Federal Inlaid Mahogany Demilune Card Table; Baltimore, c.1790
an exemplary example from one of Federal Baltimore’s preeminent shops, this card table is one of a small but readily identified group by the hand of a presently unknown cabinetmaker; distinguished by double swing-legs, a medial brace, satinwood banding accentuating mahogany panels, pictorial oval inlays (often thistle or triple acorn flourishes, see below), non-flaring elliptical-petalled bellflowers, banding along the top’s perimeter and outside edges, and more often than not, the use of ebony cuffs and Charles F. Montgomery’s #78 or #79 Maryland “dot-and-dash” apron edge banding; this group of tables strongly adheres to the English George III designs and construction techniques many Baltimore makers employed; in excellent condition with age-commensurate patching and veneer checking; most of the ebony cuffing is replaced based on originals remaining on the proper back right leg; the leaves are made of solid one-board mahogany; the apron, medial brace, and inner rail are tulip poplar and the working rails are white oak; the older finish has been cleaned and polished; dimensions: 29 1/4″ tall x 36″ wide x 17 13/16″ deep
The highly sophisticated execution of the inlay is apparent in the tromp l’oeil effect created by using slightly wider banding at the top of each of the apron panels. This subtle adjustment compensates for the top edge’s partial obstruction of the standing perspective view of the apron. Accordingly, the oval inlays are in alignment with the mahogany panels themselves, not the outermost edges of the banding, thus appearing centered to the viewer from above. Additionally, the downward bowing of each leg’s cross stringing properly indicates the “weight” of the pendant bellflowers, a nuance not always practiced, such as in the example of the BMA table below.
While undoubtedly based on closely related English (and Scottish) antecedents, it appears likely that this particular format or “school” of pictorial inlay was manufactured in America, and indeed probably Baltimore. The same thistle inlay can be seen on several Maryland tables that have come on the market in recent years. Currently, no examples of this exact inlay are known to be installed on English furniture, although similar examples can be seen on a Charleston attributed table. (The Columbus Museum Catalogue, No.16, Philip D. Zimmerman, 2004)
Baltimore Furniture, 1760-1810, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1947
American Antique Furniture, Volume Two, fig. 1503; by Edgar Miller, Dover Publications, 1937
Christie’s, June 16, 1999, Lot #209
A George III Card Table, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates