Baltimore Classical Carved Mahogany Pier Table, c.1825
If “form following function” is inherent in the design and construction of furniture, then the rare exception of both attributes being equal and interdependent, manifested as a singular aesthetic, has perhaps been fully realized in the sophisticated yet austere simplicity of this Baltimore masterpiece. This iconic Classical pier table can be confidently attributed to the shop of John Needles based on a nearly identical labeled example in the collection of Centre Hill Mansion, Petersburg, Virginia; exemplifying Baltimore’s distinct interpretation of the Regency style, this highly architectonic form seems a logical progression, emanating from the City’s earlier Late Federal/Classical pier and slab table designs which adhered more closely to their English antecedents (see below); as Gregory Weidman notes in Furniture in Maryland, 1740-1940, “A group of Baltimore Empire pier tables, however, have four freestanding legs and no mirror or platform base. This type may have been intended also for use as serving tables in a dining room.”; while most examples of this rare form utilize plain veneered columns over ball feet, this table ranks among the most fully developed, effectively employing the tapered “Roman fasces” reeding of the legs, the almost Post Modern block and sphere feet, the carved composite Corinthian capitals with Ionic scrolls, and Needles’ trademark ebonized apron edge moulding; all composed of the highest quality mahogany while masterfully brought together in perfect proportion and diminutive size; the table retains its’ original marble top and is in excellent condition; the finish was cleaned and polished ten years ago; dimensions: 36″ tall x 37″ wide x 17″ deep
This pair of tables, sold at Sotheby’s in 1992 and later at Christie’s in 2007, appears to be “assembled” (as noted in the Sotheby’s description above). The slightly wider table also has ovoid rather than spherical feet. If the oval feet are replacements, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, given the rarity of the form, that one of the two could be a mate to ours based on its’ dimensions.