With playing cards signed AL LEONE, it is tempting to identify two craftsmen who may have done the present table tops: Giovanni Leoni, active late in the 17th century; and Ludovico Leoni (1637-1727). A pair of scagliola panels by Geovanni Leoni are inset to a cabinet commissioned by Ignazio d'Este for the palazzo Ducale, Moden, and are dated to 1680-81, the cabinets are now at Konopiste Castle, Bohemia. In addition, a large black-ground table top signed Gia.LeoneF.1669 sold Ca'n Puig Y Castillo de Bendinat, Mallorca, Christie's House Sale, 24-25 May 1999, lot 247. A panel by Ludovico Leoni in the Chiesa di San Francesco, Parma, is illustrated in G. MAnni, I Maestri dell aScagliola in Emilia Romagna e Marche, Modena, 1997, p. 136, fig. 134. Curiously, however, those published works of both craftsmen are of a somewhat different character comprising largely heavy acanthus scrolling rinceaux, birds and floral bouquets.
Other table tops decorated with simulated playing cards, some of which are ripped, have been associated with another craftsman, Laurens Buonucelli. The most recent example, a table top signed
Laurens.Bounucelie sold in these Rooms, 16-18 November 1999, lot 649. Two other examples similarly signed examples include one mounted to its original George III mahogany base sold by the Trustees of the Callaly Castle Chattles settlement, Christie's House Sale, 22-24 September 1986, lot 117, and another ilustrated at Althorp House, Northamptonshire, which depicts a game of picquet (illus. 'Althorp House, Northamptonshire,' Country Life, 7 May 1959, p.l 1022). A third related example sold Anonymously at Sotheby's London, 3 July 1953, lot 285.
Scagliola, known in ancient Rome and revived in Italy during the 16th century reaching an apogee of excellence under the Florentine patronage of Grand Duke Cosimo III (d. 1723), was an alternative to the more laborious and expensive pietra dura. Confirming the Italian taste for heavily patterned decorative surfaces, Carpi is been identified as a second center of production aside from Florence (see D. Colli, et. al., La Scagliola carpigiana e l'illusione barocca, Modena, 1990). Scagliola is made with a mixture of powdered gypsum called sellenite, glue and coloring. This mixture is then painted to a wet gesso ground and the fired or polished, or could be inlaid in chips like a mosaic. The nature of such production lends a high degree of fragility to the medium, making surviving examples of 17th and 18th century scagliola extremely rare.