Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
Piqué, the technique of inlaying tortoiseshell with mother-of-pearl, gold and silver probably originated in Naples towards the end of the 16th Century. Judging by the number of contemporary references to the Neapolitan piqué work and the surviving pieces which bear the signatures of Neapolitan craftsmen, Naples would seem to have been the centre of production. Many references to piqué work can also be found in advertisements and sale catalogues of the 17th and 18th Centuries. In his catalogue The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: Furniture, Clocks and Gilt Bronzes, London, 1974, II, p. 838, Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue refers to the collection of 'picay' work formed by Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, which included an inkstand and two snuffboxes, all later sold at Christie's, London, 18 May 1819, lot 30; 25 May 1819, lot 67 and 26 May 1819, lot 17.
A number of signed examples are in British collections, for example an inkstand in the Wallace Collection (INV. no. XXIIIA 35), signed by the Neapolitan craftsman Sarao; and a tray at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, by the same. A cabinet in the Royal Collection, illustrated in Catalogue of Bibelots, Miniatures and other Valuables, The Property of H. M. Queen Mary, privately printed, London, 1939, III, p. 85, no. 6 bears the inscription DE LAURENZIF F.. Very little is known of these and other craftsmen, such as Nicolaus Storace, whose signiature appears on a Neapolitan piqué inkstand, sold, Christie's, London, 12 May 1970, lot 40, from the collection of Lord Rothschild.
The most notable collections of piqué have been assembled by various members of the Rothschild family, such as that of Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild at Mentmore (sold by the Earl of Rosebery, Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, Sotheby's house sale, 23 May 1977, lots 1841-58) and that of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild at Waddesdon, discussed by Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue op. cit., II, p. 827-844.