This rare bureau cabinet of supremely elegant proportions and gentle serpentine form with splayed concave sides in finely figured walnut with delicately carved elements highlighted in parcel-gilt in imitation of gilt-bronze mounts represents the quality and inventiveness of Venetian craftsmanship in the middle years of the 18th century.
Although several examples exist of this type of bureau cabinet, they usually have two mirrored doors as opposed to a single one, which is rarer, as on the offered example, see Steiner, op. cit., fig. 336, for a related bureau cabinet with a single mirrored door, in Ca' Rezzonico, Venice. It is interesting to note that bureau cabinets on a similar scale and of the same fine quality as the offered example, with parcel-gilt elements were in leading Italian collections. Santini, op. cit., p. 66, plate 75, illustrates a very similar example with a single mirrored door, serpentine drawers, splayed concave sides and parcel-gilt elements, together with another example, p. 103, plate 135. Another bureau cabinet of similar form with a single mirrored door, serpentine drawers and flared concave sides and parcel-gilt elements, is illustrated by Morazzoni, op. cit., Tav. CCCLIII.
Unfortunately, due to lack of documentary evidence, very few names of cabinet-makers, carvers and gilders survive, to enable an attribution to a particular maker to be made.These trumeau as they were known (from the French mirror which used to stand between two windows), very soon became the pre-eminent piece of furniture in the palazzos of the Venetian aristocracy and wealthy merchants. Although they were meant to cut a bella figura on the best wall of a salon, these pieces were supposed to be functional too and the inside of the upper and lower sections is fitted with drawers and compartments. As a large proportion of Venetian furniture was on a small scale apart from mirrors and several large-scale bureau cabinets veneered in plain walnut are recorded, but very few survive with their gilded elements intact as on the present example. Moreover, the gilded elements depicting a building and figures on this bureau cabinet are reminiscent of the capriccio found on Venetian mirrors of this date.
Related bureau cabinets offered or sold at auction with a single mirrored door include:
- lot 116, The Splendours of Venice, sold in these Rooms, 6th July 2010, (£217,250), although entirely in walnut with a single mirrored door and flared sides.
-a bureau cabinet offered for sale, Sotheby's, Milan, 14th June 2005, lot 317 (90,000E).
-a bureau cabinet sold in these Rooms, 9th June 2004, lot 17(£40,800).
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