Lot 12
  • 12

An Italian mother-of-pearl, engraved ivory, amaranth, fruitwood inlaid, kingwood marquetry and parquetry wall cabinet by Pietro Piffetti (1700-1777), Piedmontese circa 1740-50

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
181,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • amaranth, fruitwood, kingwood, ivory, mother of pearl
  • 144.5cm. high, 138cm. wide, 35cm. deep; 4ft.9in., 4ft.6½in., 1ft.2in.
of serpentine form, the shaped cresting inlaid with foliage above canted scrolled corbels, the doors inlaid with a cartouche depicting a landscape with Diana seated amongst clouds above a male seated figure and his dog sleeping beneath a vine leaf and grape entwined tree, the doors opening to reveal strapwork on the inside of doors and three shaped shelves, the whole inlaid with strapwork cartouches, scrolls, husks, bellflowers and foliage


Galleria Piva, Maastricht Antiques Fair 2005
Private European Collection


Roberto Antonetto, Il Mobile Piemontese nel Settecento, Vol. I, Turin, 2010, p. 276 illustrated figs. 77a, b & c.

Catalogue Note

Comparative Literature:
Roberto Antonetto, Il Mobile Piemontese nel Settecento, Vol. I, Turin, 2010, p.174-5, fig. 17a, p. 274, fig. 76a, p. 276, figs. 77a-c.
Arabella Cifani, Franco Monetti, La Donazione Volpi Ottolini per la Fondazione Pietro Accorsi, Turin, 2009, pp. 10-11.
Giancarlo Ferraris, Curated by Alvar González-Palacios, Pietro Piffetti e Gli Ebanisti a Torino 1670-1838, Turin, 1992. p. 276,
Galeria G. Sarti, Pietro Piffetti(1701-1770), Cinq meubles inédits, Five unpublished pieces of Furniture, Catalogue No. 8-2008.

This rare wall cabinet is a virtuoso example of a group of recorded pieces by Pietro Piffetti all of similar outline and decoration, some of which have a lower section in the form of a bureau.  

This cabinet is illustrated by Antonetto, op. cit., p. 276, figs 77a, b & c in a photograph from the archival material of the Fondazione di Pietro Accorsi in Turin. In the photograph, this cabinet was on a bureau in the manner of Piffetti which almost certainly dates from the 19th or 20th century, and appears to have been associated, as the upper cabinet section is serpentine at the base and the bureau beneath is straight in outline. The serpentine form of this cabinet together with its lavish decoration internally, and the unusually shaped shelves would strongly indicate that this piece was always made to stand alone as an independent wall cabinet.

See the bureau cabinet with a mirrored door with a very similar upper section to this cabinet, although unlike the offered cabinet it has a straight as opposed to a serpentine base, now in the Museo dell'Arredamento e dell Ammobiliamento, Palazzo di Caccia di Stupinigi, Turin, illustrated by Antonetto, op. cit., p. 274, fig. 76a, the uppers section of which is reproduced here in fig.1.

There are few examples of this rare type of stand alone wall cabinet  made by Piffetti almost certainly conceived as collectors' showcases. There is a pair of extraordinarily elaborate ones in the Fondazione di Pietro Accorsi, illustrated by Cifani and Monetti, op. cit., pp. 10-11, reproduced here in fig.2. and there is another recorded in a Private Collection.  

The central medallion on this piece in ivory and mother-of-pearl depicts the myth of Diana and Endimione. Another bureau cabinet the upper section of similar outline with precisely the same subject matter in the central medallion depicting Diana and Endimione, is illustrated by Antonetto, op. cit., p. 277, figs. 77d and e, reproduced here in fig.3.

Pietro Piffetti (1700-1777), Ebanista di S.M. the King of Sardinia in 1731:
He is, without a doubt, the greatest Italian cabinet-maker of the 18th century and  one of the most extraordinary virtuosi of 18th century. His work is characterised by an extraordinary fluidity of line in combination with an unparalleled technical skill and lavish use of precious woods and exotics materials.

He was born in Piedmont in 1700 and trained in Rome in the 1720's, with his elder brother Francesco. In 1730, he came to the attention of the Prime Minister of Piedmont, the Marchese d'Ormea and was persuaded to return to Turin, the following year and was subsequently appointed royal cabinet-maker to Carlo Emanuele III. Piffetti spent the rest of his life in Turin, but for a period in Rome in the late 1740's, and was still active in 1767, dying in 1777.

He provided works not not only for the King and the Queen, but also for the King's eldest son, the Duca di Savoia (1726-1796), who succeeded his father as Vittorio Amedeo III, for the Royal Princesses, for the King's youngest son, the Duca del Chiablese and for other members of the Royal family and aristocracy.

Piffetti's genius lay in his ability to combine luxurious materials with daring shapes all executed with superlative craftsmanship. He was responsible for creating whole room settings such as the library that is today in the Quirinale  Palace as well as small chapels `pregadio'. For his marquetry and the spectacular effects he attained, he used a variety of woods to which he added mother of pearl, ivory sometimes tinted  and tortoiseshell. His work often utilised the same motifs: acanthus leaves, small palms, arabesques and volutes and stylised scallopshells. The ivory is often engraved with hatched shading to give added volume and create a three dimensional effect.

Piffetti also composed panels representing figures or landscapes, hunting and religious scenes. It is also worthwhile noting that he sometimes signed with the words `sculpit' next to his name which leads to the assumption that he did not regard himself purely as a cabinet-maker but also as an artist engraver. There is a pictorial quality to the engraved scenes often based upon engravings.

Today, many of his works are to be found in the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge, the Fondazione Accorsi, the Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama, Turin, a lasting testament to his extraodinary talent and vision.