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A SET OF THREE VENETIAN ARMCHAIRS, REPUTEDLY SUPPLIED TO THE VILLA PISANI AT STRA (LOTS 32-33)
These extraordinary chairs are among the most richly decorated examples known of Venetian rococo seat furniture and were likely to have been conceived as part of a larger suite for the Pisani family's magnificent Palladian villa overlooking the river Brenta at Stra (see C. Alberici, Il Mobile Veneto, Milan, 1980, p. 252). Their festive ornament would certainly have harmonized with that of the Villa Pisani's Stanza di Bacco, a great room of entertainmant dominated by frescoes by Jacopo Guarana celebrating the Arcadian education and nuptials of the fertility deity Bacchus.
Conceived in the 'picturesque' manner, these golden and flowered green chairs celebrate the Elements. Spring flowers strew their elegantly serpentined and triumphal-arched frames, whose foliated, scalloped and airily-fretted cartouches incorporate dragon-winged medallions displaying Arcadian vignettes. While Guarana's frescoes for the Stanza di Bacco depicted Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' and 'The Loves of the Gods', these chairs celebrate 'Abundance through labour', the laying aside of arms and the fluorishng of Agriculture with the assistance of the harvest deities. Water is represented by Venus, the Nature deity's sacred dolphin sporting in reeded shallows (in the chair offered in lot 33), while Diana's hound drinks from a stream in an urn-graced park and a labourer's spade is laid beside a fountain and water-source (in the two chairs offered in lot 32). The flowered frame itself recalls the history of Venus, when the sea-borne deity was drawn in triumph to land and flowers sprang at the touch of her foot.
THE VILLA PISANI
The Villa Pisani is one of the most magnificent houses of the Veneto region and certainly the grandest villa of the Brenta. The Pisani family were among the most powerful and wealthy in Venice in the 18th century, reaching a zenith with the election of Alvise Pisani (d.1740) as Doge of Venice in 1735. The Villa Pisani was conceived in the grandest Palladian manner in the 1730's to designs by the architects Girolamo Frigimelica and Francesco Maria Preti, and richly decorated with frescoes including G.B. Tiepolo's last masterpiece before he left for Spain in 1762, the Apotheosis of the Pisani Family. While similar chairs of a simpler form were supplied to the family's Venetian residence, the Palazzo Pisani, as part of a scheme of aggrandisement in the 1740's (ilustrated Alberici op. cit., p. 246, fig. 357), the Thyssen chairs may have been supplied at a slightly date to Alvise Pisano's son Vettore, who employed the artist Jacopo Guarana (d. 1808) to continue with the embellishments to the villa (including the frescoes of the Sala di Bacco) as well as to the Venetian Palazzo, around the time of his marriage in 1772 to Cornelia Grimani. Eventually the lavish spending of the Pisani family forced them to sell the villa in 1797 to Napoleon, at which time it was furnished in the latest Empire neo-classical styles (although surprisingly retaining the fresco decoration) at which time it is likely that the suite including the Thyssen chairs was dispersed. These chairs also appear to have formed the inspiration behind a suite of seat furniture supplied to the royal villa in Monza by the Fratelli Mora in 1889, now in the Palazzo Quirinale, Rome (illustrated in A. González-Palacios, Il Patrimonio del Quirinale: I Mobili Italiani, Milan, 1996, cat. 145).