M18972 | Table

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About 1870, 19th century
Wood; papier mache; metal, steel; mother-of-pearl; Assembled
72 x 66 cm
Gift of Mr. Frederick Cleveland Morgan
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Table (15)
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Keys to History

The gaming table is popular among households in eastern Canada. This elaborate English-style table is made from paper and metal. In the 1850s and '60s, papier mâché (paper pulp) or paper sheets (paper wares) are readily surface decorated to full effect using japanning and fussy inlays of mother-of-pearl, highlighted with gold floral painting. In 1866 production volume increases, so pieces of furniture "are made for the export trade to Canada . . . an immense variety . . . decorated to suit the taste or the want of taste of purchasers in the countries to which they are exported . . . fostering . . . exuberant decoration." By the 1870s, the broader middle-class market is demanding overly elaborate ornamentation. "The public had been taught to believe that the quantity of material was the test of value and . . . asked for more pearl and gold." The blustery designs evident in the scrolled edges to the top and the vase-like column below are bound to enliven any interior.

R. K. Symonds and B. B. Whinery, Victorian Furniture (London: Studio Editions, 1987), pp. 195-201.

Clive D. Edwards, "Papier mâché," in Victorian Furniture: Technology and Design (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), pp. 124-34. Quote from p. 131.

Conrad Graham, Eclectic Tastes: Fine and Decorative Arts from the McCord (Montreal: McCord Museum of Canadian History, 1992), p. 100.

Harold Osborne, The Oxford Companion to the Decorative Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 507.

Source : Crowding the Parlour [Web tour], by Jane Cook, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    This is an elaborately lacquered and painted paper table with a mother-of-pearl game board inlaid on its top.

  • Where

    Tables like this were used in games rooms and parlours by two seated players.

  • When

    They were popular in the 1860s and 1870s, but had fallen into disfavour by the 1880s, when their increasingly elaborate decorative style was considered in poor taste.

  • Who

    Henry Clay, and Jennens and Bettridge, were the leading English producers of paper wares and papier mâché imported into Canada.