Probably from the Palazzo Borghese, or Villa Borghese, Rome
The present set of imposing armchairs belong to a defined group of Roman examples, all bearing the distinctive feature of a carved running guilloche along the back and the seat rail. The running guilloche motif is typical of Roman seat furniture of the second half of the 18th century when, taking inspiration from French models, neo-classical features were still combined with rococo designs. See for example an armchair and a banquette illustrated by Goffredo Lizzani, Il Mobile Romano, Milan, 1970, pl. 171 and 172, the former in the Pallavicini Rospigliosi Palace.
An almost identical Roman pair with an equally illustrious provenance, was erroneously catalogued as French, as Lot 503, in the famous 1931 Rospigliosi sale (illustrated in the catalogue of the sale), see fig. 1.
Another set of six Roman armchairs with similar carving was offered as lot 126 at Sotheby's London, 13th December 1996. Those examples had the rare feature of being signed by an unrecorded carver Giacinto Pescaia, possibly a relative of Ignazio Pescaglia, chairmaker, whose work is recorded around 1790 in Villa Borghese (mentioned by Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios, Il Gusto dei Principi, Milan, 1993, Vol. 1, page 240).
The label (see fig. 2) formerly found under the seat rail of one of these armchairs and inscribed Borghese reinforces the importance of the present lot. One can only speculate that these armchairs were part of the furnishings of the Villa Borghese or of the Palazzo in the town center. Certainly their strong neoclassical design with echoes of antique models fits perfectly with the remodernisation in the antique manner of those interiors which were commissioned by the maecenas Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese (1730-1800) to important personalities such as the architect Andrea Asprucci and the Valadiers. Compare also the armchairs and the chairs carved with a similar guilloche made for Villa Borghese and still in situ, one of which is reproduced in E. Colle, Il Mobile Neoclassico in Italia, Milan, 2005, page 153.
In March and April 1892, works of art and furniture from the piano nobile of Palazzo Borghese were sold at auction in Rome. At least ten entries refer to sets of armchairs but most of them are not detailed enough to enable a precise identification with the present set although it is very likely that the present set was dispersed at that time.
Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese (1730-1800) was the son of Agnese Colonna and Prince Camillo Borghese; he married Anna Salviati in 1768, a descendant of a distinguished Tuscan family. Their son Camillo married Napoleon's sister Paolina in 1803, their other son Francesco guaranteed the survival of the family and that of the Aldobrandinis and Salviatis.
Very little is known of the private life of Marcantonio Borghese, the greatest Maecenas in Rome at the time of Pope Pio VI, and this was partly due to his shyness. Prince Borghese started refurbishing the Palazzo Borghese at the beginning of the 1770's, followed by that of the Villa Borghese. The architect Andrea Asprucci was commissioned to execute the works together with other major artists and craftsmen active at that time in Rome.
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