Octagonal Eight-Legged Center Table
Possibly by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1923)
Design influenced by E. W. Godwin (1835-1886)
New York c. 1882
Made c. 1882, this unusual and diminutive eight-legged table, with its distinctive “spider” stretchers and out-swept terminus feet, is quite obviously inspired by British designer E. W. Godwin, who did a sketch for an octagonal spider table about seven years earlier, in 1875. Several English variations of that form made by both William Walt and Collinson & Lock survive. Those examples, however, do not incorporate the conforming lower tier shelf found on the present American version, nor do they feature the exotic mashrabiya (elaborately turned and joined fretwork) panels or the diminutive melon carvings and delicate decorative reeding employed here. The early use of mashrabiya in American furniture is instructive and offers clues to the designer of this piece.
Louis Comfort Tiffany first incorporated mashrabiya in the design of furnishings for the George Kemp house (c. 1879-80) and subsequently on furniture made for the Henry G. Marquand residence (c. 1885). The current table is known to have been fabricated around 1882 as a wedding gift to Emily M. Whitney and Armour Leland, who resided at 692 Park Avenue, one block from the Marquand mansion. An octagonal center table from the Kemp house and a desk from the Marquand smoking room both incorporate mashrabiya elements, as well as a complex moulded edge related to the profile on this table. Additionally, the melon capitals and stretcher collars are similar to those on the legs of several side tables created by Tiffany Studios on the early years of the 20th century.
A beautiful and highly sophisticated work, this distinctive piece cleverly integrates diverse cultural influences into a definitively American creation.