The table tops sold for a combined total of £5,134,000. The Florentine piece, made in circa 1600-1620, set a world auction record for any hardstone inlaid top table top at £3,509,000. Five bidders competed for this highly unique piece of art in a 10-minute bidding battle, driving the final price high above its pre-sale estimate of £400,000-600,000. No fewer than four bidders vied for the second table top, which sold to a private collector for a staggering £1,625,000 – the second highest price for an inlaid Roman table top sold at auction (est. £300,000-500,000).
Commenting on the sale, Mario Tavella, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Europe and Head of House Sales and Single Owner Collections said: “Being able to present two pietre dure and antique marble table tops with the same provenance is extraordinary rare so when these works of art are of such quality and boast such exceptional provenance, it is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime event in the career of a specialist. The landmark price achieved today by this sublime Florentine pietre dure top, whose provenance is fully documented since 1623, is reflective of a highly unique piece of art”.
Continuing its position as market leaders in 16th/17th-century pietre dure and antique marble inlaid table tops, Sotheby’s is very proud to offer two works of art of both extraordinary quality and provenance. The inlaid table tops, one Roman and on Florentine, were originally part of the collection of the noble and illustrious Venetian Grimani family. At the beginning of the 19th century, under the discerning eye of the 3rd Earl of Warwick, they were sold from Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa and entered the collection of Warwick Castle, since then descending through the family line. Fascinating archival letters and drawings related to these table tops witness the exchange between the two iconic families, The Grimanis and the Warwicks.
Superb examples relating stylistically to the offered Roman top exist in museum collections around the world, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The Prado, Madrid. The Florentine top, with its unique array of splendid hardstones, is a celebration of the positions held by a noble family. Referencing a Venetian Doge, a Procurator of St Marks, a Patriarch of Aquileia and a Cardinal the inlay is not only of the highest quality but also steeped in Italian history.
Given new information, regarding Patriarch Antonio Grimani (1554 - 1625) of Palazzo Santa Maria Formosa's will dated 1623, which has come to light since publication of the printed catalogue; it is now clear that the Florentine top (lot 201) was in fact given to or commissioned by him and thence descended through his line to Michele Grimani of Palazzo Santa Maria Formosa.