Octagonal Tabletop in Pietra Dura and Marble with Masonic Symbols. Of lapis lazuli, alabastro Egiziano, amethyst, brown onyx and various inlaid marbles, including portoro, Siena, Spanish brocatello and bleu turquin. This extraordinary table depicts symbols of the secret fraternity of Freemasons, am group of which migrated from England to Florence in 1733. When this table was made, Italian Freemasons played an active role in the movement for Italian unification and freedom from foreign and papal domination. The octagonal shape is derived from the Freemason “square upon square” design. The significance of the architectural of the temple, which forms the central motif of this piece, was explained by Bishop Guillaume Durand around 1290 when he wrote, “All the stones are polished and squared – that is holy and pure…the foundation is Faith, which is conversant with unseen things: the roof, Charity, which covereth a multitude of sins. The door, Obedience …The Pavement, Humility.” Flanking the temple are two freestanding columns, the left hand column a symbol of Creation, while the right hand column expressed Salvation. The Doric order of the columns symbolizes wisdom and strength. Inlaid above the Temple is a square combined with compasses, suggesting order, regularity and propriety. The border to the present top is filled with the working tools of a Mason, images used by Freemasons to express the principles upon which they strive to build a better world. The level, for example, implies equality, the square symbolizes morality, while the trowel “is used for the purpose of spreading the cement of the Brotherhood and affection which unites us in a sacred bond as a society, among whom no contention should exist.
An identical tabletop is the subject of “The Leicester Table,” by Maxine Gilhuys Notarbartolo, The Lodge of Research, No. 2429.
Italy, circa 1825.