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A direct forerunner of the 20th century pinball machine, this is one of the only surviving Venetian gambling tables of the 18th century. Dated c.1790, it is decorated in lacquer with a seated Turk smoking a hookah and elegantly-attired ladies and gentlemen, with carved recumbent lions and supported on its original red lacquered stand.

The small painted wooden balls are propelled by metal paddles and pass through a field of raised lozenge shapes before falling into slots. Bets would be placed on panels painted to correspond with the slot into which the ball would fall.

The red lacquered stand, carved lions and seated Turk are typical Venetian design elements. By the 18th century its political importance as a maritime empire had declined and Venice was a major tourist attraction, particularly for the aristocrats and well-bred young North Europeans doing the Grand Tour.

John Julius Norwich has called Venice “the 18th century equivalent of Las Vegas”, and it was notorious for gambling and loose living.

Venetian nightlife tended to revolve around the casino, a suite of furnished rooms let out for entertainment purposes, and a games table like this would have been the ideal accoutrement for such a salon.

This week you will find it, priced in the region of £45,000, on the stand of Mayfair’s Pelham Galleries at TEFAF Maastricht.