The tables bear design similarities to the famed library table supplied by Chippendale to Edwin Lascelles at Harewood House that is now in the collection at Temple Newsam, Leeds. In particular, the design of the frieze, with its repeat pattern of linked paterae, is a good match.
Although the early provenance of this pair is unknown, their 20th century owners included Mae Manwaring Plant Hayward Rovensky (1880-1956). Married four times, the New York socialite and heiress was one of the richest women in the US.
And, as well as a lover of fine jewels (she famously persuaded second husband Morton Plant to sell a Fifth Avenue mansion to Pierre Cartier in exchange for a pearl necklace) she was also a collector of the fine and decorative arts. When Rovensky died, New York saleroom Parke-Bernet conducted the sale of her estate over two weeks in January 1957, with specialist catalogues dedicated to paintings, jewellery, silver, furniture, porcelain and works of art.
The pair of tables are listed in the Part II sale catalogue as a pair of ‘Hepplewhite demilune consoles’ (at the time some elements were gilded) with a 1920s provenance to the influential Anglo- American dealer Arthur Stannard Vernay (1877-1960).
The pair last appeared for sale 45 years ago at Sotheby’s in 1977, by which time they were thought to be by Chippendale. They were purchased at the time by the family of the vendor who consigned them to the Fine Centuries sale at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on May 18-19 with an estimate of £70,000-90,000.
Such a splendid pair from the top 1% of English furniture deserved to bring rather more but, such is the nature of the market, they were allowed to get away short of estimate, selling to a solitary phone bidder at £60,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).