Home | History | Objects | Acknowledgements | Help

Centre table

Centre table

c. 1840
Maker unknown (Tasmania)
Wood (Huon pine veneers, Australian red cedar); metal (steel and brass fittings)
Collected by Mr George Burrows. Museum of Old and New Art State Collection of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, presented in 2006
77.5 h x 94.5 w x 94.5 d cm



The centre table was collected by George Burrows in Tasmania and presented to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in 2006.


There was a strong furniture-making tradition in Tasmania during the nineteenth century. While cabinetmakers and others in the furniture trades followed British traditions and fashions—often using British pattern books—local materials, the mixed heritage of both the makers and their clients, as well as circumstances peculiar to the colonial setting such as shortages of skilled labour, tended to produce simplified and idiosyncratic designs, such as this table.

During most of the nineteenth century, fashion dictated a preference for dark woods such as mahogany and rosewood. Lighter coloured woods were preferred for private and ‘feminine’ spaces such as bedrooms. Although little is known of the origins of this table, the use of Huon pine, here suggestive of the satinwood fashionable in the late eighteenth century, could indicate a nascent nationalistic preference for local materials. The existence of tables of a similar design in other local timbers also suggests that this one could have been part of an exhibition suite intended to illustrate the decorative qualities of local furniture timber.

Tables such as this were used, amongst other things, for playing the card game ‘loo’ or lanterloo. When these tables were moved to the edge of the room, the tilted tops were highly visible and were, for this reason, often treated decoratively.


A circular table with mechanical tilting mechanism supported on a two stage octagonal column and a triform base with shaped bracket feet. The tabletop is constructed from Australian cedar and is veneered with Huon pine on the top and edges.

The main part of the tabletop is divided into eight equal segments with a central circular fan motif using darkened veneers. This is framed with a fine inlayed diagonal patterned border. The veneered edge of tabletop has no moulding and has a slightly recessed veneered frieze beneath.

The supporting column is octagonal, tapering towards the top and with a stepped broader section at the base. The base has concave sides and square ends above the feet. All viewing surfaces are veneered in Huon pine over Australian red cedar. The bracket feet project from the ends of the base and are simple, solid blocks with a shaped profile. The pedestal has a framed platform to the underside supporting the tilting mechanism and tabletop.

Statement of Significance

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of Tasmanian colonial decorative arts. This includes items made in Tasmania from 1803 through until 1930. Furniture was an important form of artistic and social expression during the colonial period and a considerable industry developed to exploit the excellent local furniture-making materials, as well as those imported from the colonies of New South Wales and New Zealand.

This table is veneered with Huon pine (a timber endemic to Tasmania) over a substrate of Australian red cedar imported from New South Wales. It is indicative of the high regard for the later as a furniture-making material and of the extensive trade between the colonies in the first half of the nineteenth century. The absence of woodturning, usually associated with tables of this kind, may indicate that the skills of the wood turner were not available at the time and place of manufacture.


None visible

This website was made possible through the generous support of the Gordon Darling Foundation, which provided funds for research, equipment and website design.

© 2009 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
This page was last modified on : 26 August, 2010