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Not currently on display at the V&A


1550-1600 (made)
Place of origin

Octagonal table of walnut with marquetry of limewood(?) with scrollwork and medallions containing figures of the cardinal virtues and pagan deities

Object details

Object type
This object consists of 7 parts.

  • Table Top
  • Base
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer Front
Materials and techniques
Brief description
Marquetry table; Italy or France; 1550-1600
Physical description
Octagonal table of walnut with marquetry of limewood(?) with scrollwork and medallions containing figures of the cardinal virtues and pagan deities
DimensionsTaken from department file: H 2ft 9.5in Diameter from angles 4ft 7.75in (feet and inches) H 85.09cm x Diameter from angles 141.60cm (centimetres)
Gallery label
Label text c.1930 while displayed in Tapestry Court: South-West Block. East Side. [gallery 44 ‘East Central Court’ c.1909-1952] TABLE. Walnut with carved and inlaid decoration. Panels showing (clockwise): Jupiter enthroned, surrounded by the Zodiac; Apollo in his Chariot; Neptune drawn by Sea Monsters; Venus rising from the Sea. In the intervening ovals, figures of the Four Cardinal Virtues. FLORENTINE; mid 16th century. 102-1869. (1930)
Object history
Bought for £90
Bibliographic references
  • H.Avray Tipping, Italian furniture of the Italian Renaissance as represented at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Country Life March 31st 1917, pp. 3-8
  • Peter Thornton, 'Italian Furniture in the Victoria and Albert Museum', in Arte Illustrata (1971) pp.116-125 It is presumably Tuscan and dates from the second half of the century. The intarsia is of extreme complexity but dirt and polish and the fading caused by time, have almost obliterated the contrasting colours of the woods, which must originally have made this table truly astonishing to behold.
  • Ancient and Modern Furniture & Woodwork in the South Kensington Museum, described with an introduction by John Hungerford Pollen, (London, 1874), p. 293. Table. Walnut wood. Inlaid with marquetry of lime-wood in scroll work and medallions, containing figures of the cardinal virtues and Pagan deities. Italian. 16th century. H. 9. ft. 9% in., diam. from angles 4 ft. 7 ¾ in. Bought, 90l. The construction is massive. There are eight legs, and these are framed into solid woodwork under the top, and held together below by a square rail three inches by two. In the frame work of the top there are four drawers, the fronts of which, with the frame pieces in the intervals, form eight panels of rich arabesque inlay ; foliage with animals amongst it. The legs have brackets on their outer sides further to support the top. They form additional thickness to the legs rolling over like a thick leaf at the top, and dying down to nothing at the point where they are framed together by the bottom rail; the brackets are decorated with inlaid work. The top of the table is decorated with inlay of marquetry, helped out by bold line engraving. This decoration is laid out with great effect. A border of bold arabesque work, three inches broad, runs round the rim, and the edge or thickness is inlaid with strapwork. Inside are drawn in four finely designed panels, four of the Dii majores, the greater members of the classic hierarchy of-gods: Jupiter feared on a throne with a zodiac round him, the signs of which are represented on the circular belt with great spirit; Neptune, the lord of the sea, drawn by marine monsters; Apollo in his chariot; Venus rising from the sea, drawn by dolphins. There are four intervening compositions representing the four cardinal virtues: Justice, blindfold and holding the scales, emblems of impartial judgment and authoritative decision; Temperance holds a cup; Prudence has a mirror and a snake. To complete the composition there are four finely drawn groups of female figures in repose, after the arrangement and in imitation of, the day and night of Michaelangelo on the Medici tombs at Florence. The escutcheons into which the large groups are brought are supported by figures of boys, with garlands, strap work, masks, &e. The centre is occupied by four shields, supported by as many boys. For a study of varied compositions of Italian renaissance decorative design few of the objects of the collection can be brought into comparison with this table. If we look at the elaborate decorative works of Philibert de l’Orme, and other French artists who went to Italy to perfect themselves in Italian design, as applicable to the requirements of architecture and furniture, we shall look in vain for such masterly drawing as we see here, evidently that of a ready and rapid hand.
  • William M. Odom, A History of Italian Furniture (New York, 1918), fig. 165 'Roman, about the middle of the XVI century'
  • Frieda Schottmüller, Furniture and Interior Decoration of the Italian Renaissance (Stuttgart, 1928), fig. 355
  • Mina Gregori, Renato Ruotolo, Lisa Bandera Gregori, Il Mobile Italiano dal Rinascimento agli anni trenta (Milan, 1981), p.21
Accession number

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Record createdFebruary 5, 2007
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