A GEORGE II PIETRA DURA AND MAHOGANY CABINET-ON-STAND
A GEORGE II PIETRA DURA AND MAHOGANY CABINET-ON-STAND
A GEORGE II PIETRA DURA AND MAHOGANY CABINET-ON-STAND
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A GEORGE II PIETRA DURA AND MAHOGANY CABINET-ON-STAND
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This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal.… Read more FROM THE COLECTION OF HARRY HYAMSPROPERTY OF A LADY
A GEORGE II PIETRA DURA AND MAHOGANY CABINET-ON-STAND

THE PIETRA DURA PANELS ATTRIBUTED TO THE GRAND DUCAL WORKSHOPS, FLORENCE, SECOND HALF 17TH CENTURY, THE CABINET-ON-STAND CIRCA 1755

Details
A GEORGE II PIETRA DURA AND MAHOGANY CABINET-ON-STAND
THE PIETRA DURA PANELS ATTRIBUTED TO THE GRAND DUCAL WORKSHOPS, FLORENCE, SECOND HALF 17TH CENTURY, THE CABINET-ON-STAND CIRCA 1755
The moulded cornice above a pair of doors, enclosing a fitted interior veneered in padouk and inset with sixteen specimen pietra dura panels, the fourteen drawers depicting flowers and birds on fruiting branches, the central arched door depicting Orpheus surrounded by charmed animals, flanked by columns and enclosing a further drawer and open compartment, the stand with square chamfered legs and pierced brackets, with Brown & Co, Chester storage label
61 ¼ in. (155.5 cm.) high; 32 in. (81 cm.) wide; 19 ¾ in. (50 cm.) deep
Provenance
Bequeathed by Harry John Hyams (1928-2015) to the present owner.
Special notice

This lot will be removed to Christie’s Park Royal. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at Christies.com/storage and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Christie’s Park Royal. All collections from Christie’s Park Royal will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: cscollectionsuk@christies.com. If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Katharine Cooke
Katharine Cooke

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Lot Essay

This richly figured mahogany cabinet-on-stand was specifically made in England in the 1750s to display a collection of costly and jewel-like coloured 17th century pietre dure panels, and would have been the pièce de résistance of the principal room in which it was placed. Such pictorial panels, on a background of black marble edged with yellow marble borders, were created by the Galleria de' Lavori, the Medici grand-ducal workshop in Florence, founded by Grand Duke Ferdinando I of Tuscany in 1588 (renamed the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in the mid-1800s). They were almost certainly collected on the Grand Tour by the wealthy patron, who commissioned the cabinet. Such cabinets evolved from the German Wunderkammer or Italian studiolo, and ebony-framed reliquaries ornamented with pietre dure panels and gilt bronze mounts. They had several functions: as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ in which precious items such as gemstones, carved ivories, and small bronzes were kept; as a statement piece of furniture that illustrated the refined learning of the cabinet’s owner; and also to display wealth and prestige. The ultimate example of this is the Badminton Cabinet, sold twice at Christie’s, most recently on 9 December 2004 (£19,045,250 inc. premium).

Florentine pietre dure and the Galleria de' Lavori

Corresponding Florentine ebony cabinets with pietre dure panels, the latter identifiable from Roman examples by their naturalistic compositions, demonstrate the technique of hardstone inlay using rare and semi-precious stones, and were among the most costly furniture of the late 16th and 17th centuries. Such panels/stones were mesmerising not only for the polychrome splendour and brilliance of the precious hardstones and figuring but also for their association to often remote regions with rich historic and mythological associations.
The theme of the central panel of this cabinet is the legendary Thracian poet, Orpheus charming the animals with his lira da braccio, an early type of viol, one of the Galleria de' Lavori’s most popular subjects, and reflects the high technical standards of the workshop (Koeppe, Giusti, op. cit., pp. 176-177). (1) The imagery is undoubtedly derived from an Italian 16th/17th century engraving by Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), entitled ‘Orpheus Charming the Birds and the Animals’ (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, object no. S9.26). This central panel is framed by a tabernacle flanked by Tuscan columns, also found on Florentine 17th century cabinets.
There are at least twenty-two documented hardstone Orpheus plaques, most with slight variations (Koeppe, Giusti, op. cit., pp. 176-177) (1) including:

* A magnificent Louis XIV gilt-bronze and pietre dure mounted ebonised and parcel-gilt cabinet-on-stand, attributed to Domenico Cucci and the Gobelins Workshop, Paris, circa 1665-75, sold Christie’s, King Street, 10 December 2009, lot 875 (£4,521,250 inc. premium)
* A pair of Sicilian cabinets at the château de Beloeil, Mons, Belgium
* An ebony and pietre dure table cabinet, circa 1620, formerly in the collection of the Frescobaldi family of Florence, now in the Detroit Institute of Arts (accession no. 1994.77).
* ‘The Barberini Cabinet’, circa 1606-23, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, made for Cardinal Maffeo Barberini (1568-1644), the son of a Florentine merchant, and later Pope Urban VIII (accession no. 1988.19).
* A cabinet, dated 1650, at Chirk Castle, Wrexham, probably acquired by Sir Thomas Myddleton during his Grand Tour in the early 1670s (Jervis, Dodd, op. cit., p. 12, fig. 13). (2)
* A version of the Orpheus pietre dure panel is intriguingly inset into an alcove surrounding the throne in the Hall of Public Audience at the Red Fort, Delhi. Dating to circa 1631-40, its presence suggests that the Indian Mughal rulers were as fascinated by Florentine pietre dure as their Western counterparts (Koeppe, Giusti, op. cit., pp. 176-177). (1)

The smaller panels of flowering branches and birds may derive from Jacopo Ligozzi’s (1547-1627) drawings of birds and flora; he was commissioned to create some of the depictions found in the encyclopaedic visual catalogue of the plant collections of Bolognese Ulisse Aldrovandi (held in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence). These panels were also made by the Galleria de' Lavori; 17th century panels of the same design are featured on an Italian cabinet-on-stand, acquired by Sir Hamilton Seymour in Florence in the 1830’s, sold Christie’s, King Street, 10 June 2004, lot 22 (£50,190 including premium).

The mahogany cabinet-on-stand

The mahogany cabinet-on-stand dates from the 1750s; Thomas Chippendale includes a design for a very similar cabinet and stand in his first edition of the Director (1754), plate CXX. The large scale importation of mahogany was predominantly from Jamaica up until the 1760s, hence the adoption of the term ‘Jamaica wood’ to describe this timber (Bowett, op. cit., pp 354-357). (3) The use of padouk wood in English furniture starts in the 1720s when it was referred to by 18th century English cabinet-makers as ‘rosewood’ because of its rosy colour. The metalwork side handles and escutcheons are in the Rococo style, first introduced to England in the 1740s.
This cabinet was undoubtedly made specifically for these pietre dure panels, collected by the patron while on the Grand Tour. One such example of this practice, was the English diarist, John Evelyn (1620-1706), who brought nineteen plaques back from Florence and had a cabinet made in England for their display (Massinelli, op. cit., p. 37). (4) Another English mahogany cabinet inset with Florentine pietre dure panels was in the collection of Thomas Alexander Fermor-Hesketh (3rd Baron Lempster) at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire (ibid.). The English Grand Tourist didn’t limit themselves to collecting pietre dure panels, another example was the ivory plaques acquired by Thomas Brand (1770) while in Italy that were mounted onto an English padouk cabinet, sold ‘The Exceptional Sale’, Christie’s, London, 5 July 2012, lot 5 (£1,217,250 inc. premium).

(1) W. Koeppe, A. Giusti, Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe, New Haven and London, 2008, pp. 176-177.
(2) S. Swynfen Jervis, DudleyDodd, Roman splendour English Arcadia, London, 2015, p. 12, fig. 13.
(3) A. Bowett, Early Georgian Furniture, Woodbridge, 2009, pp. 354-357.
(4) A-M. Massinelli, Hardstones: The Gilbert Collection, London, 2000, pp. 36-37.

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