Lot 119
  • 119

An Italian tortoiseshell inlaid ebony and ebonised cabinet on a carved lacca a mecca stand the cabinet, Neapolitan, mid 17th century, the stand Sicilian, early 18th century

35,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Rosewood, ebony, tortoiseshell, pine, walnut, poplar, giltwood
  • Stand: 98cm. high, 200cm. wide, 54.5cm. deep; 3ft. 2½in., 6ft. 6¾in. 1ft. 9½in; top 117cm. high, 187cm. wide, 49cm. deep; 3ft. 10in., 6ft. 1½in., 1ft. 7¼in.
with eight panelled drawers flanking an architectural niche with a gilt-bronze figure of Venus, the central drawer opening to reveal a removable compartment lined with panels of polychrome decorated paper beneath glass with a drawer concealed above and below; the stand re-gilt


Formerly in the Collection of Marchese e Conte Giuseppe Piromallo Capece Piscicelli di Montebello. Duca di Capracotta.


The cabinet: There are some very minor chips to the thin ebonised mouldings of the cornice. There are traces of residual glue to some of the architectural details on the front of this peice, these traces do not detract. The removable niche in the central section, decorated with paper underneath glass, was made during the second half of the 19th century to replace the original one. The two sides of the cabinet have being recently entirely reveneered in walnut, then ebonized, to cover the pivot holes probably for metal handles or ornamental plaques. These are still visible from the inside after removing the drawers. The cushion moulded ebony veneered base has a small horizontal gouge just below the central section. The border joining the cabinet to the table-top, made in ebonized walnut date dates from the second half of the 19th century. The locks are all original. The console table: The border around the top is later and the support frame appears to be a later replacement. There is a detached section of moulding to the centre section, this upper border is also loose. The console table has been regessoed, regilt and then repatinated to look aged in around the first half of the twentieth century and then re-gilded and afterwards patinated to give back the impression of an old gilding. There is some evidence of old worm.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Comparative Literature:
Enrico Colle, Il Mobile Barocco in Italia Arredi e Decorazioni d'interni dal 1600 al 1738, Milan, 2000, p. 23.
Monique Riccardi-Cubitt,The Art of the Cabinet, London, 1992, plate 30, for a related tortoiseshell and ebony cabinet.
Alvar González, Il Tempio del Gusto, Milan, 1984, vol. II, fig.446. 

In around 1640,  tortoiseshell was used as a veneer with a backing of red pigment or gold foil to similate the rich warm tones of amber to convey an impression of luxury. This cabinet with its strong architectural outline with a breakfront central frontispiece with a broken pediment enclosing a gilt-bronze statue in a niche, surmounted by another similar niche conveys the grandeur of Italian baroque cabinets.

The stand is most unusual and later in date and bears the armorial of the Holy Roman Emire, with its bold design and florid carved decoration and demonstrates the influence of Rome combined with the richness of the South of Italy. It is worthwhile considering the drawings of Giacomo Amato, a Sicilian artist and designer who also worked and lived in Rome, from 1671-1683, see Colle , op. cit., p. 23 and although this stand is not based upon any of the published drawings by Colle, they are conceived in a similar vein. 

It is worthwhile comparing a tortoiseshell and ebony cabinet of very similar architectural form illustrated by Giarrrizzo and Rotolo, Il Mobile Siciliano, Palermo, 2004, p. 76, fig., 107, in the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, Palermo. 

The double-headed eagle on the base is of the Holy Roman Empire and probably refers to Leopold I (1640-1705) or Joseph I (1705-1711) and may well have been a commission for one of them.