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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

George III Painted Mahogany Pembroke Table (ca.1780)

Recently I did some repair work on an exceptional  English Pembroke table with painted decoration that was made circa 1780. The style of this table is considered George III because he was the reigning monarch at the time of this tables construction. The primary wood used in the table was Cuban Mahogany and the secondary woods were Oak and Pine. The Mahogany served as a ground for the painted decoration, which adorned every visible surface. The style of the decoration was vines that connected Greek classical scenes.Painted Bellflowers were on the legs. This style of decoration comes right out of the designs of Robert and James Adam. A similar table with a serpentine top can be seen here:

The table had a bit of a mystery attached to it which I was unable to solve. One of the reasons that I was hired to work on this table was that on one side of the top, a 7/8" board which was added to the top surface had become separated along the joint. This piece had all of the indcations that it was original, including the fact that the painted decoration spanned the larger board on the top as well as this small board that was added on. When I removed the top The number 16 1/4 was written in chalk on the underside of the top. This number was the measurement of the width of the larger board that made up the top. Was this smaller board added later? If so, this meant that the painted decoration was also added later. Another clue was the fact that mortices with screw holes were cut into the original board. These hinge mortices were then cut into the added piece as well, as if the top had originally been smaller and the hinges were moved out to accomodate the added board. Perhaps the rule joint on the original top had been damaged and planed off to accomodate this new board early on. The only problem with this theory is that the number 16 1/4 is the measurement from the edge of the existing rule joint to the edge of the wide board. If there had originally been another rule joint there the board would have been wider.

Another interesting piece was that both rule joints were scribed on the under side to mark a line to center the barrel of the hinge on. The placement of the hinge in a rule joint is critical to the action of that joint. The scribe lines were identical and apperared to me to be done by the same hand.

My best guess is that the added board was original. Perhaps the craftsman who made this table wanted to use the board even though it did not span the width of the base. Perhaps two people were involved and the measurements were mixed up. This would explain the original hinge mortices, except for the fact that when you make a rule joint, you cut the joint first and then attach the hinges! Creating the hinge mortices first wouldn't make any sense.

I am going to stick with the theory that the added piece is original, even though I cannot expain the hinge mortices. It is easy to believe that the craftsman, knowing the table would ultimately be painted,would join this extra piece on thinking that the decoration would draw the eye away from the joint and the solid mahogany color for the ground was all that the buyer would see. As I said, it was a real mystery to me and it seemed that the closer I examined the table, the more questions were raised.

  Below are a few photos of the table before, during, and after the repairs were made. No restoration was done to the finish except to wax the table. This was due to the original condition of the piece.

These first few photos show the table as it came to me. The light reflected on the top but you can see some of the painted decoration.


This photo, taken of the underside of the top, shows the 16 1/4" measurement referenced above.
Here is a photo of an olde repair to one of the hinge mortices.
This photo shows how the hinge mortices on the side where the strip was added were moved out and new holes were drilled.

In this photo, you can see some damage to the stretcher above the drawer. This was later repaired.
The next two photos show the top being glued.

It is difficult to see, but in this photo I am lifting a loose section of veneer on the apron of the base. the following photo shows the same veneer without being lifted. The glue beneath the veneer was cleaned and the piece was glued in place.

The stop blocks for the drawer were missing, causing the drawer to slide into the case. I added new blocks using old oxidized pine in the dimensions and location of the originals. The first photo shows the glue imprint of the original block and the second shows the new blocks being glued in place.

These last few photos show the table after the repairs were made, the finish was waxed, and a key was made to work the lock. This is an exceptional table and was a lot of fun to work on!

Poseidon again!

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