THE ROYAL PROVENANCE
The present lot is closely related to two pairs of magnificent Roman commodes, each of similar profile and with similar trellis parquetry, and sharing many of the same inventory markings. One pair sold by a member of a European Royal family, Christie's, London, 11 December 2003, lot 40. The other pair is in the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome, and was acquired in Milan in 1899 from the dealer Vedova Arigoni for the bedroom of the Appartamento dei Ministri in the Villa Reale di Monza. The pair was subsequently transferred to the Quirinale in 1919 (see A. González-Palacios, Il Patrimonio Artistico del Quirinale: I Mobili Italiani, Milan, 1996, cat. 20, pp. 74-75).
In the late 19th century, the Villa Reale of Monza was lavishly re-furnished for the Royal family. After the coronation of Umberto of Savoy (1844-1900) in 1878, furniture was purchased in large quantities for the state and private rooms. It is probable that the present commodini were commissioned when the above two mentioned pairs of commodes were purchased.
The construction of this palazzo for Archduke Alexander, son of the Empress of Austria began in 1776, and was executed by the architect Giuseppe Piermarini. Close to Milan, the Villa Reale of Monza was built as an official Royal residence. The Villa was emptied of most of its furnishings in 1859, which were transferred to the Palazzo Reale of Milan for the visit of Napoleon III. From that date, Monza was occupied by Umberto of Savoy (1844-1900), the 'Principe di Piemonte'. After his coronation in 1878, furniture was purchased in large quantities for the state and private rooms until 1900, the year in which the King was killed. From then on, Monza declined and remained virtually unused.
Though none of the reference and inventory numbers on these commodini, or indeed of the two pairs of commodes mentioned above, have so far been identified in any of the thus far known inventories of the Palazzo Racconigi, it is likely that they were later moved to the palace near Turin. There are frequent recorded movements between the Villa Reale di Monza and Racconigi between 1903 and 1905 and the commodini might have been transferred at that time or a few years later.
MARKS AND INVENTORY NUMBERS
'L 25157' and 'L 25256'
These numbers indicate that these commodes were acquired for the Villa Reale of Monza. Several pieces in the Quirinale which came back from Monza in 1919 also have inventory numbers starting with 'L', which could stand for Lombardy.
These initials stand for 'Dotazione Corona' or Crown property.
'S.M. 2005' and 'S.M. 2006'
These initials stand for 'Sua Maesta', and thus must refer to a further inventory of Royal works of art, possibly drawn up in the early 20th Century at Racconigi. These numbers are placed next to those of Monza, which have been crossed out. An inventory entitled 'della Sua Maesta' was drawn up in Turin between 1891-1907, but these commodes cannot be identified in the latter.
It has been suggested that this either stands for 'Proprieta Privata Reale' or 'Principe Piemonte Racconigi'. This inventory mark indicates that the lot was the private property of the Italian Royal Family. The commodini are not mentioned in the 1880 inventory of Castello Reale di Racconigi, nor in the inventories of 1911-1948(-'51), the numbering of which extends to 11000-15000. Other pieces of furniture marked 'P.P.R.' with links to the Royal House of Savoy include: a Royal Louis XVI harpsichord, which was a gift from the city of Turin to Umberto, prince of Piedmont (later King Umberto II), on the occasion of his marriage to Marie-Jos of Belgium in 1930; and a writing table by Pietro Piffetti, sold from the Estate of the late Giuseppe Rossi, Sotheby's London, 10 March 1999, lot 45.