Lot 30
  • 30

A carved neoclassical white marble, green granite and micro-mosaic chimney piece, Rome, circa 1778-1780, the chimneypiece attributed to Lorenzo Cardelli, the micro-mosaic panels attributed to Cesare Aguatti

150,000 - 300,000 EUR
391,500 EUR
bidding is closed


  • marble micromosaic
  • Haut. 158 cm, larg. 214 cm, prof. 28 cm ; Height 62 1/4 in; width 84 1/4  in; depth 11 in
the central medallion depicting the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Septimius Severus, flanked by green granite panels, the jambs headed by medallions depicting the temple of Minerva Medica and the Lucan bridge within a conforming frame ; (raised on a later plinth)


Franco di Castro Gallery, Rome


Alvar González-Palacios, Il Tempio Del Gusto, Il Granducato di Toscana e Gli Stati Settentrionali, Le arti decorative in italia fra classiccismi e barocco,  Vol I &. II, Longanesi, Milan, 1986, No. 425,p.194 & no. pp. 220, 221;
Alvar González-Palacios, Il gusto dei principi, Milan, 1993, pp.245-246 ;
Alvar González-Palacios, Il Tempio Del Gusto, Milan, 1993, pp. 124, 175 and 176 ;
Alvar González-Palacios, The Stanza Di Apollo E Dafne, The Burlington Magazine, vol 137., No. 1109. (Aug., 1995), p.532;
Jeanette Hanisee Gabriel, The Gilbert Collection Micromosaics, 2000, p.281 and cat no. 4 ;
Damie Stillman 'Chimey Pieces for the English Market : A Thriving Business in late 18th Century Rome', The Art Bulletin, vol.59 No.1 March 1977, pp.85-94;
E.Colle. I mobili di Palazzo Pitti, il secondo periodo Lorenese 1800-1846, Il Granducato di Toscana, Centro di Umberto Allemandi & C, Torino, 2000., pp. 24 & 25;
Gazetta Antiquara, di Roberto Valeriani, Le Diverse Maniere di Acquistare un Camino,  Quando Roma divenne il centro di produzione di camini ambiti dall'aristocrazia europea, 25.5.2016;
M.Charini, S.Padovani, Gli appartamenti Reali di Palazzo Pitti, Centro di, Firenze, 1993, p.158 ;
Wolfram Koeppe & Annamaria Giusti, Art of the Royal Court, Treasures in pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2008, pp. 310 & 311;
John Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Complete Etchings, Volumes 1 & II, San Francisco, 1994.

Catalogue Note

The present chimneypiece closely relates to pieces by Lorenzo Cardelli and Cesare Aguatti. Of refined architectural form, sobriety in colour and linear decoration with micro-mosaic ovals depicting ancient Rome, it is a tribute to the neoclassical taste and design of the late eighteenth century, when Rome became the production centre for fireplaces for European aristocracy.[1]

A number of recorded chimneypieces in both Italy and in country houses around Britain directed the attribution of this piece towards a collaboration between Lorenzo Cardelli and Cesare Aguatti, with the Grand Tour of the eighteenth century in particular allowing for these documented pieces. A chimneypiece purchased directly from Cardelli in 1771, by the Collector Thomas Mansel Talbot survives at Penrice Castle (see John Cornforth ‘Penrice Castle, Glamorgan II’, Country Life, 25 September 1975, figs. 2 and 4, illustrated in situ in the Drawing room), with the micro-mosaic pieces bearing the signature ‘Aguatti  Romano’,  that of Cesare Aguatti.

Two chimneypieces attributed to Lorenzo Cardelli with one in collaboration with Cesare Aguatti were sold in these rooms on 20 November 2007, lot 114 and 115 respectively and were removed from Downhill Castle, County Derry, prior to its demolition in 1950.[2] They are very similar to that of the Penrice Castle chimneypiece and together they feature the same arrangement of three oval medallions to the frieze panel, distinctive ribbon carved mouldings and paterae to the jambs and surrounding anthemion border to the aperture.

A chimneypiece of almost identical design to the present lot is in the Queen’s ante-chamber at Palazzo Pitti, with another in the Quirinale. (González-Palacios, op.cit. 1986).  A second chimneypiece in the Palazzo Pitti, situated in the Sala Meridiana (fig. 1) with slightly different decorative elements under the mantelpiece is dated 1807, and attributed to the sculptor Carlo Albacini, who at the time was also a dealer in antiquities. He bought, restored and supplied chimneypieces to patrons in England. (Colle, op.cit. 2000, p24). Similar mosaic panels were also made by Raffaelli. 

Of further interest is a chimneypiece attributed to Cardelli and Valadier, sold by Carlo Albacini to Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam when he visited Italy in 1773. This piece is now in a private collection, (Cornforth, op.cit. 1975). 

Lorenzo Cardelli and Cesare Aguatti

Well known in Rome as a restorer and ornamental carver, Lorenzo Cardelli (1733–1794), worked marble and porphyry. The young Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) whose workshop was next door to that of Lorenzo Cardelli, favourably commented on Cardelli’s fireplaces, porphyry and hardstone work, when visiting his workshop in November 1779, (González-Palacios, op.cit. , Milan, 1993, pp. 245-246). Furthermore, royal and aristocratic commissions at the time promoted the association and collaboration with fellow celebrated craftsmen like, Luigi Valadier , Carlo Albacini and the mosaicists, Cesare Aguatti and Giacomo Raffaelli. In 1775,  Cardelli was commissioned by Prince Marcantonio Borghese to supply chimneypieces to the Palazzo Borghese in Rome, where he collaborated with amongst others, Luigi Valadier. 

Cesare Aguatti, (also known as Agnatti) was active in Rome during the latter part of the eighteenth century.  His relationship to the mosaicist Antonio Aguatti has not been established, but along with fellow mosaicists at the time, amongst others, Giacomo Raffaelli (1753 – 1836),  and Michaelangelo Barberi (1787-1867),  he is celebrated as one of the earliest mosaic craftsmen to use the tiny spun smalti filati, which are minute square and rectilinear tesserae, or glass threads. It is also pertinent to note that the etchings by Giovanni Piranesi (1720- 1778) as well as his publication of  Diverse maniere d’adornare i cammini of 1769 would have had a great influence on the designs at the time, (fig. 2). 

Moreover, in 1784-85 Cesare Aguatti was also commissioned by Prince Marcantionio Borghese to create mosaic panels at the Villa Borghese in Rome.  During this period, he also worked on the restoration of the floors of the Baths of Otricoli in the rotunda of the Pio-Clementine Museum, and was involved in decorating mantelpieces. A mantelpiece featuring mosaic panels attributed to Aguatti is now in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

[1] (For further information see note by Roberto Valeriani, to Lot  Lot 115, A carved statuary marble chimneypiece with 'rosso antico' relief plaques and micro-mosaic panels circa 1778, the chimneypiece attributed to Lorenzo Cardelli, the micro-mosaic panels attributed to Cesare Aguatti, Sold Sotheby’s 20 November 2007).

[2] For more information, see Gazetta Antiquara, di Roberto Valeriani, Le Diverse Maniere di Acquistare un Camino,  Quando Roma divenne il centro di produzione di camini ambiti dall’aristocrazia europea, 25.5.2016.