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Tray-Top Table

Decorative Arts

On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, From Colonies to States, 1660–1830
Home Luxuries, North and South

Made thousands of miles apart, these two sets of paired objects reveal both similarities and differences between British American and Spanish American luxury goods. Both William Allen and Don José María Gómez de Cervantes y Altamirano de Velasco are depicted in relatively simple standing half-length portraits that belie the wealth and prominence of the two sitters. Allen was the great-grandson of one of Virginia Colony’s most prestigious settlers. Don José María was the descendant of two old, distinguished Creole (American-born Spaniard) families in New Spain, in what would become Mexico.

The two tables share a common design source—The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director (1754), by the English cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale. The volume contains illustrations of domestic furniture in the popular Rococo style, whose curvilinear silhouettes derive from the court style of Louis XV of France.

The low height of the table on the right reflects the influence of Islamic culture, which permeated Spain during the Middle Ages and was brought to the New World by Spanish colonists. At home in Spanish America, the hostess entertained her female guests in the cuadra de estrado, or women’s sitting room, seated on cushions on the floor around a low table. In contrast, British Americans would have sat on side chairs around a taller tea table such as this tray-top version.
MEDIUM Mahogany and mahogany veneer
DATES ca. 1770
DIMENSIONS 29 1/4 x 34 1/2 x 23 1/2in. (74.3 x 87.6 x 59.7cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS Yellowed paper adhesive label with a red border declares the piece as property of Mr. M.S. Sloan. On the underside of the piece "456.R" is written in chalk. On the right side of the piece, inscribed in red paint are the numbers "14-1924-21".
COLLECTIONS Decorative Arts
CREDIT LINE Matthew Scott Sloan Collection, Gift of Lidie Lane Sloan McBurney
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CAPTION Attributed to Robert Harrold (American, born England, 18th century). Tray-Top Table, ca. 1770. Mahogany and mahogany veneer, 29 1/4 x 34 1/2 x 23 1/2in. (74.3 x 87.6 x 59.7cm). Brooklyn Museum, Matthew Scott Sloan Collection, Gift of Lidie Lane Sloan McBurney, 1997.150.16. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1997.150.16_PS6.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 1997.150.16_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Tea Table, tray top, mahogany and mahogany veneer, Chippendale style. Scallop-rimmed rectangular top and four legs joined by crossed arch stretchers with a pierced flame-shaped finial at the crossing. Undecorated apron of mahogany veneer with single bands of applied molding around the top and bottom. Pierced fretwork brackets support each leg at the top corner. The crossed stretchers themselves are made up of two opposing, molded C-scrolls. The outer sides of the rectangular legs are molded; the inner sides are chamfered along the edge. The four castors which are not original to the table have been removed.
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