ANTIQUE 18TH CENTURY ENVELOPE TOP GAMES CABINET AND TABLE
This is an unusual 18th century satinwood and tulipwood neo-classical marquetry games cabinet, with decoration in the “Etruscan style“.
The satinwood envelope top centered with a large fan medallion patera, bordered with pineapple motives and scrolling foliage, all strung and crossbanded with tulipwood.
The revolving top ingeniously opening by way of a secluded mechanism. The flaps then supported by lopers which fold-out from underneath the top. The beautiful interior again centered with a swirling fan patera, the four surrounding sections all quarter veneered with matching tulipwood.
The base of the cabinet having a single door enclosing four sliding trays. The pillars to each corner being chevron banded in tulipwood. These, the apron, and the feet, all showing in their design the French influence that was so popular at this period.
The cabinet base has four satinwood marquetry panels, displaying sacred palm-wrapped urns, which again incorporate the fan medallion patera, which is emblazoned upon the cabinet top. These urns are raised on laurel-festooned feet and stand upon tripod alters, here reflecting designs popularised at this time by the court architect, Robert Adam.
The earliest games played in England were chess, dice, and ‘tables’, later known as backgammon. Playing cards were introduced into England during the 15th century although by 1463, the importation of foreign playing cards had been forbidden.
Henry VIII as a young man was a strapping six footer, who delighted in all sorts of games and sports. “Now he was shaped for sportive bricks!” and among these delights was real-tennis, a game still played in Petworth today, the tennis court but a stones throw from our showroom’s.
Henry also loved hunting and jousting. A more sedate activity he was known to turn his hand to, was shouvelboard (the forerunner of shove-halfpenny), a game that was played on massive oak tables, anything up to 30 feet long. Henry was known to play all these games for high stakes! Another pastime oh Henrys was taking wives, this also involved high stakes, but only for them!
Catherine of Aragon, although beloved by the English people, did not hold quite the same allure for Henry on a permanent basis. After their divorce, an inventory of her goods was taken, and although she was known to be a pious woman, it shows she possesed several chess sets, notably “one case covered with blake lether, having therin syxe thynne leavis of waynescotte to play at foxe, chestys, and other games whereof four have rings of silver to hang bye”.
An extremel rare and early forerunner to our games cabinet can be found at Penshurst Place. This oak gaming table, circa 1530, has a rectangular folding top which is also supported on lopers, and a cupboard below, (for the storage of games paraphernalia). The cupboard stands upon carved legs with a platform base supported by sledge feet. The carved decoration here also incorporates urns and medallions, but this time is decorated in the Romayne style, which had been popularizes during the Italian Renaissance, and recently imported into England. Queen Elizabeth I played at draughts, chess, cards, and primero, a game introduced from Spain. Maw, Glecko, and E O tables, were other games also popular at this time. The ‘Compleat Gamester’ of 1674 states that gaming had by then ‘become so much the fashion among the ‘beaumonde’ that he who in company should appear ignorant of the games in vogue would be reckoned low-bred and hardly fit for conversation’. Basset and loo, were games very fashionable at this time. Piquet was also being played, and pretty little tables in the French manner were being produced for this purpose.
Quadrille and Ombre were very popular at the beginning of the 18th century, and the passion for cards stimulated by the prevailing spirit of speculation, became little short of a mania. Anybody who was anybody was playing cards.
Although in 1713, the ‘Gardian’ found it pertinent to denouce women gamesters, concluding, ‘There is nothing that wears out a fine face like the vigils of the card tables’.