The Wheel of Fortune table
William Burges, designer
J.D. Crace, London, manufacturer
Oak base, marquetry and inlaid top including details of inlaid ivory, mother of pearl and metals
height 29½ in (75 cm), width 53 in (134.5cm)
Collection: John Scott
Source: Masterpieces from the John Scott Collection.
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“I started the queue at 6am outside Haslam and Whiteway’s shop on the day of the table’s arrival. This was to ensure first chance at buying such a spectacular wonder. I brought a chair. I expected a large queue of aspirant collectors. 10am opening time – only me! That was a shock.” — John Scott
Widely regarded by his peers as one of the most brilliant designers of his day Burges created a world of architectural fantasy with his flamboyant and extravagant style. He was strongly influenced by the medieval art and architecture he had seen in his travels around Europe and in particular the work of his French contemporary Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. Burges’ romantic fascination with historical legend and spiritual symbolism is manifest in the design of this tabletop, although its precise meaning is obscure. At the centre of the table is the wheel of fortune, spun by Fortuna or St Catherine surrounded by eight figures from all strata of society from royalty to peasants. The designs for these are in the Victoria and Albert Museums drawings collection.
‘The Wheel of Fortune’ centre table was designed by William Burges for Colonel Somers Cocks as part of an interior scheme for the MP’s new house in Cornwall. Cocks commissioned ‘Treverbyn Vean’ from the architect George Gilbert Scott (designer of the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras and the Albert Memorial), with Burges creating the interior scheme. The inlaid tabletop sits on an oak base of a modified A.W.N. Pugin design; it is one of Burges’s earliest designs for furniture.
Gere, Charlotte, & Michael Whiteway. Nineteenth Century Design: from Pugin to Mackintosh. London 1993. p.211, pl.26.
Masterpieces from the John Scott Collection. London: The Fine Art Society, No. 2.
Created 24 May 2014
Last modified 17 February 2022