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An English scagliola and gilded gessoed mirror
last quarter 17th century, attributed to Baldassare Artima
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1
An English scagliola and gilded gessoed mirror
last quarter 17th century, attributed to Baldassare Artima
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Furniture, Silver and Ceramics

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London

An English scagliola and gilded gessoed mirror
last quarter 17th century, attributed to Baldassare Artima

the carved composition elements most probably 19th century, originally with a cresting; restorations


122cm. high, 97cm. wide; 4ft. 4in., 3ft. 2¼in.
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Catalogue Note

 

This looking-glass is part of a growing body of evidence for the existence of an active scagliola workshop in England during the 1670s and 1680s. Pieces so far identified as products of this workshop are:

 

i)                    the 'Warwick' table in the collection of the V&A.[1]

ii)                   a similar table-top in a private English collection.

iii)                 two funerary monuments at Mildenhall and Hawstead churches, Suffolk.

iv)                 a spectacular cabinet on stand currently on loan to the National Trust and on display at Ham House

v)                  the chimney- piece, hearth and window-sill in the Queen's Closet at Ham House.

 

  The artisan responsible for this work is identified in two bills in the archives of Buckminster House, Lincolnshire, home of the Tollemache family who were former owners of Ham House. The bills record that while working at Ham in June 1673 one Baldassare Artima, an Italian, was paid £5 in part payment for a chimneypiece of 'counterfeit marble', and in July 1675 he was paid a further £2.10s. for mending it.[2] It is generally accepted that these entries refer to the scagliola in the Queen's Closet.

  Very little else is known about Artima. In 1680 he was recorded as a 'servant' responsible for overseeing workmen at 14 St James's Square, the recently acquired London home of Sir John Williams, and the following year he was one of several Roman Catholics banned from Court as a Papist.[3] The ban was only temporary, for in 1686 he was paid £8 for a chimney-piece 'with a frame wrought out of stucco made like the Genoue [Genoa] table' installed in Queen Catherine's little bedchamber at Whitehall Palace.[4] Putative working dates of c.1670 to c.1686 correspond in broad terms to the known or conjectured dates of all the scagliola listed above.

  The present looking-glass bears obvious stylistic affinities with all the pieces so far identified. The overall scheme is most similar to the two table-tops, simply because all three are rectangular and lends themselves to a design based on paired cornucopiae, but the proportions are altered to take account of the narrower working area. The affinities become compelling when the frame is examined in detail, and indeed these details are common to all pieces in the group. The cornucopiae have rolled edges to the mouths of the vessels and scrolled tips. The red and white ribbons binding the pairs of horns have a double loop, crossed in the middle, and trailing ends. The drawing of the leaf-wrapping of the horns is virtually identical in every case, as is their shading. The selection of fruit and vegetables in the cornucopiae is similar – lemons, pears, melons (?) and an abundance of cherries - and they lie within a nest of leaves with unusual hairy or fronded edges. Spiralling filaments issue from among the fruit. Butterflies occur on all the pieces, as do birds, either in flight or, as here, resting on the ground. In all cases the details of the birds' feet are carefully drawn. The one part of the design that does not occur on any other piece is the spray of white flowers repeated twice in the centre of each side. However, every piece attributed to this workshop has one or more elements that are unique.

  Research on the work of Baldassare Artima is continuing and will be presented to the Ham House 400 Anniversary Symposium in September 2


[1] Museum No. W.12-1968. The table is discussed and illustrated in C. Wilk, ed., Western Furniture 1350 to the present day, (1996), pp. 70-71.

[2] Buckminster Archives, 413.

[3] F. H. W. Shepherd, ed. Survey of London (1960), Vols. 29 & 30, Part 1, pp. 139-142.

[4] Wren Society, Vol. VII (1939), p. 116.

We are grateful to Dr Adam Bowett for the preparation of this footnote. 

 

Important Furniture, Silver and Ceramics

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