Generally, the term “Refectory Table” describes long dining tables resembling those in dining halls of monasteries, especially oblong tables with four or six turned legs that may be expanded by leaves.Purchased by George G. Booth, before 1949, for use in Cranbrook House, the Refectory Table (CEC 37) in the Cranbrook House Oak Room has a plain 76 inch by 35-1/2 inch rectangular top, with two extendable tops of 31-1/2 inches each.The extension mechanism works by removing the top wood leaf, pulling out each side of tabletop – these are supported by bars under the table top that pull out – removing the center section, then placing the top leaf in the center.
“Interesting, but not really worthy of a spotlight,” you say?
“My table at home has leaves built into it. Why is this one so special?”
It is distinct because the top of this table sits over a beautiful and vibrantly carved and painted frieze, and is raised on four carved and painted legs and a box stretcher with a carved and painted linear design. It is the frieze and the carvings that make the table stand out.The frieze runs all around the table and features a grapevine interspersed at regular intervals with Medieval-style figures: mermaids, men, women, and animals.The figures carry banners and staffs, are sitting on benches, and, in the case of the mermaid, holding a fish.The frieze background is painted red; the grapevine and grapes are brown with black and the leaves are green with gold detailing; the figures and animals are mostly tan with gold and the mermaids are gold as well. The lower edge molding of the frieze is painted with diagonal lines of green, gold, and red.Each of the four carved and painted legs is decorated with a different linear design of stripes, twisted around the trunk, with hexagonal base and top.Metal stars are attached to the base and top of each leg. The legs are painted blue, green, red, and tan, all with gold detailing.The outer side of each stretcher has carved lines painted red and green.
The table is an English antique, likely from the 19th century. A careful study of comparable tables in books or at other museums could help us narrow down its age.
I am happy to share this beautiful table on the blog. If you ever find yourself in the Oak Room at Cranbrook House, whether for a meeting, house tour, or special event, please take the time and give this exception table a closer look.
– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar and “Keeper of Keys and Cultural Properties” at Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research