The golden 'banquette' stools were commissioned in the early 1830s by King Carlo Alberto of Sardinia (reigned 1831-1848) for the Billiard Room of Castello di Racconigi, near Turin. Designed by the Rome-trained artist, architect and antiquarian Filippo Pelagio Palagi (d.1860), they were executed by the court cabinet-maker Gabriele Capello (d.1876), who was popularly named after his birth town in the Province of Asti 'Il Moncalvo'. They are conceived in Palagi's Etruscan Grecian fashion, with square squab-cushions raised on rectilinear triumphal-arched frames, whose reed-banded entablature and pillar supports are inlaid in an intarsia of palm-flowered tendrils. Palagi, who was the author Vari Ornament (1838) and director of the Scuola di Ornato of the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arte, was famed in Franceas 'le célebre Palagi, peinte de Bologne'. One of Palagi's related Etruscan 'Curule' chairs, designed for Racconigi in 1834, was exhibited in London in 1851, when it received praise as being, 'really fine work, graceful in its general form, and enriched by the ornament of the best period of Grecian taste; when decorative Art received from that wonderful people an impetus and an ultimate perfection which has stamped it with an individual character of the most unmistakeable kind'. (The Art-Journal Illustrated Catalogue of the Industry of All Nations Exhibition, 1851; and Pelagio Palagi Artista e Collezionista Exhibition, 1976, Turin fig. 163). Some of the Racconigi furniture was also executed in Paris, such as the 'gabinetto etrusco' chairs, that were supplied by Joseph-Pierre-François Jeanselme (d.1860), and feature similar triumphal-arched frames (one is discussed C. Wilk ed., Western Furniture in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1996 p. 147
The stools here offered are inscribed with partly rubbed 'PPR' painted marks. These have been suggested to stand for 'Principe Piemonte Racconigi' or 'Proprieta Privata Racconigi'. The various white and green numbers most probably refer to inventories made at Racconigi.
Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860)
The celebrated Bolognese ornemaniste and furniture designer Pelagio Palagi developed a taste for 'Etruscan' archeological treasures while in Rome between 1806 and 1815. In 1832, King Carlo Alberto (1798-1849) commissionned Palagi to refurbish the Castello di Racconigi, and this included the celebrated Etruscan room completed in 1834. The furniture was supplied by Gabriele Capello, also known as 'Il Moncalvo'. Moncalvo and Pelagi can confidently be associated with these stools, executed for an as yet unidentfied Sallotto di Billiardo.
Castello Reale di Racconigi
With its origins in the 12th century, the Castello Reale di Racconigi became a Savoia-Carignano property in 1605 and was transformed into a princely residence. Late, the private property of the Royal House of Savoy, Racconigi was gifted with its contents by Vittorio Emanuele III, King of Italy (1869-1947) to his son, Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, following his marriage to Princess Marie-José of Belgium in 1930. Racconigi was later acquired by the Italian state and is now a state museum.