THE SACRUM FEODUS TABLE
This magnificent pietra dura table top celebrates the triumph of the Arts of Peace in 'Modern' Roman history. It is inscribed with the date '1684' and 'SACRUM FOEDUS' to commemorate the alliance instigated by Pope Innocent XI. The Catholic Holy League's successful alliance, signed in March 1684, lead to the Venetian republic's conquest of the Morea (Peloponnesus).
The top displays armorial trophies laid beside military tents and united in a ribbon-tied wreath beneath the laurelled and palm-flowered Papal tiara. Three tent-shaped cartouches bear the arms of the Venetian republic, flanked by those of the Emperor Charles, Duke of Lorraine and Elector of Bavaria and those of Jean Sobieski, Elector of Saxony and recent hero in the defence of Vienna in its fight against the Turks. The golden wreath comprises flowers and fruit issuing from scrolls of acanthus that inhabited by animals emblematic of mythological deities and symbolical of the Elements. Earth is represented, in the lower right spandrel, by the fertility wine-deity's Bacchus's tiger, and accompanied by grapes. Above this, Air is represented by a peacock, emblematic of Juno and also symbolic of Christ's Resurrection. Fire is represented by a flame-quenching Salamander, whose form resembles that of the lizard and is associated with the harvest deity Ceres; while Water is represented by Venus's sacred dolphin encircled amongst sea-shell, pearl-strings and coral, recalling ancient virtue and the history of Perseus.
It would seem likely that this historic tablet would have been commissioned for presentation to Pope Innocent XI from the Venetian Republic. Stylistically, this top is related to the Tuscan production of the third quarter of the 17th Century. The tiger is executed in a precious fern-patterned light yellow marble known as Tigrato or Dendrite dell'Arno. Exotic animals were always considered rarer than birds or flowers and always sought after.