This elaborately-decorated and 'fanciful' games-table is a remarkable example of the revival of chinoiserie furniture, decorative arts and 'all things exotic' in 19th Century Italy.
A TASTE FOR EXOTICISM
Dating back to the seventeenth century, the fashion for chinoiserie developed as European travelers to the Orient brought back tales and engravings of the exotic sights visited, and took hold principally through the trading ties of ports such as Venice, where the earliest European laquered wares are known to have been produced.
The enduring appeal for the exotic and in particular for cineserie (or chinoiserie) remained strong particularly in the Piedmont region of Italy. As Enrico Colle discusses in one of the seminal publications on 19th Century furniture and interior decoration in Italy, the resurgence en force of the predilection for all things exotic came about with the fall of Napoleon and the Bourbon Restauration in France when the fashionable exoticism of the Ancien Régime was revitalized (Il Mobile dell'Ottocento in Italia, Milano, 2007, pp.109-111).
Such fascination for the Orient - which had similarly pervaded through Palermo with the remodelling of the Palazzina Cinese by the architect Giuseppe Venanzio Marvuglia (1729-1814) and in Rome due to the various works of landscape designer Francesco Bettini - prevailed in Piedmont shortly after the fall of Napoleon when the region's Court palaces were re-designed circa 1817.
'UN ORNEMANISTE HORS-PAIR'
The decoration and cinese scenes depicted on the present games-table derive undoubtedly from the exotic style of decoration popularized by Pelagio Palagi (1775-1860), the celebrated Italian ornemaniste and furniture designer, extensively patronised by King Carlo Alberto (1798-1849) most notably for the Palazzo Reale and the Castello di Racconigi. Palagi first developed a taste for Egyptian and Etruscan-inspired interior decoration, while in Rome between 1806 and 1815, before he popularized the Chinoiserie style, redesigning the interiors of the Villa Traversi Tittoni in Desio, Lombardy between 1840 and 1846, the Gabinetto delle Lache at the Palazzo Reale in Turin, and the Gabinetto cinese da lavoro della regina built in 1833 for the Castello di Pollenzo, Piedmont.
Similarly, other palazzi or courtly residences south of Piedmont were redecorated in the chinoiserie revival style, in the second quarter of the 19th Century. Among such, the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, which the painter Giovanni Patricolo redecorated c. 1834-5, essentially drawing his inspiration from the Palazzina Cinese from the Villa Favorita commissioned by King Ferdinand IV; one of the rooms of the Giardino Pensile in Naples, and the salotto at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence which Princess Maria Ferdinanda of Saxony had remodeled c. 1842.
RELATED CINESERIE FURNITURE AND INTERIORS
The elaborate chinoiserie decoration on the present games-table is highly reminiscent of the cineserie interiors from the Salotto Cinese decorated by Giovanni Patricolo c. 1834-5 which E. Colle illustrates Ibid, p.110. Several examples of tables adorned with comparable decoration include a table from the Palazzo dei Normanni and another from the Palazzo Pitti (both illustrated Ibid, pp.128 and 132). Further related examples include a console in the Palazzo Pitti, decorated by Francesco Bianchi and Odoardo Ciabatti and reproduced, S. Chiarugi, Botteghie di Mobilieri in Toscana, Vol. I, Florence, 1994, p. 252 and a tavolino da lavoro in the Villa della Petraia, also in Florence, executed by the Fratelli Bonini (ill. Ibid, p. 251). E. Barbolini Ferrari illustrates further related examples of exoticism-inspired furniture from Piedmont in Arredi dell'Ottocento, il Mobile borghese in Italia, Modena, 2002, pp.172-3 and in Mobili Dipinti, Modena, 2004, p.236.