Marble Specimen Table
Workshop of Michelangelo Barberi,
Tradescant Gallery, Gallery 27, First Floor


Focus on the Object

The Table
The basis of this dramatic circular table-top is a large slab of white Carrara marble, inlaid with black Belgian marble and a variety of coloured stones in a geometric pattern. These include imperial porphyry, granites, serpentines, alabasters, and semi-precious stones and well as marbles. Some are re-used fragments from ancient Roman architecture. A 3-dimensional effect is achieved through the use of diamond-shaped stones which run around the outer ring of the table-top. In the centre is a micro-mosaic depicting ‘Pliny’s Doves’, a popular representation of a still-life found in Hadrian’s Villa just outside Rome. A virtuoso piece, notice the tiny stone pieces that make up the feathers of the doves, the reflection of one of the central birds and the subtle rippling of the water.
Table-tops like these originally appeared in a rectangular form and it is believed that this circular form was used in libraries. In any case, they indicate a design intended for the centre of a room. If you look underneath the table you will see an equally decorative set of legs featuring lions’ feet and heads. Not produced at the same time as the table-top, this stand is an example of early ninteenth-century British craftsmanship.

Michelangelo Barberi (1787-1867)

While the table-top was in his ownership, CDE Fortnum cited it as the work of Michelangelo Barberi. Barberi worked for the Princess Volkonski in Russia and helped set up a mosaic school in St Petersburg. However, since his great reputation was based on his skill in creating mico-mosaic pictures, he probably only had a hand in the central mosaic and the rest of the table-top should probably be attributed to his workshop or another craftsman.