Lot 11
  • 11

A pair of Italian pietre dure, pietre tenere, marbles and mother-of-pearl inlaid table tops, in the manner of Cosimo Fanzago (1591-1678) Neapolitan, late 17th Century

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • mother-of-pearl, hard stone
  • each: 76cm high, 138cm. wide, 70cm. deep; 2ft. 6in., 4ft. 6½in, 2ft. 3½in;
both of rectangular form, each centred by an octagonal alabaster medallion decorated with a bird and a butterfly, the central rectangular and deep outer frieze of each decorated with scrolling foliage and flowers, both within an outer stylised gadrooned border, on 19th century English stands; one restored


Probably acquired by Marmaduke, 5th Lord Langdale(d.1778), Houghton Hall, Yorkshire on his Grand Tour to Italy 1763-64;
Otherwise possibly acquired by his daughter, Apollonia Langdale (1755-1815), Lady Clifford who travelled to Italy with her husband Hugh, 5th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1756–1793) in 1787-88 and again between 1790-92;
Thence to her sister, Mary Langdale (1752-1841) who married Charles, 17th Lord Stourton;
Thence to their second son, The Hon. Charles Stourton who assumed the surname of Langdale in 1814 when he came into the Langdale estates;
Thence by family descent to the present owner.


Both table tops are in overall very good original condition. One has a restored crack which has been well executed. There are some minor sections of marble missing to the corners of one table top. There is a strip of pietra dura missing from the border surrounding the central medallion of one table top. Minor chips, cracks and marks consistent with age and use. Both table tops are slightly dirty and would benefit from a light clean according to taste. There are some minor cracks and to the carving and chips to the painted decorations of the later English bases. The bases are sound and sturdy. A most attractive pair with a fascinating provenance.
"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
Maria Ida Catalano, Marmi policromi e pietre dure and Donald Garstang, Cosimo Fanzago e le maestranze palermitane, in  Civilta' del Seicento a Napoli, Napoli, 1984, pp.386-399.
Anna Maria Giusti, Pietre Dure, London, 1992, page 230.
Caterina Napoleone, Delle Pietre Antiche Di Faustino Corsi , Milan, 2001, pages 85/86 and 130/131;
Gentile Ortona, Erminia / Caracciolo, Maria Teresa / Tavella, Mario, L'Ambasciata d'Italia a Parigi, Milan, 2009, page 199;

This pair of richly inlaid table tops, together with their stylistic design and the materials employed, belong to a group of Baroque commessi  (fig. 2) and altar fronts which were produced in Naples by marmorari, followers of the celebrated Cosimo Fanzago (1591-1678), architect and sculptor, considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Baroque period in Naples. Fanzago's work is recorded in many local churches, with perhaps the best example of his triumphal intarsia work being in the Certosa di San Martino. Giallo antico di Numidia, verde antico, Spanish brocatello and mother of pearl are amongst the materials used by Fanzago and his workshop, which are similarly found on our table tops.

Although the present pair of table tops are clearly inspired by Baroque Florentine models from the grand ducal workshops, it is their stylised gadrooned borders reminiscent of the late 16th century Roman and Neapolitan models, together with the distinctive choice of hard and soft stones employed in the overall design and inlay, that allude to a different centre of production.

In 2003 a related Neapolitan table top, late 17th century (fig. 1), inlaid with marbles and hardstones of similar proportions ( 147x76.5cm.) appeared in the Florentine trade and was accompanied by an academic study by Dr. Anna Maria Giusti. As with the present tops, it shares the use of similar stones, mother of pearl and a similar design.

Despite its Neapolitan origin, it is interesting to draw some comparisons with the floor and the altar front of the Saint Ignatius Chapel in the Church of the Gesù, Rome. The work there is dated 1696-1697, was designed by Filippo Baij and executed by Francesco Guidotti and Giovanni Antonio Tedeschi. Similar to the present table tops, the floor of the altar room is also centred by a central octagonal panel.
Furthermore, the table tops share the generous use of giallo antico di Numidia (subsequently heated to create a red chiaroscuro effect) in the foliage decoration of the chapel floor and the altar front in St. Ignatius.
A distinctive feature which both the present table tops and the workmanship in St. Ignatius have in common, is the use of identical white flowerheads in their floral decoration.
Both the altar room floor and the altar front are illustrated in Caterina Napoleone, op. cit., p.85/86, p.130/131 and reproduced here in (Fig.3 and 4).

A pietre dure and pietre tenere table top on a centre table is in the Italian Embassy in Paris, illustrated and discussed in Mario Tavella, op. cit., p. 199.
As with the present table tops, the acanthus foliage on the table in Paris is also made of giallo antico di Numidia and again the distinctive white flowerheads are applied in the decoration of the top.

A Grand Tour Souvenir for the Langdale Family at Houghton Hall
The present pair of tables were certainly acquired by a member of the Langdale family of Houghton Hall, Yorkshire (see p.74) and most probably during a so called 'Grand Tour' to Italy.
One possibility is that they were bought by Marmaduke, 5th Lord Langdale (d. 1778) in Italy. He is probably the 'Mr Langdale' who travelled to Italy in the company of Edward Howard (1744-1767) in 1763-64. He is mentioned in a letter by David Garrick from Italy dated 25 June 1764: 'We lived in the same house with Mr Howard and Mr Langdale - I think it was lucky they travelled together - the first is a very worthy good natured Young Man... .' (The letters of David Garrick, ed. D. M. Little and G. M. Kahrl, i, 1963, p. 420).
Another possibility is that the tables were acquired in 1791 in Naples by Apollonia Langdale (1755-1815), the youngest of the three daughters of Marmaduke.  In 1780 and at the age of twenty-five, she married Hugh Clifford in Bath, and three years later her husband succeeded his father to become 5th Baron Clifford of Chudleigh. Lord Clifford had travelled to Italy in 1787, and was recorded as visiting Venice in July of that year. In the September of 1790 Lord Clifford and his wife returned to Venice and by November had moved to Rome. During the April of 1791 they left Rome to visit Ischia, then Castel Gandolfo in June and on to Naples for four months before returning to Rome in the November of that year.