Table has been a centrepiece for artistic celebrities
IF A piece of furniture could name-drop, then a simple pine and elm table which is being sold by David Lay's Penzance auction house this week could brag for hours.
It has an extraordinary history and the names of those who have sat and shared meals upon it and the settle that accompanies it, read like a veritable Who's Who of the artistic, theatrical and military circles that the Penrose family moved in in the middle of the 20th century.
Its story starts at Lambe Creek, the Cornish summer house near Falmouth, where in 1937 Roland Penrose, with his new love, the great photographer Lee Miller, hosted what is now described as 'The Surrealists in Cornwall'.
He gathered together such luminaries as Max Ernst, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington, Henry Moore and the poet Paul Eluard and the table was used for dining during a heady summer of artistic creativity and free love.
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From Lambe Creek the table was moved by its owners, Annie 'Spitfire' Penrose and Beacus Penrose, to the family home of Killiow, near Truro in Cornwall.
Here it served Max Ernst again, most notably when he stayed in 1951 with his wife, Dorothea Tanning.
Ernst was very taken up with producing material for an exhibition he was mounting – while sitting at the table he noticed the marvellous natural whorls and knots in the grain of the table.
Using paper and pencil he created very clever frottages of owls from the whorls and these creations formed part of the exhibition.
Although its owners moved in highly artistic and theatrical circles (Beacus Penrose had been the lover of Dora Carrington and Annie Penrose had been married to the actor Robert Newton) they also entertained politicians, admirals of the fleet, field marshals, and peers.
Other great names that are known to have sat and eaten at this table include Augustus John, John Betjeman, AL Rowse, Daphne Du Maurier and Boy Browning, Robert Newton, John Mills, the Richardson family, Googie Withers and John McCullum.
The table, along with many other pieces including works by artists Bryan Pearce, Gill Watkiss, John Frederick Herring Junior and Senior, George Vicat Cole and Frederick Leslie Kennet, will be sold at David Lay's Fine Art sale in Penzance next Thursday, January 16.