A Royal Neoclassical Games Table

Personal Property of the Empress Catherine II.

Russia, Saint Petersburg, circa 1785

Fine marquetery of different woods, brass.

Height: 73,5 cm (28.9 inch)
Width: 97,5 cm (38.4 inch)
Depth: 49 cm (19.3 inch)
Opened: 97,5 cm x 97,5 cm Ref No: 1892

Provenance: Winterpalace, Saint Petersburg.

Very fine marquetry of exotic woods, palissander, boxtree, maple, rosewood and stained fruitwood, the playing surface lined with green fabric (replaced), brass mounts.

The elegant games table with folding and swivelling top with rinceaux scrolling foliage around a central classical urn, opening to a green fabric-lined interior respectively within similar inlaid borders, with wells for game pieces and eared corners decorated with foliate rosettes, the frieze decorated with a floral garland, above square tapering legs.


We are thankful to Dr. Tatyana Semenova, Curator of the furniture department at the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg,for helping researching the following provenance:

  • Delivered to the apartments of Catherine the Great at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, circa 1785 and by descent in the Russian Imperial Family.
  • There are two inventory numbers in black and red ink on the underside of the table. The red ‘34’ is referring to the inventory of the Hermitage of the years 1889-1894. In this inventory a total of 34 games tables a recorded, which were part of the Romanov Gallery in the Small Hermitage. This table is one from this group.
  • The same group of games tables is again listed in an inventory from the year 1885.
  • A watercoulour by Edvard Petrovich Hau from 1864 depicts the northern part of the Romanov Gallery with some of these games tables.
  • The black inventory-number belongs to an Inventory of the Winter Palace from 1859 and confirms that this table was part of the furnishing. There is a further hand-written notice ”gosudarja” (the Tsar), and could mean that this table was once placed in the private apartments of the Tsar.
  • Probably sold by order of the Soviet Republic in the 1920s or ’30s.
  • Private Collection, Berlin until 2010.


This table is part of a small group produced in the 1790s and now securely attributed to the great German cabinetmaker Christian Meyer, who arrived in St. Petersburg in 1774 and is responsible for some of the finest furniture provided to Catherine the Great and her court. His design, which owes much to English prototypes, is a perfect illustration of the Russian court’s obsession with richness and sophistication which ultimately surpassed the Western taste that it sought to emulate.