Lot 13
  • 13

A Charles X ormolu and carved hardstone-mounted and pietra dura-inlaid kingwood and rosewood casket circa 1830, the pietra dura plaques Florence, 18th century

100,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • marble, hardstones, kingwood, rosewood, gilt-bronze, oak, velvet, metal
  • height 16 1/2 in.; width 22 1/2 in.; depth 15 in.
  • 42 cm; 57.5 cm; 38 cm
the hinged top centered by an ormolu finial and flanked by two oval panels with foliate and fruit bouquets of carved hardstones in gadrooned ormolu borders, each corner mounted with a griffin and connected by ormolu foliate swags, centered by a princely crown, the projecting cornice mounted with ormolu border, the sides with inset pietra dura panels of flowers and birds within ormolu borders, each canted corner mounted with a winged putto issuing from scrolling acanthus leaves, centered on the long sides with ormolu mounts of putti flanking a female mask and holding floral garlands, raised on a molded base on circular ormolu feet, on a later carved giltwood stand, second half 19th century, underside of casket with a label Prasdrak Pfeilg 44 (?)


Scattered age and construction cracks, not extensive. Veneer with minor chips and losses to corners; minor restorations and areas of infill in very minor areas mostly to sections around mounts. Ormolu generally in very good condition with very minor rubbing at high points, not extensive. A few rope twist mounts now slightly loose. The garland element between the two putti on each side is possibly lacking a former ormolu element. Pietra dura panels with some scratches and what appears to be some very fine cracks. Carved hardstone decoration with some small chips and abrasions. Five of the flowerheads are loose to various degrees but all are securely attached. Interior relined with red velvet. The stand with some minor wood worm damage; some age and construction cracks; some minor losses and rubbing to gilding; a few losses and chips to gesso; top refinished.
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.

Catalogue Note

With its lavishly carved hardstone panels, eighteenth-century Florentine pietra dura plaques and elaborate ormolu mounts, this luxuriously decorated casket belongs to a group of particularly sumptuous boxes favored by the European elite in the first half of the nineteenth century. The origin of such pieces can be traced back to the extravagant creations of seventeenth-century master makers of Italy, Germany and Flanders who used superb stone-inlaid panels in their pieces ranging from smaller caskets to large cabinets on stands, such as lot 5 in this sale. The taste for these works waned in the first half of the 1700s but was revived by some of the most important furniture makers of the last quarter of the eighteenth century, such as Adam Weisweiler and Martin Carlin. Late eighteenth-century French makers preferred using Florentine Baroque pietra dura plaques and hardstone carvings from the Gobelins workshop; a custom that persisted throughout the second quarter of the nineteenth century. It was first in England during the years of the Regency and the reign of George IV that caskets and caskets on stands similar to the lot offered here appeared in the collections of the British aristocracy. Their manufacturers and retailers were the most influential tastemakers and craftsmen of the era, such as Robert Hume. These caskets were based on earlier, most often Italian, models such as the one acquired by George IV and currently in the Royal Collection (RCIN 11895). An excellent English example of a casket on stand based on Baroque prototypes was sold Sotheby’s New York, October 21-22, 1999, lot 456.

In continental Europe, the 1820s and 30s saw the first signs of interest in historicism and the emerging curiosity in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. In France, after the fall of Napoleon the restored Bourbon kings looked back at the Ancien Régime with great nostalgia and adapted some of its artistic achievements to their own taste. The use of carved hardstone panels and pietra dura plaques echoed not only the latter years of Louis XVI’s reign, but also the bygone eras of great European monarchs and princes. The casket offered here is the product of this stylistic and ideological shift and recalls the time and taste of the illustrious rulers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition to their decorative value, the Florentine pietra dura plaques on this casket pay homage to the Renaissance and Baroque in Florence and its incontestable contribution to the arts. The carved hardstone panels are in the manner of those produced at the Gobelins manufactory during the reign of Louis XIV; a French king with whom the post-Napoleonic Bourbon rulers, namely Louis XVIII and Charles X, wanted to show continuity and nexus. Thus, this casket is not only a luxurious object, but also an embodiment of the political aspirations and principals of the Restauration.

As with many other such boxes, the present example was most likely fitted as a jewelry coffer or served as a chest containing pieces of an amateur’s collection. It is also possible that it served as a diplomatic gift as such pieces were occasionally presented by visiting ambassadors well into the late nineteenth century. This casket is decorated with two European princely crowns in ormolu indicating that it cannot be ruled out that this lot was a princely commission or intended as an ambassadorial gift.

For a discussion on Florentine pietra dura panels, please see note to lot 5.