metal inlaid borders, above a cushion moulded frieze, with frieze drawer, on lotus leaf and double 'C' scroll supports on a leaf carved platform base with scroll feet. With paper labels for Edwards and Roberts, Wardour Street, London.
An almost identical example of this model of table can be found in Amin Jaffer's Furniture from British India and Ceylon, V & A Publications, 2001, p. 373 Fig.141.
The use of specimen woods as a decorative feature was distinctive to the Galle District in Ceylon. These tables first occur in the second quarter of the 19th century, yet only reach the sophistication shown in this pair by the late 1860's References to the inlaying of specimen woods appear in many accounts of that period. H C. Sirr writes that at Galle there 'are also manufactured those exquisite inlaid articles...ivory and various coloured native woods are inlaid upon the ebony and the designs are well defined'(Amin Jaffer's Furniture from British India and Ceylon, V & A Publications, 2001, p. 373 Fig.141).
The only maker who can be linked with specimen wood furniture from this period is Andres da Costa, whose name appears on a breakfast table sold at Sotheby's Chester 8 July 1987, lot 2028. The quantity of surviving examples of these tables indicate that many were made and were made to standard specifications in specialist workshops. The table tops are generally consistent in decoration and design, with variations in pattern determined by the shape of the table top, often hexagonal or rectangular, and typically inlaid with a central radiating roundel within triangular segments and divided by chevron borders.
The firm Edwards and Roberts was founded in 1845 and by 1854 was trading at 21 Wardour Street, as 'Antique and Modern Cabinet Makers and Importers of Ancient Furniture’. They became one of the leading London cabinet makers and retailers and the firm produced high quality furniture, as well as good copies of 18th and 19th century English and French pieces.
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