Micro-mosaic inlaid table
Manufactured by George J. Morant, London
Painted and gilt wood, micro-mosaic top
Museum no. W.34-1980
Although the skill shown by Morants and Barberi in inlaying tiny chips of coloured stone to make the surface of this table look like a painted picture would have impressed visitors to many a Victorian drawing room, Henry Cole would not have been pleased by it. This table is an example of exactly the type of design against which he was campaigning. The flowers on the surface and the supporting birds beneath have no relation to the function of the table. Cole and the committee of the Society of Arts hoped that when people saw such objects at the Exhibition, they would compare them with the graceful simplicity of the cast-iron rocker, or with foreign exhibits that showed similar artistic self-control, and from then on they would demand more aesthetic restraint. Not only did he misunderstand the crowds who came to wonder at the spectacle of the building and its contents, Cole also did not allow for the determination of exhibitors to attract the attention of those visitors. Makers were convinced that their product must be bigger, brighter and better than the competition to be worthy of notice.