Collection

Georgian Table

Collection: When modernism goes bad

Category: Furniture

Date: c.1790-1810

Nationality of Designer: English

Manufacturers Location: English

Material: Mahogany

Dimensions: 45.5 x 59 x 59 cm

Purchase Price: £20

Abstract:

Small circular, tilt-top Georgian tripod table 

Provenance:

Second hand shop 

Adaptions/renovations:

None, fixed break down the centre of the table top and mended support underneath. 

Why it's in the Collection:

This table is a typical example of a small Georgian parlour table made in the late 18th century. It tells an important story which resonates with other, more conventionally modernist parts of the Lawson Park collection. The development of British naval power and transatlantic trade during the 18th century led to merchants discovering mahogany wood's excellent properties for the manufacture of certain pieces of furniture. There was a variety of mahogany grown throughout the Caribbean but the highest quality was Cuban and Jamaican mahogany. Such products were expensive but not prohibitively so for an emergent middle class, growing and profiting from the fruits of industrialisation. Well-made furniture in the wood became both ubiquitous and distinctly English, admired in France beside English ceramics (with Wedgewood in the ascendency) which succeeded in adapting and mass producing fine china from the Orient. 

Mahogany is a hard, close-grained wood. These characteristics differed from the native English oak or ash and allowed English craftsfolk to achieve surprising new effects with the wood. Its strength enabled the wide thin top and elegant simplicity of the snaking tripod legs. It was this style that, when mixed with neo-classicism, has come to typify the Georgian period, but the discovery of the mahogany wood as an innovative new material and skill of the maker handling it just as much as any shift in aesthetic trends is responsible for iconic design on the late 18th century. Mahogany is also brittle, aptly illustrated by the break in this table's surface. The notion of Georgian modernism is apparent when this table is considered alongside other objects in the collection from the 1930s, 50s and 60s which used the revolutionary materials of chrome metal, industrial steam-bent wood and plastics.