A George III Pembroke Table Attributed to Henry Hill of Marlborough

Height: 26" 67cm
Width: 41" 104cm
Depth: 32" 82cm
Origination: English
Circa: 1775

A very fine and rare George III satinwood and marquetry Pembroke table attributable to Henry Hill of Marlborough. The serpentine shaped top having butterfly shaped flaps with inlaid chequer stringing. The parquetry top centered with an oval oak panel with floral marquetry. The front and back having further floral inlay to the frieze and the table supported on four circular fluted legs terminating in brass and leather castors. The table being of excellent quality and superb colour and patination.

This piece exemplifies one of Henry Hill’s most successful and distinctive designs, for a Pembroke table with serpentine sides on turned tapering legs, each with a fluted shaft divided by a gadrooned collar from the plain turned foot.

Others survive in both marquetry and mahogany (a less luxurious option), in each case displaying large lozenge-shaped veneers, evoking a garden trellis. A mahogany example at Corsham Court reflects a series of payments made to Hill by Paul Methuen from 1760 until Hill’s death, amounting to over £1300; while another marquetry example was formerly at Burderop House, home of the Calley family who were likewise longstanding patrons of Hill (Wood 1990, pp. 202–03 and nn. 40, 46).

The trellis-like lozenge parquetry also features on other pieces by Hill, for instance on a marquetry commode at the Lady Lever Art Gallery (Wood 1994, cat. No. 4 and figs 51–52). This device finds parallels in German furniture, reflecting Hill’s highly unusual Continental connections (see for example Kreisel 1983, Vol. II, figs 588–89, 645, 647) – as also indicated by his occasional use of a decorative ‘brokatpapier’ from Augsburg and the evidence that he employed immigrant craftsmen.

The floral marquetry in an acanthus-wrapped oval medallion is also echoed in other marquetry pieces by or attributed to Hill, including the commode supplied to the Duke of Somerset, c. 1770–71 (Wood 1990, figs 8–9; Wood 1994, fig. 55). Ultimately this motif may be inspired by the decoration of a commode in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which appears to be the work of a German craftsman employed by Hill; whether it was made before or after the craftsman entered Hill’s employment is uncertain (Wood 1994, fig. 53). The unusual ground veneer in this medallion reflects another characteristic of some of Hill’s grandest furniture, being paralleled for example in a bombé commode he supplied to Lord Delaval (sold Bonham’s, London, 19 October 2011, lot 98), which is closely related to the V&A commode.

A feature of this Pembroke table not paralleled on Hill’s other recorded tables or commodes is the carved (intaglio) patera at the top of the legs. Perhaps this motif may provide a link to more of Hill’s repertoire, not so far identified.

Heinrich Kreisel, Die Kunst des deutschen Möbels, 3 vols, 2nd edn revised by Georg Himmelheber (Munich, 1983)
Lucy Wood, ‘Furniture for Lord Delaval, metropolitan and provincial’, Furniture History, Vol. 26 (1990), pp. 198–238
Lucy Wood, The Lady Lever Art Gallery: Catalogue of Commodes (London, 1994), cat. No. 4, pp. 64–73