Presentation table and vase
This table and vase were presented to Purnell Bransby Purnell (1791-1866), of Stancombe Park, Gloucestershire, for his work in improving the conditions and management of the county's private mental health asylums. He was a distinguished magistrate, Chairman of the Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions, and a Deputy Lieutenant for Gloucestershire. On his death in 1866, the Gloucestershire Chronicle declared that 'few men of this generation have done so much to deserve the gratitude of this county'.
The table and vase were displayed together as an ensemble at the Great Exhibition of 1851. They are listed first in the record of Hancock's display in the Official Catalogue, and in the Reports by the Juries, where the table was described as 'being inlaid with much care and taste'. The firm was awarded the highest prize, a Council Medal. The jury for Class 23 reported that 'the whole of Mr Hancock's exhibition shows an accurate knowledge of the silversmith's craft, and of the resources which art can apply to this branch of industry when it is properly brought to bear on it'.
The form of the table, with triangular pedestal base and round top, owes much to the designs of Thomas Hope. A very similar table, of mahogany inlaid with silver, was made for Hope in 1804 and was published in Household Furniture and Interior Decoration Executed from Designs by Thomas Hope in 1807. Hope's table was acquired by the V&A in 1936 and is now in the British Galleries in Room 120. In shape and decoration the base of the Purnell testimonial is almost identical to Hope's table, and the ornamental panels of inlaid silver on the pedestals of the two tables are also very similar.
The silver inlay on the tabletop shows a sophisticated understanding of classical ornament. Like the vase, it is substantially indebted for its design to the plates drawn and engraved by Henry Moses for Vases from the Collection of Sir Henry Englefield Bart (published 1819, second edition 1848). Purnell was an informed collector of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities and the correct classical ornament of the table and vase would have been particularly appropriate to his taste.