The label on the drawer of the present lot suggests a provenance of Wallsworth Hall, Gloucestershire.
Wallsworth Hall was built by Samuel Hayward in 1740 as a wedding present to his wife, Catherine, who undertook a number of improvements. In 1903 the de Winton family sold the estate including its land, houses and farms to James Dorrington. The house was sold for the last time in 1943 to the Gloucester City Corporation and its contents were offered by local auctioneers Bruton Knowles. This lot did not form part of this sale and it is believed that it was gifted to a family relative after the death of Mary Ellen Dorrington.
The decorative technique known as penwork was a fashionable 18th and 19th century pastime for women. An article from Ackermann's Repository published in 1816 reported 'among the many pleasing recreations of the fair sex, is that of painting and ornamenting Tunbridge and fancy ware, which at once becomes an elegant and useful amusement...the figures are relieved in black, purposefully to shew the effect when finished on the work-box, cabinet or screen; and when varnished, has the appearance of ivory inlaid on ebony; a great variety of which, with the colour properly prepared, may be had at the Repository of Arts'.
A similar table is illustrated, Noel Riley, Penwork: A Decorative Phenomenon 2008, p.38. Riley states that the most likely source of inspiration for the artist would have been Thomas Hope's Costume of the Ancients (1809). Hope's own inspiration partly came from a style developed by John Flaxman and his illustrations for Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (1793) and Aeschylus' Tragedies (1795).
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